Earlier today, a story began circulating concerning Delegate Bob Marshall. I first read about it in the News Leader, a publication based in the Shenandoah Valley, under the provocative headline, “Disabled Kids are God’s Punishment”. On Thursday of last week, while advocating defunding Planned Parenthood, Delegate Marshall stated, “The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children. In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.” As a result of this article, a number of bloggers and activists have been questioning his words and motives such as Bearing Drift and The Right-Wing Liberal. In addition, some folks (661 as of this post) have signed a petition asking Delegate Marshall to both apologize and resign.
So here are my thoughts on the matter. First, after reading a bit more, I think the headline should have read, “Disabled Kids are sometimes God’s Punishment”. The quote doesn’t say that all disabled kids are punishment from God, but the disability maybe as a result of sin. Semantics I know, but I feel for the sake of accuracy the point should be made. Nevertheless, a comment like the one Delegate Marshall still raises a boatload of questions and is still grotesquely offensive at worst and poorly worded at best. Now I don’t know if the chance of birth defects increases as a result of a previous abortion, but even if so, the comment seems callous and vindictive. More troubling still in my mind is the attempt to pronounce God’s will. Even though we in the pro-life community believe abortion to be a sin, I would never call a birth defect as a “punishment from God”. For a more personal example, when my grandmother (a God-fearing woman) was struck with Alzheimer’s was it as a result of genetics or was it God’s wrath?
In response to this story, Delegate Marshall offered the following statement:
A story by Capital News Service regarding my remarks at a recent press conference opposing taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood conveyed the impression that I believe disabled children are a punishment for prior abortions. No one who knows me or my record would imagine that I believe or intended to communicate such an offensive notion. I have devoted a generation of work to defending disabled and unwanted children, and have always maintained that they are special blessings to their parents. Nevertheless, I regret any misimpression my poorly chosen words may have created as to my deep commitment to fighting for these vulnerable children and their families.
Delegate Bob Marshall
State Delegate, 13th District
Prince William County, Loudoun County
I don’t think that one should rule out the possibly that Delegate Marshall’s comments were taken out of context. After all, as Bob Holsworth points out (courtesy of Jason Kenney at Bearing Drift) no one fights harder for children with autism than Bob Marshall. If he viewed such a condition as “punishment from God”, I doubt he would care too much about the topic. In addition, if these comments were made on Thursday, why, with all of our instant communication, did it take several days for this comment to be made public? As you well know, I greatly appreciate many of Delegate Marshall’s efforts in the General Assembly on key issues like abortion, states rights, and health care freedom and therefore so badly want to believe the best in this situation. Nevertheless, assuming he was misunderstood, I fear that his comments have given great encouragement to those who oppose him and his politics. Either way, it makes my heart heavy. Delegate Marshall, you know I admire your principles and your courage. This can’t be the real you. And if this comment is just a misunderstanding, don’t let it destroy your good works.