The ethnic minority members of Utah’s Legislature, all Democrats, took issue with a comment made by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox comparing abortion to slavery at the Eagle Forum convention on Saturday.

Cox appeared with three other Republican candidates for governor at the conservative gathering in Sandy. They were asked if they would sign a bill defining life as beginning at conception. Cox, who is the front-runner at this early stage, said he believes future generations will come to view abortion as negatively as people today view slavery.

On Sunday, the group of Democrats criticized Cox.

“To compare the brutal enslavement of black Americans to a woman’s constitutionally protected right is offensive,” said Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, who is black. “Human bondage, forced labor and the destruction of families is the darkest possible mark on our nation’s soul, and its effects are still felt to this day. We hope that future political discourse in our state will not include such callous political language.”

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, speaks as the Utah House in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015.

Hollins, the first African American woman in the Legislature, was backed by fellow House members Angela Romero, Mark Wheatley and Karen Kwan, along with state Sens. Luz Escamilla and Jani Iwamoto.

Cox released a statement Sunday evening.

“I have always tried to be a voice for the most vulnerable in our society, those facing intergenerational poverty, refugees, the LGBTQ community, our multicultural communities — and yes the unborn," he said. “I also included in my response that our party should do more to support single mothers, pregnant women and children facing poverty and trauma. I continue to be unapologetically pro-life.”

Cox is among a crowded group running to claim the Republican nomination. His opponents include former House Speaker Greg Hughes, former Utah Republican Party Leader Thomas Wright, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, former Gov. Jon Huntsman and businessman Jeff Burningham.

Zach Moses is the only Democrat currently running for governor.