On House floor, Marshall defends himself on abortion comments
Del. Robert G. Marshall fought back Wednesday against the controversy over his earlier remarks that some construed as saying that a woman who has an abortion will run the risk of birth defects in later pregnancies as a punishment from God.
As people with disabilities and their advocates continued to criticize his remarks or call for his resignation, Marshall (R-Prince William) addressed fellow lawmakers in the General Assembly to clarify what he had meant at a press conference Thursday calling for the end of all state funding for Planned Parenthood.
Taking the floor of the House, Marshall denied saying that disabled children are a punishment from God at a press conference last week, or even suggesting that. In his defense he cited the fragile condition of one of his own adopted children and his longstanding support for mandating insurance coverage for a special therapy needed by autistic children.
And he pointed people to his own Web site to review a video and transcript of his remarks so that they might judge for themselves.
"I have video of my comments that they can see for themselves that I never made such a comment," Marshall said. "But it has been repeated endless times in print and in the electronic media without anyone producing the smoking-gun tape. Of course, if some wish to make their own inferences, that is their prerogative. However, they should acknowledge that is what they are doing. Furthermore, it is no one's prerogative to claim I spoke words which never came from mouth, have never been in my heart and have never been in my public record."
The controversy arose from remarks Marshall made during a press conference joined by the Virginia Christian Alliance, several African American ministers and others who blamed Planned Parenthood for a variety of social ills.
"The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion who have handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the firstborn of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children," Marshall said at the press conference.
"In the Old Testament, the firstborn of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord," he added. "There's a special punishment Christians would suggest -- and with the knowledge that they have in faith, it's been verified by a study from Virginia Commonwealth University -- first abortions, of a first pregnancy, are much more damaging than later abortions."
The VCU study he referred to was published in 2008 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health and suggested that there is a higher risk of premature birth and low birth weight in children born to women who have had an abortion.
In his floor remarks Tuesday, Marshall also called for a correction from Capital News Service, a news service for journalism students at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Mass Communications that carried the most strongly worded story. Several newspapers around the state ran the CNS story. Calls and emails to the VCU student journalism project were not immediately returned.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell joined a chorus of Marshall's critics in an interview on WTOP on Monday. Marshall also has been the subject of criticism by colleagues and mockery by MSNBC political commentators Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann.
February 24, 2010; 2:41 PM ET
Categories: Fredrick Kunkle , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates
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