Va. Delegate Blasts Student News Organization Over Anti-Abortion Comments

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    The Virginia General Assembly's fiercest abortion foe lashed out at a student news organization Wednesday for its report about comments he made linking disabled babies to prior abortions.

    A Feb. 20 story by Virginia Commonwealth University's Capital News Service led with Delegate Bob Marshall's assertion that disabled children were "God's punishment" to women for prior abortions.

    In a seven-minute floor speech Wednesday, Marshall accused the news service of making an unsupported conclusion about his remarks.

    "If some want to make their own inferences, that is their prerogative. However, they should acknowledge that is what they are doing," Marshall said. "It is no one's prerogative to claim I spoke words which never came from my mouth, have never been in my heart and have never been in my public record."

    At a news conference last week to advocate stripping Planned Parenthood of state money, Marshall said nature takes a toll on children born to women who've aborted firstborns. In the next sentence, he invoked the Bible.

    "In the Old Testament, the firstborn of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There's a special punishment, Christians would suggest, and the knowledge they have from faith has been verified by a study by the Virginia Commonwealth University. First abortions of the first pregnancy are much more damaging to the woman than latter abortions," he said.

    In Wednesday's floor speech, Marshall said he forgave Capital News Service "for making this slanderous claim about me and my life." He demanded a correction by the service.

    Jeff South, an associate professor of journalism at VCU, said the news service stands by its report "as a fair and accurate account of the press conference that Del. Marshall held last Thursday."

    "According to that statement by Del. Marshall, disabled children are a 'special punishment' under the Old Testament; this happens when the first born -- a child dedicated to the Lord -- is aborted; and disabled children represent nature taking its vengeance," South wrote in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.

    "At least, that is my reading of his statement. People are free to judge for themselves," South said.

    Reports of Marshall's comments have generated debate nationally on radio and television news talk shows.

    On Tuesday, Gov. Bob McDonnell, like Marshall a Roman Catholic Republican, said on WTOP radio in Washington, D.C., that Marshall's remarks were "very poor and offensive and wrong" and don't help the anti-abortion cause.