VA legislator Bob Marshall says children with disabilities are God’s punishment for abortion

Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall said Thursday at a press conference opposing funding for Planned Parenthood that children with disabilities are a punishment from God for women who have previously had abortions:

“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.”

What a disgusting statement in so many ways, from the cruel ableism of saying children with disabilities are a punishment at all to the false claim that there is a link between abortion and disability in subsequent pregnancies.
This was just one part of the lies and offensive statements from Marshall’s press conference. Speakers also perpetuated the black genocide conspiracy and Marshall claimed Planned Parenthood received about $500,000 annually from the state, when in fact the organization receives about $35,000 a year in Medicaid reimbursements.
Marshall issued a sort of apology/retraction on his website, one of those “I regret it if you took my words badly” statements. I’m not buying it given his history of incendiary comments about abortion and gay rights.
You can sign a petition calling for Bob Marshall’s resignation here.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • Brittany-Ann

    I wonder if he would have said that to Sarah Palin’s face. Or if Palin plans to make a statement responding to this trash.

  • Brittany-Ann

    Petition signed and tweeted. Forgot to say in my comment on the petition, that an “I’m sorry you were offended” apology is not a real apology.

  • MLEmac28

    ZOMG! Sarah Palin must have had an abortion! There is no other reason she would have given birth to a child with down syndrome.
    The statement is ironic, considering that women who abort a disabled fetus get demonized for being selfish (nevermind that she may not be able to afford to raise a special needs child and that putting it up for adoption most likely means it would live it’s life in a mass home for the disabled.). Why would god want to give disabled kids to evil women who would probably just abort it anyway? /sarcasm

  • s mandisa

    wow. Marshall’s comment is so indicative of another way male privelege and hyprocrisy works in this system (aka: empire): he can say or do all kinds of problematic things, then apologize, and life is expected to go on as usual. Flashback to Tiger Woods on Friday.
    I also think Marshall’s statements are very indicative of the the Rights ability to just make stuff up and it be considered fact. The sad reality is that I bet alot of people thoroughout the country took his false, blatantly ableist comments as truth. “He’s a legislator, so in a position of power, so of course what he’s saying his true” is the MO for alot of our community members.
    Jos: thanks for putting this out there. Even if we opt to organize each other outside the system or work for reformation within the system, we still need to be aware of fools like this, because it does influence so many aspects of our work.

  • MishaKitty

    And I was having an okay day before I read this garbage.

  • cattrack2

    What a pig. Idiots like him give Christianity a bad name. He needs to get back to his sty.

  • gothicguera

    Well, I cannot belive what that man said. Are you F—- kidding me? I doubt Sarah Palin is going to call him out on his garbage. Although I hope she does.

  • VT Idealist

    Well, by Marshall’s logic, as long as you already have a child, and thus, are not getting rid of your first born, then abortion is okie dokie.
    Now, following up on that logic, what about women who have miscarried during their first pregnancy? And in the purely biblical sense, wouldn’t “first born” only refer to male, as in the tenth plague of Egypt, that killed every first born son?
    Also, if the fetus is aborted, it never would have been born, let alone been the first born.

  • Toongrrl

    Dumbass needs to go back to Kindergarten and learn something. Did he flunk courtesy?

  • Brianna G

    I’ve actually heard that if you abort, your family members will have disabled children too. In another discussion I was having about this horrible statement someone mentioned that their mother, who at the time was 45, blamed her Down’s brother on her for getting an abortion as a teenager. A couple other people corroborated it. So I guess that’s how they get around that problem.

  • rebekah

    another nickel in the city of joy jar

  • MishaKitty

    “Also, if the fetus is aborted, it never would have been born, let alone been the first born.”
    The logic is so good it burns.

  • TabloidScully

    I was just about to snarkily post a reply like this myself!
    I wonder how Palin’s going to spin this thing–parodying on ‘Family Guy’ is offensive, but suggesting all abortions are the result of women having abortions? We’ll see how that turns out.

  • Opheelia

    I thought women were punished with breast cancer for having abortions. And I thought every child was a gift from god to be cherished. Now I’m just confused.

  • s mandisa

    love it!!!! damn, that cut through his argument like a Ginsu knife!

  • bzzxz

    Look up “assclown” in the dictionary, and there’s a picture of this guy bein’ a jerk.

  • Brianna G

    Well, dontcha know, God punishes women in lots of ways. You get breast cancer AND a disabled baby. And of course YOU have to cherish the baby, you’re the mother and otherwise you’re an evil evil woman, but the rest of us can talk about how awful it is.

  • IAmGopherrr

    This guy is a HUGE jerk.
    I wonder of pro-choice people aired his statements along with alot of the other things antis say (I’m thinking the racist one noted recently) to cast on the public an association of unmerit on these people and their anti views?

  • strangedays

    Just a note: People who have disabilities, such as Down syndrome, are people first and foremost, and should be referred to as such. Referring to someone as “a person with Down syndrome” (not suffering from, not afflicted with, not a “Downs person”), or “a child with special needs” is more appropriate.
    No offense meant; just wanted to point that out for future reference. :)

  • Opheelia

    I have SEEN the LIGHT! This also explains why health care reform is the work of the devil. If cancer and children with disabilities are punishment, then we shouldn’t do anything to provide medical support to women. Oh, it all makes so much sense…

  • vtfem

    Petitioning for this guy’s resignation is a lost cause. Bob Marshall has been a thorn in Virginia’s side for a long time. When I was in college, he would take time out of his busy schedule to come to Virginia Tech to discuss with our University president why the Vagina Monologues and the selling of chocolate vagina pops should be banned by the school. He is constantly pushing the envelope with his submission of bills to restrict a women’s right to choose including one of his most famous, which would require all abortion clinics in VA to comply with the regulations for ambulatory surgical centers. Luckily, we’re able to lobby to shoot down most of his crazy bills. I just feel lucky that he doesn’t have more power than he does now.

  • Sarah Elizabeth

    I was born with cerebral palsy and my mom never had an abortion. Maybe Mr. Marshall should enlighten on why his god chose to “punish me.”
    Signed the petition and tweeted.

  • forreal

    Statement from the American Association of People with Disabilities (the nation’s largest cross-disability organization)
    AAPD’s Statement on VA Delegate Robert Marshall’s Remarks About People with Disabilities
    WASHINGTON, DC – February 23, 2010 – The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the country’s largest cross-disability membership organization, issued a statement Tuesday in response to Virginia Delegate Robert G. Marshall’s remarks last week suggesting that women who have had abortions are punished later with children with disabilities.
    “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,” said Tony Coelho, AAPD’s board chair, former House Majority Whip and the author of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
    “Even as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Marshall’s remarks are a reminder of that we still have a long way to go in fighting for our civil rights,” said Andrew Imparato, AAPD’s President and CEO.
    For additional information about AAPD, visit our Web site at