Criticizing Marshall, delegate cites disabled son
The onslaught of criticism aimed at Del. Robert G. Marshall for his remarks on abortion, God and people with disabilities continued for a second day, including a speech from the House of Delegates floor by a new lawmaker whose son is severely disabled.
Speaking on the occasion of her son Nicholas' 30th birthday, Del. Robin A. Abbott, (D-Newport News), told of her wrenching discovery that her newborn son had suffered brain damage at birth. He was blind, and doctors gave his parents little hope that he would walk, talk or recognize his own mother.
Abbott told of spending five years teaching her son the simple game of pattycake, of his struggles to learn to feed himself, constantly making sure that he was never left unattended, and trying to balance his care with the needs of her other three children.
And she talked of her family's need to seek public aid for his care--a process commonly known as receiving a Medicaid waiver, which provides for care outside an institution. She urged the legislature, as lawmakers search for ways to close a $4 billion gap, to do what they could to lift the freeze on available waivers and work to reduce the waiting list for these services.
And then she chided - gently and not by name -- Marshall, saying she was "disturbed that a member of this body believes that disabled children are somehow punishment or deserved by the parents."
"I hope this view is not shared by other members of this chamber. More important than words or rhetoric are the actions we take," she said.
Her remarks were greeted by applause. Marshall, who had been taking pictures in the chamber when she began her remarks, put away his camera, sat and listened. As the House recessed, they met at the rear of the chamber, and Marshall whispered in her ear, as she put her hand on his shoulder.
"It was hard to hear him, but he said something to the effect that the words were out of context," she said.
Abbott said she felt exhilirated at having given her speech. "It's a fight that needs to be fought," she said.
Others who criticized Marshall Tuesday included the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).
"These outrageous comments not only attack us as people with disabilities, but our families as well. In all my years of public service, I have never heard anything so hurtful," Tony Coelho, AAPD's board chair, former House Majority Whip and the author of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), said in a statement.
-- Fredrick Kunkle
February 23, 2010; 6:50 PM ET
Categories: !General Assembly , Fredrick Kunkle , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates
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