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Legislator Regrets ‘Poorly Chosen Words’

February 22, 2010

By Kelsey Radcliffe
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – State Delegate Bob Marshall said Monday he does not believe that disabled children are punishment for having an abortion.

Marshall, a Republican from Manassas, was responding to a Capital News Service story quoting remarks he made last week at a press conference to oppose state funding for Planned Parenthood.

The CNS story “conveyed the impression that I believe disabled children are a punishment for prior abortions,” Marshall said in a statement posted on his Web site.

“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.”

On Thursday, Marshall spoke at a press conference in the General Assembly Building to urge the elimination of state funding for Planned Parenthood because the group’s services include abortion.

At the news conference, Marshall said:

“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.”

Marshall was among more than 20 people, mostly Christian pastors and clergy, who assembled for the press conference.

“We are gathered this afternoon to draw attention to the unethical, immoral and racist practices of the largest abortion provider in America,” said Dean Nelson, executive director of the Network of Politically Active Christians.

Delegate Brenda Pogge, R-Williamsburg, has joined Marshall in co-sponsoring a budget amendment to eliminate state funding for Planned Parenthood.

“I think that the reason it’s gone on so long is that most people don’t have a clue what’s being paid for by taxpayer dollars,” Pogge said.

The press conference was held by a group called Virginia Christian Action. Its members presented a petition calling on Gov. Bob McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to stop funding for Planned Parenthood. All three top officials are Republican.

The petition was signed by a number of prominent Christian leaders, including the Rev. Jonathan Falwell of Lynchburg and the Rev. Pat Robertson of Virginia Beach.

McDonnell has publicly supported calls to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. His predecessor, Democrat Tim Kaine, supported funding for Planned Parenthood.

“Looking at it from a cultural, historical perspective, this organization should be called ‘Planned Barrenhood’ because they have nothing to do with families, they have nothing to do with responsibility,” Marshall said.

Nelson suggested that the organization be called “Klan Parenthood,” saying that the group’s founder, Margaret Sanger, made racist comments in the 1930s and that the organization has shown a “willingness to take donations from people who are racist.”

According to Marshall, Planned Parenthood receives “about $500,000 a year” from the state.

But Jessica Honke, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said the only state funding Planned Parenthood receives is from Medicaid reimbursements. That amount was about $35,000 in the 2009 fiscal year, according to the Department of Medical Assistance Services.

Planned Parenthood provides a wide range of gynecological and other health services, from cancer screening and HIV prevention to birth control for low-income women. Honke pointed out that abortions represent a minority of the group’s services.

At the press conference, the Rev. Joe Ellison, vice president of the Council on Biblical Principles, said that when he was in college, he paid for girlfriends to get abortions. He said he still feels guilty about that today.

Ellison said he was “declaring war against Planned Parenthood.”

“We’re asking pastors to shut them down in the community. We’re asking pastors to pray them out. And we’re asking Planned Parenthood to leave our children alone,” Ellison said.

In 2008, the Senate approved a budget amendment to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. However, that proposal was not included in the final state budget.