The News Leader is reporting that a Virginia State Delegate said that some disabled children are punishments from God.
As you can imagine, his comments which were originally reported by The Gainesville Times are making the rounds quickly and setting off a firestorm. The News Leader reported:
State Delegate Bob Marshall of Manassas says disabled children are God’s punishment to women who have aborted their first pregnancy.
He made that statement Thursday at a press conference to oppose state funding for Planned Parenthood.
“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,” said Marshall, a Republican.
“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.”
But Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall is denying he made those comments.
I called Delegate Marshall earlier and he said “There’s no way I’d make that statement,” said Marshall. “I even asked the Washington Post reporter, “Did I say this?” and he said ‘no.'”
Marshall said “Nobody checks the facts and everyone’s taking the word of a reporter.”
He suggested that the reporter might even be an abortion activist.
The News Leader does however have an audio clip but it’s impossible to know if the two sentences were connected.
Dean Nelson of the Network of Politically Active Christians said he didn’t recall Bob Marshall making that statement. “There were over 50 people in that room including reporters from the AP, NBC as well as a lot of beat reporters and it seems to me that if Bob had said what this one reporter is saying then someone else would’ve noticed.”
Marshall said that the point he was trying to make was, “I specifically cited a study which shows that there are enormous complications from abortion and you can learn it from the Old Testament or check out the science.”
Marshall is a Catholic who wrote a book on abortion published by Ignatius Press in 1991 called “Blessed Are the Barren: The Social Policy of Planned Parenthood.”
Update: I emailed the reporter of the original article and asked for full audio. We’ll see if we get a response.
Update2: Bob Marshall released a statement concerning this issue:
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.
February 22, 2010 at 9:37 pm
I shared this on my facebook. He is correct that those who abort are at risk of having subsequent children prematurely – which can lead to disabilities. But it has nothing to do with the point he was allegedly trying to make.
I am one of those parents who were blindsighted by having a baby with birth defects. Even his modified version is just pretty hard to swallow. What gives me a lot of consolation is Jesus' response here: "Rabbi, who… sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him."
And once we come to the point of accepting the situation we have been given, a lot of us see the mercy and goodness of God in just the scenarios that would make those who don't understand recoil. I guess it's that whole "the cross will become a stumbling block" kind've thing. Shrug.
Poor judgement. We all have it from time to time.
February 22, 2010 at 9:41 pm
I am not in the medical field but I have read about the linkage between abortion & breast cancer. In the silent-no-more campaign, I have heard of infertility resulting from an abortion. So, the linkage between abnormalities in the children born after an abortion is not far fetched.
February 22, 2010 at 10:00 pm
Perhaps not far fetched, but it's not true! It only serves to dilute the truth of the harm that abortion actually does to the mother by giving abortion advocates another statement they can hold up and say "See…religious crazy here. Ignore everything else he says too."
An unfortunate turn of phrase, to be sure.
February 22, 2010 at 10:34 pm
Seems to me to be a mis-stated natural law argument.
February 22, 2010 at 11:33 pm
How does this speak to parents of disabled children when there was no previous abortion? The concept that the creation of a new life no matter how "abled" could ever be a punishment is a serious problem.
February 22, 2010 at 11:37 pm
Is not all disease and disability a consequence of original sin?
February 23, 2010 at 12:23 am
This is just plain disrespectful, theologically wayward and in incredibly bad taste. Are women who have many children AND a special needs child also "punished"?
These fundies are a disease.
February 23, 2010 at 1:13 am
I can't wait to see if you get the audio! It's hard to believe what you hear in the media anymore.
I was shocked to see my local newpaper in the title of your post though!
February 23, 2010 at 2:51 am
Just because abortion could cause *some* subsequent birth defects does not mean it causes *all* of them. People should perhaps relax a bit, and not get too defensive.
And just because God doesn't immediately and in this life punish all abortions, doesn't mean He doesn't punish some of them. Let's not restrict Him, or assume that he doesn't punish people, or that he doesn't allow the sins of parents to cause problems for children. A bit of reflection will make it abundantly clear that children pay for their parents' sins, all the time. All I have to do to know that is to look at my students.
But again, that doesn't mean that Child A's birth defects were necessarily caused by a previous abortion by Mother B (even if Mother B had one). Maybe, maybe not.
It might be useful to remember that all defects, physical and otherwise, were ultimately caused by sin, even if that sin was in the Garden of Eden. God is not the author of imperfection (though He certainly permits a lot of it).
Fortunately He has so ordered matters that even those of us who are defective can look forward to the possibility of having the defects removed some day, and to possessing a perfect body and a perfect mind.
In the meantime, there are all kinds of things that could cause those imperfections. Abortion is certainly one, among many, of those possible causes.
February 23, 2010 at 5:45 am
The article is getting a lot of response from moms I know who have special needs kids.
There is a physical fact – abortion harms a woman's body and that can cause harm to her future babies. To correlate this fact with moral justice is . . . ugly. It's not justice. It's a tragedy, an initial evil that collects compound interest.
Yes, God can choose to work that way. Of course I won't limit Him.
But it's an odd perspective. When you actually talk to parents who have had a child die becaue of their condition, or live with one with profound medical needs, etc – often times they don't see their lives (or their children's) as punishment. They feel in some ways that their children were sent to save them. That God had caught them up not in act of justice, but of mercy by helping them to accept, adapt, and learn to turn to Him. They see their kids as gifts. (Not all people come to this conclusion – I will grant you that, but surprisingly many do – and some were not particularly religious before their kids came).
It's hard to reconcile these ideas. I think I'll stick with the one that makes sense to me.
February 23, 2010 at 3:26 pm
Aside from any moral judgements about "why", he made a statistical claim: "The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically". It's either true or it isn't.
My bet is he's lying. Does anyone have any facts?
February 23, 2010 at 4:24 pm
It wasn't difficult to find this information. You should make the effort to find the truth before you accuse someone of lying. While I don't agree with Marshall's line of thought (at least as it was represented), there is no reason to find fault with his character.
February 23, 2010 at 6:25 pm
IF it's not difficult to find, could you please find it? You've linked three articles about preterm births, none of which discuss handicaps, let alone an increase in same, let alone a 'dramatic' increase.
Looks more and more like a lie.
February 23, 2010 at 7:26 pm
Uzza, your lack of initiative presents you with a serious disadvantage. Nevertheless, I will help you with the basics:
1 Google "prematurity rates in the US 2009"
2 Google "disabilites associated with prematurity"
Good luck with your research!
February 23, 2010 at 8:14 pm
You're funny. It's not my lack of initiative that hampers my research, it's my lack of the $17,000 Bob gets for doing it.
He claimed there's an increase, he needs to be able to back up his claim with facts. Not me, him. If there's an increase, show me it.
February 25, 2010 at 1:29 pm