Bob Marshall, who continues to dispute he said what he's been recorded and caught on video tape saying, is digging an ever-deeper hole for himself politically. Moreover, new video shows that he was introduced at the press conference by a minister who said Pat Roberts was "on target" about the recent earthquake in Haiti being just punishment for a "pact with the devil."
Why is Bob Marshall–the Virginia state delegate who stated that disabled children are a punishment from god for the sin of abortion–still upset about the fact that a student journalist quoted him accurately and on tape? Instead of letting the controversy die down Marshall is still stoking the fires. He continues to try parsing his own words that nature will take “vengeance” on a woman who aborts her “first-born” (kinda hard when there is no child and no birth). And even though he said it, and mentioned the Old Testament, Christians, and “punishment” in the same breath, for some reason he’s still upset that people could have inferred that he was talking about “divine punishment.” Now why would anyone get that impression… aside from his own words?
Perhaps it’s because of how he was introduced.
The man who introduced Del. Marshall at the press conference is Rev. Joe Ellison. Remember when Pat Robertson got into trouble for suggesting Haiti got an earthquake because Haitians had made a pact with the devil? Well at the press conference last Thursday Rev. Ellison also mentioned he agreed with Robertson.
“From a spiritual standpoint, we think the Dr. Robertson was on target about Haiti, in the past, with voodoo. And we believe in the Bible that the practice of voodoo is a sin, and what caused the nation to suffer. Those who read the Bible and study the history know that what Dr. Robertson said was the truth.”
As Josh Glasstetter asks, “Does Marshall stand behind Ellison and his remarks on Haiti?”
Considering he just was introduced by a man who said those who practice sin deserves to suffer (translation: all Haitians today deserve to suffer from a horrible earthquake because in 1791 they rebelled as slaves) is there any reason to believe that Marshall didn’t mean exactly what he said?
Now let’s say that Marshall, in his zeal to defund Planned Parenthood in Virginia, accidentally went a little overboard; normally if people misspeak they apologize and move on. That would be the normal response. But not for Bob Marshall.
Yesterday on the floor of Virginia’s House of Delegates Marshall continued to deny what he actually said and blamed the Capital News Service for reporting on it — I mean not contacting him about the “alleged” comments the reporter both heard, witnessed, and recorded. Here’s part of his statement on the floor:
A February 22nd Capital News Service story claimed, “Western Prince William Del. Bob Marshall (R-13th) says disabled children are God’s punishment to women who have aborted their first pregnancy.”
I never made this statement. I believe that all children, no matter their background are a blessing from the Lord, not a punishment. Capital News Service never called me about these alleged comments.
No other reporter who attended the same February 18th press conference regarding Planned Parenthood funding made the same claim for the simple reason that I never made such a statement about disabled children.
“Thank you very much for coming here today. We are dealing with an attempt to defund, frankly, a malevolent organization. And I say that because you know people by their fruits. In 1960, 65, the out of wed-lock birthrate for blacks was 25 percent. I think it was about 23 percent in 1960 – it was 5 percent for all races. Now it’s 40 percent. It’s 72 percent for blacks, 51 percent for Latinas. These are the fruits of planned parenthood. OK. Nothing else. More heartache. More guys who are completely irresponsible and think that women have one function and one function only for a few minutes. OK. But this just isn’t affecting our families, our inner cities, our communities and our state. This poison animates a world-wide population control program that the United States funds and which is unnecessarily making us enemies overseas. We are attacking traditional family structure in a way that no country should be doing. These aren’t my words. Go read a book by Denesh DeSouza [sic]. Ok. He’s looking at it from a cultural, historical perspective. This organization should be called Planned Barrenhood cause they have nothing to do with families, they have nothing to do with responsibility. One-fourth of all abortions are done by Planned Parenthood in the United States. Ok. The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion who have 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, and with 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. None of these are good for anybody but this organization has had its time. They have failed in their efforts and we need to defund them and not have them receive a dime of public money.”
Right Wing Watch has posted videos and transcripts of both the original conference and Marshall’s statements yesterday. As Josh Glasstetter points out anyone reading the above speech would pretty much take it to mean there’s divine punishment for women who have abortions.
…Marshall’s own video proves, he did make these comments and, in fact, all the “science” stuff at the end is meant to bolster his central point that women who have abortions are subsequently punished with disabled children later on.
Writer Dani Kelley thought she had shed the patriarchal and self-denying lessons of her conservative religious childhood. But those teachings blocked her from initially admitting that an encounter with a man she met online was not a "date" that proved her sexual liberation, but an extended sexual assault.
Content note: This article contains graphic descriptions of sexual violence.
The night I first truly realized something was wrong was supposed to be a good night.
A visiting friend and I were in pajamas, eating breakfast food at 10 p.m., wrapped in blankets while swapping stories of recent struggles and laughs.
There I was, animatedly telling her about my recently acquired (and discarded) “fuck buddy,” when suddenly the story caught in my throat.
When I finally managed to choke out the words, they weren’t what I expected to say. “He—he held me down—until, until I couldn’t—breathe.”
Hearing myself say it out loud was a gut-punch. I was sobbing, gasping for breath, arms wrapped as if to hold myself together, spiraling into a terrifying realization.
This isn’t the story I wanted.
Unlearning My Training
I grew up in the Plymouth Brethren movement, a small fundamentalist Christian denomination that justifies strict gender roles through a literal approach to the Bible. So, according to 1 Corinthians 11:7, men are considered “the image and glory of God,” while women are merely “the glory of man.” As a result, women are expected to wear head coverings during any church service, among other restrictions that can be best summed up by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:11-12: Women are never allowed to have authority over men.
If you’ve spent any number of years in conservative Christianity like I did, you’re likely familiar with the fundamentalist tendencyto demonize that which is morally neutral or positive (like premarital sex or civil rights) while sugar-coating negative experiences. The sugar-coating can be twofold: Biblical principles are often used to shame or gaslight abuse victims (like those being shunned or controlled or beaten by their husbands) while platitudes are often employed to help members cope with “the sufferings of this present time,” assuring them that these tragedies are “not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
In many ways, it’s easy to unlearn the demonization of humanity as you gain actual real-world experience refuting such flimsy claims. But the shame? That can be more difficult to shake.
On top of that, the biblical literalism frequentlyrequired by conservative Christianity in the United States promotes a terrifying interpretation of Scripture, such as Jeremiah 17:9. The King James Version gives the verse a stern voice, telling us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” If we believe this, we must accept that we’re untrustworthy witnesses to our own lives. Yet somehow, we’re expected to rely on the authority of those the Bible deems worthy. People like all Christians, older people, and men.
Though I’ve abandoned Christianity and embraced feminist secular humanism, the culture in which I grew up and my short time at conservative Bob Jones University still affect how I view myself and act in social situations. The lessons of my formative years created a perfect storm of terrible indoctrination: gender roles that promoted repressed individuality for women while encouraging toxic masculinity, explicit teaching that led to constant second-guessing my ability to accurately understand my own life, and a biblical impetus to “rejoice in my suffering.”
Decades of training taught me I’m not allowed to set boundaries.
But Some Habits Die Hard
Here’s the thing. At almost 30, I’d never dated anyone other than my ex-husband. So I thought it was about time to change that.
When I found this man’s online profile, I was pleasantly surprised. It was full of the kind of geekery I’m into, even down to the specific affinity for eclectic music. I wrote to him, making sure my message and tone were casual. He responded instantly, full of charisma and charm. Within hours, we’d made plans to meet.
He was just as friendly and attentive in person. After wandering around town, window-shopping, and getting to know one another, he suggested we go to his favorite bar. As he drank (while I sipped water), he kept paying me compliments, slowly breaking the touch barrier. And honestly, I was enthralled—no one had paid attention to me like this in years.
When he suggested moving out to the car where we could be a little more intimate, I agreed. The rush of feeling desired was intoxicating. He seemed so focused on consent—asking permission before doing anything. Plus, he was quite straightforward about what he wanted, which I found exciting.
So…I brought him home.
This new and exciting “arrangement” lasted one week, during which we had very satisfying, attachment-free sex several times and after which we parted ways as friends.
That’s the story I told people. That’s the story I thought I believed. I’d been freed from the rigid expectations and restraints of my youth’s purity culture.
Now. You’re about to hear me say many things I know to be wrong. Many feminists or victim advocates almost certainly know the rationalizations and reactions I’m about to describe are both normal responses to abuse and a result of ingrained lies about sex in our culture. Not to mention evidence of the influence that right-wing conservatism can have on shaping self-actualization.
As I was telling people the story above, I left out important details. Were my omissions deliberate? An instinctive self-preservation mechanism? A carryover from draconian ideals about promiscuity?
When I broke down crying with my friend, I finally realized I’d kept quiet because I couldn’t bear to hear myself say what happened.
I’m a feminist, damn it. I left all the puritanical understandings of gender roles behind when I exited Christianity! I even write about social justice and victim advocacy. I ought to recognize rape culture!
If only being a socially aware feminist was enough to erase decades of socialization as a woman within rape culture—or provide inoculation against sexual violence.
That first night, once we got to my car, he stopped checking in with me. I dismissed the red flag as soon as I noticed it, telling myself he’d stop if I showed discomfort. Then he smacked my ass—hard. I pulled away, staring at him in shocked revulsion. “Sorry,” he replied, smirking.
He suggested that we go back to my house, saying we’d have more privacy than at his place. I was uneasy, unconvinced. But he began passionately kissing, groping, petting, and pleading. Against my better judgment, I relented.
Yet, in the seclusion of my home, there was no more asking. There was only telling.
Before I knew it, I’d been thrown on my back as he pulled off my clothes. I froze. The only coherent thought I could manage was a weak stammer, asking if he had a condom. He seemed agitated. “Are you on birth control?” That’s not the point! I thought, mechanically answering “yes.”
With a triumphant grin and no further discussion, he forced himself into me. Pleasure fought with growing panic as something within me screamed for things to slow down, to just stop. The sensation was familiar: identical to how I felt when raped as a child.
I frantically pushed him off and rolled away, hyperventilating. I muttered repeatedly, “I need a minute. Just give me a minute. I need a minute.”
“We’re not finished yet!” he snapped angrily. As he reached for me again, I screeched hysterically, “I’M NOT OK! I NEED A MINUTE!”
Suddenly, he was kind and caring. Instead of being alarmed, I was strangely grateful. So once I calmed down, I fucked him. More than once.
It was—I told myself—consensual. After all, he comforted me during a flashback. Didn’t I owe him that much?
Yet, if I didn’t do what he wanted, he’d forcefully smack my ass. If I didn’t seem happy enough, he’d insistently tell me to smile as he hit me again, harder. He seemed to relish the strained smile I would force on command.
I kept telling myself I was okay. Happy, even. Look at how liberated I was!
All week, I was either at his beck and call or fighting suicidal urges. Never having liked alcohol before, I started drinking heavily. I did all I could to minimize or ignore the abuse. Even with his last visit—as I fought to breathe while he forcefully held my head down during oral sex, effectively choking me—I initially told myself desperately that surely he wouldn’t do any of this on purpose.
The Stories We Tell and The Stories That Just Are
Reflecting on that week, I’m engulfed in shame. I’m a proud feminist. I know what coercion looks like. I know what rape looks like. I know it’s rarely a scary man wearing a ski mask in a back alley. I’ve heard all the victim-blaming rape apologia you have: that women make up rape when they regret consenting to sex, or going on a date means sex is in the cards, or bringing someone home means you’re game for anything.
Reality is, all of us have been socialized within a patriarchal system that clouds our experiences and ability to classify them. We’re told to tend and befriend the men who threaten us. De-escalation at any cost is the go-to response of almost any woman I’ve ever talked to about unwanted male attention. Whatever will satiate the beast and keep us safe.
It’s all lies, of course. Our culture lies when it says that there are blurred lines when it comes to consent. It violates our personhood when it requires us to change the narrative of the violence enacted against us for their own comfort. Right-wing Christianity lies when it says we don’t belong to ourselves and must submit to the authority of a religion or a gender.
Nobody’s assaulted because they weren’t nice enough or because they “failed” to de-escalate. There’s nothing we can do to provoke such violence. Rape is never deserved. The responsibility for sexual assault lies entirely with those who attack us.
So why was the story I told during and after that ordeal so radically and fundamentally different from what actually happened? And why the hell did I think any of what happened was OK?
Rape myths are so ingrained in our cultural understanding of relationships that it was easier for me to believe nothing bad had happened than to accept the truth. I thought if I could only tell the story I wanted it to be, then maybe that’s what really happened. I thought if I was willing—if I kept having him over, if I did what he ordered, if I told my friends how wonderful it was—it would mean everything was fine. It would mean I wasn’t suffering from post-traumatic stress or anxiety about defying the conservative tenets of my former political and religious system.
Sometimes, we tell ourselves the stories we want to hear until we’re able to bear the stories of what actually happened.
We all have a right to say who has what kind of access to our bodies. A man’s masculinity gives him no authority over anyone’s sexual agency. A lack of a “no” doesn’t mean a “yes.”Coercion isn’t consent. Sexual acts performed without consent are assault. We have a right to tell our stories—our real stories.
So, while this isn’t the story I wanted, it’s the story that is.
Many Republicans have been attacking, undermining, or radically reinterpreting the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equality under the law. There's a lot of reasons for this, but the common theme is undermining women's right to control when and how they give birth.
Rick Santorum loves to denounce Dred Scott v. Sandford, an infamous case from 1857 in which the Supreme Court declared that Black Americans cannot be considered U.S. citizens. It seems safe to say that Santorum is not particularly interested in the racial politics of the 19th century. The lengthy struggle of Black Americans to gain civil rights is of no interest to him. He only wields the name “Dred Scott” as a cudgel against decisions like Roe v. Wade or Obergefell v. Hodges—cases that, ironically, expanded human rights—in some sort of garbled effort to say that because Dred Scott was unmistakably wrong, so can be other Supreme Court decisions, hint hint.
But for all that Santorum likes mentioning Dred Scott every chance he gets, it turns out that he is no fan of the constitutional amendment that overturned it. Santorum has signed a pledge supporting the end of birthright citizenship. The 14th Amendment specifically states that all “persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” It was written specifically to overturn Dred Scott by rendering all Black Americans—and everyone born in the United States—U.S. citizens.
Santorum is hardly the only Republican reinterpreting, denouncing, or flat-out lying about the 14th Amendment these days. Seemingly overnight, all sorts of Republicans have decided they don’t like the 14th Amendment as it’s currently interpreted. And at the center of the various swirling controversies over it are, of course, women and what they choose to do with their bodies, with a mighty helping of racism and xenophobia in there to boot. Some Republicans are angry that women are choosing to give birth. Some are angry that they’re choosing not to give birth. Most are angry about both. But all that anger is being channeled through some staggeringly stupid and false claims about what the 14th Amendment actually says.
The most prominent attacks on the 14th Amendment right now are coming from Donald Trump and all the other Republican candidates who want to appeal to his supporters. Trump has amassed a massive following through old-fashioned nativist demagoguery, painting Latino immigrants as a menace to the American way of life who have to be kicked out before they destroy us all. He has specifically zeroed in on a popular and completely baseless right-wing idea that huge numbers of pregnant women sneak into the United States over the Mexican border in order to give birth to babies who will become automatic U.S. citizens. Conservatives frequently call these children “anchor babies,” to imply that these women are using their children as “anchors” to prevent deportation.
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It should be self-evident that this is a racist myth. It’s just a way to demonize women of color—to suggest that mothers of color don’t actually love their children, but simply treat them like paydays instead of people. This, again, is utter nonsense. But should you desire more extensive debunking, Janell Ross of the Washington Post points out that having a minor child who is a citizen isn’t a path to citizenship or really even a legal shield against deportation.
But of course the myth of the “anchor baby” is politically potent on the right. It combines two favorite conservative beliefs: That immigrants are somehow out to get us and that women are not to be trusted to handle their own reproduction.
The 14th Amendment couldn’t be clearer that birth is what makes you a citizen, but anti-immigrant politicians just refuse to accept it. Donald Trump, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, and Chris Christie all favor either changing the amendment or pretending it doesn’t say what it clearly says. Even though there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that birthright citizenship does any harm—and it does a lot of good by simplifying our laws around citizenship and protecting people’s rights—these politicians give into the urge to shame women for choosing to have birth on terms that make sense for them instead of those laid out by bigoted politicians.
But that’s hardly the only way that the 14th Amendment is being reimagined by those who want to control women’s reproductive choices. Mike Huckabee has taken to running around claiming that the 14th Amendment should be interpreted as a ban on abortion, even though the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld abortion as a legal right.
Let’s set aside for now the fact that Huckabee is claiming that the president should basically become a dictator who ignores rule of law. His interpretation of this amendment is a complete inverse of reality. Many actual legal scholars, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg especially, say the opposite: That the Supreme Court should have invoked the 14thAmendment to protect abortion rights in 1973, on the grounds that women are citizens and, as citizens, should have equal rights to bodily autonomy as men.
Huckabee, clearly thinking he’s got a real “gotcha” here, is arguing the opposite: that embryos are actually citizens. By necessity, though he doesn’t explain this outright, his argument would go on to hold that women therefore cannot be citizens. As Amanda Taub of Vox points out, not being forced to give up part of your body to another person is a basic human right, even if they need it to live. So it’s not enough to declare embryos are people in order to compel women to give up our bodies to nourish them. We must also and by necessity declare women to be non-persons in order to get there. Huckabee doesn’t say that part, but his argument doesn’t work without it.
Of course, even to get there, you have to ignore a word that, as it happens, is the same word that anti-immigrant conservatives ignore with their novel interpretations of the 14th Amendment: born. It’s right there in the first sentence of the 14th Amendment: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” (Emphasis added.) Born, as in when you came out of your mother’s body. Not when your mother’s DNA merged with your father’s nine-and-a-half months before. Not when your parents become citizens of the United States. Not at any random point where conservatives, after assessing your racial or national background, decide you count. Conservatives frequently try to chip away at the protection of equality—what the 14th Amendment supposedly guarantees, with a variety of results—in numerous ways, but this is a broad-based onslaught.
All these attacks on the 14th Amendment are ultimately about undermining the importance of birth, an act for which you need a uterus. No surprise that the supporters of male dominance want to shift focus away from “giving birth” to something else, something cisgender men can do—ejaculate, write something on a piece of paper—as the real moment when someone becomes a citizen. But our laws should be built around what works best for our country and the people in it, all the people in it, and not just the hurt feelings of a bunch of male egotists.