On February 24th my second child was born. Her name is Sadie Grace. She is, without a doubt, a gift from God. She appears to have no disabilities, but if she did, would that have been punishment from God?
Can a child ever be a chastening from the Divine? More specifically, are handicap or disabled children the judgment of God when parents sin? That’s what Republican Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall claimed on February 18th when talking at a pro-life press conference.
“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. 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, and with the knowledge they have from faith has been verified by a study by the Virginia Commonwealth University.” – Bob Marshall
This statement is incredibly offensive. Marshall is literally claiming that when a mother has an abortion, she will often receive retribution from the Almighty in the form of handicap children. Obviously such a statement resulted in a deluge of criticism. Marshall’s response to his critics has been to claim that their denunciation of him is “slanderous”. Instead of offering apologies, he is throwing out excuses.
“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.” – Marshall
At best Marshall only meant part of what he said and simply made his case too strongly. At worst, Marshall really believes disabled children are a punishment from God. Either way, the man needs to beg for forgiveness and not blame his attackers.
I am glad Marshall is a pro-life advocate. I am one myself. But such baseless claims about God’s punishment involving children actually harms the pro-life cause. The most commonly used passage in Scripture for speaking out against abortion can also be used to speak against Marshall’s comments.
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16
This Psalm is true of every single human being. God made each and every one of us. God does not make mistakes. God does not make junk. God lovingly created everyone of us and everyone of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” That includes those with disabilities.
God does punish sin, Marshall is right about that. And I believe abortion is a sin that is punished. But children are never a punishment. Less Christian teenagers would have abortions if they understood that. Many teens have abortions out of shame. They see the baby in their womb as a punishment for their sin of premarital sex. A child is never an expression of God’s disapproval. Every child is a gift from God – even when sinful acts led to that child’s conception.
I am sure Marshall meant no ill feelings toward the disabled. I’ve read reports that he has done much for that community. He let his zeal for the pro-life cause lead him to make a hurtful argument about some of the very lives he wants to protect. Marshall should apologize with no excuse, and maybe we can all learn a lesson about God’s love and care for every child.