RHA Howell President “Deeply Saddened” By Virginia State Senator’s Remarks on Children with Disabilities

February 23, 2010 (RALEIGH, NC) – After Virginia State Senator Bob Marshall asserted yesterday that children with disabilities are “a special punishment” from God for women who aborted their first pregnancy, RHA Howell, Inc. president Sam Hedrick said she is “deeply saddened.”

RHA Howell, Inc. is a statewide not-for-profit organization that has been helping people with disabilities and special needs and their families in North Carolina for more than 35 years.

Marshall made his assertion at a press conference held Thursday to oppose state funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides the primary health care for millions of women, especially in rural areas like much of Virginia.

“”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, at the gathering of mostly Christian pastors and clergy who call themselves Virginia Christian Action, according to Newsleader.com.

“I am the mother of a child with disabilities,” Hedrick noted, “and I am saddened that a public official would in any way try to support a personal religious opinion by saying that parents with children with disabilities have been punished by God for choices that they may or may not have made in their own lives. This is reminiscent of Hitler’s words and actions, which are totally repugnant to thinking, responsible citizens in this country.”

Marshall’s statement also caught the attention of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who devoted a segment of her Monday night broadcast to it. She pointed out that Virginia’s new Governor Bob McDonnell has also publicly supported calls to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. The entire segment can be seen at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/

The Arc, the world’s largest community-based organization of and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, reported this morning that Marshall has issued an apology for “my poorly chosen words.”

Howard Cullum, president of The Arc of Virginia, accepted his apology yet noted: “Many of our families are struggling with the 24/7 care-taking demands.  It is rewarding but hard work. Families don’t appreciate statements that can be construed to connect having a disabled child with some religious punishment. Our families don’t need the grief or the guilt.”

Hedrick added: “Perhaps the one good thing that can come from this is that it will raise awareness of just how valuable our citizens with disabilities are to us as a society.”

About RHA Howell, Inc.:

RHA Howell is a not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) organization that has been helping people with disabilities and special needs, and their families, make choices to live more independently for more than 35 years. Integrity, high standards for quality, hard work are at the core of every RHA Howell disability assistance program. Proven leaders in caring for people, RHA Howell, Inc. is a pioneering force in the field of human services, particularly supporting infants and children. For more information, go to www.rhahowell.org.

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