Last Thursday he reportedly suggested that disabled children are God’s punishment to women who aborted their first pregnancies. The incendiary comments came during a press conference to oppose state funding for Planned Parenthood and were first reported by Virginia Commonwealth University and the Gainesville Times.
“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically," Marshall was quoted by the Times. "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.”
But Marshall told NBC4 that his comments were taken out of context, and that he did not suggest that disabled children were punishment from God.
"That is unthinkable for me or a member of my family to think that. We don't," Marshall said. "Children, whether they are wanted, unwanted; planned or unplanned; conceived in marriage or not; disabled or normal; or even children of sexual assault, all made in God's image. All have civil rights. All should be protected. Period. End of discussion."
When asked again if they were a punishment, Marshall said, "No, they're not. They're blessings."
Marshall showed NBC4 several articles from medical journals that he said supports his belief that abortion can affect subsequent pregnancies a woman may have.
Marshall said he received calls from across the country wanting an explanation.
"When I explained to them what I meant," Marshall said, "they said, 'Oh, I understand. I bet you've gotten a lot of calls.' You're right I've gotten a lot of calls. And frankly, VCU should put out a correction. Not just for me, but these are hurtful statements."
Online, Marshall’s original remarks provoked everything from disgust to a defense of his constitutional right to express his views. On Snopes.com, Aud1 says, “Does the bumper sticker on his car say, "She's a punishment not a choice."
On WTOP.com, a commenter wondered what Sarah Palin might make of Marshall’s remarks. Palin's youngest son Trig has Down Syndrome.
Daily KOS noted that MSNBC "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough (a former Republican Congressman) tweeted: "That legislator is God's curse to voters who elect stupid politicians."