Women’s Bodies: Wholly Owned Subsidiaries of the Christian Right

When Virginia Del. Bob Marshall publicly stated his desire to defund Planned Parenthood in his state (they receive a whopping $35,000 in Medicaid reimbursements NOT for abortions, but for primary reproductive and sexual health care for women, men and young people), he used his interpretation of certain Biblical passages to justify his positions. He said:

“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.

“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.”

In other words, a disabled child is a punishment from God doled out to the child’s mother for having had a prior abortion. Putting aside the fact that his claim that “the number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically” has no basis in reality and no evidence-based studies to back it up, let’s examine what these remarks are meant to convey.

What so many have found offensive is the insensitivity he’s displayed towards disabled children and their mothers. Disabled children are a punishment? And women, these children’s mothers, are characterized as receivers of a “special” type of vengeance?

Although his comments seem particularly hurtful as they pierce the hearts of mothers and disabled people everywhere, this meme is exactly what we’ve come to expect when it comes to issues surrounding women’s bodies, health, and lives. From placing blame upon the victims of rape and sexual assault to declaring that breast cancer is bestowed upon those women who dare to remain childless to deciding that women who don’t remain celibate outside of marriage must pay for their decisions to have sex by carrying a pregnancy to term against their will, right-wing, ultra-extremist Christians have staked their claim on what women can and cannot do with our bodies by endlessly repeating the “you get what’s coming to you” line. In essence, women’s sexual and reproductive capacities are inherently evil and must be delicately controlled by the steady hand of the men who know best.

When it comes to pregnancy prevention and the use of contraception, for example, the Christian right is clear: if women have sex outside of marriage, we must “pay the price.” It’s framed as “living with the consequences of one’s decision” so the paternalistic desire to control women’s bodies is brilliantly turned into a call for women to take personal responsibility but the underlying premise is clear: women must know where our free will begins and our options end. If you are a woman and you commit the “sin” of sex for pleasure, you have given up the “privilege” of bodily autonomy.

In fact, fundamentalist Christian and far-right ideology (which includes the anti-choice movement) is not only against access to abortion. It has become, in recent years, vehemently anti-contraception as well. However, in the various scenarios and protests about these issues, it is never the married, heterosexual woman who is targeted because they are abiding, however superficially, by Judeo-Christian principals.

It’s the young woman, not married, who dares to engage in sex-for-pleasure or finds herself the victim of a rape or sexual assault who is in the cross-hairs of the ultra-right wing’s weapon of choice: shame and blame. It is the woman in Texas in 2004, the victim of a rape, who comes face-to-face with a pharmacist who refuses to fill the legal prescription because “his religion says she shouldn’t have it.” If women dare think we can “get away” with engaging in sex outside of marriage (regardless of ones’ sexual preference), or that we think we are not responsible in some way for the assault upon our body, we are mistaken. For our sins, the wrath of an almighty, angry God will appear in the form of an unintended pregnancy that we should be forced to carry to term.  It’s an odd juxtaposition with the public messaging put forth by the ultra-conservative, Christian right that says that no matter what – babies are always a blessing, and that anything we do to prevent that blessing from being bestowed upon us is wrong. It takes only a moment of reflection to realize that what they are really saying is: unintended pregnancy for women who have sex outside of marriage, forced or not, while using birth control or not, is a curse disguised as a blessing for those women who sin.

In a similar sentiment, the spate of bills and laws popping up around the country from Utah’s bill proposed and pushed by right-wing, conservatives that seeks to criminalize women who have miscarriages to “feticide” laws stemming from our Unborn Victims of Violence Act that have been used around the country to punish women who may dare to wittingly or not place their fetus in danger, we codify the Christian right’s patriarchal, anger towards women.

While we may be shocked at Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall’s callousness, it should not surprise anyone who pays attention to the right-wing, anti-choice, Christian conservative messaging and agenda for the women and girls of this country: Do not forget that the reproductive and sexual capacities of the female body are wholly owned and operated by the Christian right acting as ambassadors of a God on the side of the patriarchy.

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  • odumba

    Ms Newman.  Many in the Christian Right do not make such interpretations.  Simply said, your exaggerations are a disservice to those you try to represent.  Next time, try protecting innocent victims and punish the perpetrators, not the other way around.  Selling out the person-hood of anybody based on sex, religion, race or age is KKK, Nazi, yesterday-behavior.  And for the record, Roe vs Wade is now Roe and Wade vs nobody.  You are on nobody’s side.

  • amie-newman

    that I am intolerant of the ultra-right wing, fundamentalist, Christian right movement that seeks to legislate their own religious, ideological, extreme agenda in order to ensure that all women and girls live and die accordingly.

    If you feel that I have stereotyped this ultra-right wing, fundamentalist, Christian right movement which has done precisely what I have put forth in my post, please do provide specific examples. Otherwise, it’s once again more zealotry without the facts to back up said zealotry.

    I have no idea what you mean by Roe and Wade vs nobody. That’s almost too incredible not to respond to. But, of course, most of the larger Christian right anti-choice organizations want Roe v. Wade overturned (They are behind this quiz which seeks to “inform” people about what Roe v. Wade is really about). Most Republican, far right legislators or legislators to be campaign on wanting Roe v. Wade overturned so as to pander to the hard-core Christian right. I have no idea where you get your news from but targeting Roe v. Wade is not exactly breaking news.

    I’m sorry you feel that I’m being intolerant and stereotypical in my presentation. As I wrote above, you are correct that I have an extremely difficult time tolerating such prejudice, misogyny and disguised hate.


  • gigi

    Forcing a wild eyed fanatical religious view is far more fascist.

    I worked with one of these women for many years.  She had four children and three miscarriages that I knew about. One was 7 months along.  Since she was warned by her doctor not to try to have more children due to a medical condition, I wonder if she could have been charged under the new Utah law?


    Not surprised at Bob Marshall. A couple more of his quotes.


    In 1989, when Marshall was working as the research director of the American Life League, he told the Boston Globe that he opposes all forms of abortion and birth control that take effect after conception. “We’re against the IUD and pills, too. They don’t prevent ovulation and conception, they prevent implantation, which is abortion.”

    When asked about abortion in the case of incest, Marshall replied that sometimes incest is voluntary. In response to abortions in the case of rape, Marshall said, “Your origins should not be held against you [referring to the victim’s unborn child]. The woman becomes a sin-bearer of the crime, because the right of a child predominates over the embarrassment of the woman.”

    I think he meant exactly what he said. Fanatic of the worst kind.  Not happy until we harken back to the good old days of women being pregnant nearly constantly and pushed into poverty.



  • princess-rot

    Funny that, GiGi, because he’s all for holding whatever women did in the past against them; pre-marital sex, prior abortions, use of contraception, “getting themselves” raped or sexually assaulted – even if these things have never been in a woman’s life, the message to all women regardless of status is: all your uteri belong to us. Human rights and bodily autonomy only apply if you’re a man or a fetus, evidently.



    Just a small quibble. They won’t judge heterosexual married women… right now, because it’s politically infeasible. I’ve been seeing it more and more in their rhetoric everywhere, especially where pregnancy is concerned. Women are not people, or at least they don’t deserve to be considered so if they do X, Y, or Z. They are just a means to an end not people in their own right, doesn’t matter if they’re trampled in the process. If they get their way, they’ll be after Griswold and trying to legislate that husbands are head of household and wives get no say in when they have children or sex. Pretty much legalizing rape, except they won’t see it that way.


    I do not think women even register on most hardliner’s radars except as empty vessels (for hard right women, it’s a type of cognitive dissonance that allows them to think they’ll be elevated above “others” if they shit on everyone else, thus avoiding being labeled as naturally deficient like all other women), so our “rights” do not even really matter. As long as there are more white babies on the market, hordes of servile poor for the wealthy to exploit, and the world is under the control of the “correct” people, it doesn’t matter how much misery is inflicted. Fascism at its finest.

  • marshall

    Mr. Speaker, on Thursday February 18th, a press conference was held in the General Assembly, the purpose of which was to demand Planned Parenthood not receive any funds out of the state budget.  Media attending included ABC News, Channel 8, CBN, The Washington Post, Richmond Times, The Virginia Pilot, The Associated Press and other fine news sources.


    Next day press reports noted comments made at the press conference. Conspicuously absent from all the reports was the claim that any speakers at this press conference made statements calling handicapped children punishment from God for abortion.


    Three days later on February 21, Capital News Service claimed that I did in fact make such a statement, yet, no other news service picked up this “alleged statement.”


    Why? Because that statement was never said, period.  All of Virginia’s professional journalists missed what a Capital News Service claims to have found?  I encourage anyone to go to my web site, http://www.delegatebob.com to find the entire video of my comments and easily see for themselves, I never made such a comment.  But it has been repeated endless times in print and electronic media without producing the smoking gun tape.


    Of course, if some wish to make their own inferences, that is their prerogative.  However, they should acknowledge that this is what they are doing.  Furthermore, 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.  I’ve served here nearly two decades.  I believe most of you know me well enough to know I would never make such a statement.


    I have championed the rights of children that groups like Planned Parenthood think have no business being born.  Everyone deserves a lifetime!


    I acknowledge that my extemporary remarks mentioned “Nature’s vengeance” or “punishment.”  I could have certainly used better words to explain the medical research findings which show a high incidence of complications following induced abortions.  Accordingly, I have posted on my web site direct excerpts from 258 peer review studies from the National Library of Medicine as well as the results of research contracts with the US Public Health Service.   


    [In my floor remarks I made reference to an October, 2007 study from the Journal of Reproductive Medicine which presented findings from 59 English Language studies that induced abortion in the US is a direct cause of 31.5% of all Cerebral Palsy cases in the US, an excess of 22,917 early pre term births which result in 1,096 excess cases of Cerebral Palsy and a cost of $1.2 billion.]


    Actions within Nature are not direct actions of God.  It would have been better had I used the words “natural consequences” to convey my meaning.  But even so, not one professional news source attributed a sinister meaning to my words. 


    Furthermore, my personal and public life show a respect for unwanted or disabled children, including our adoption of three of our own children, one of whom we were told by the adoption agency had a 50-50 chance of carrying a gene that would cause her death as a young adult. We found out years later she did not have the gene.  My oldest son, now deceased, took personal care of his quadriplegic friend, taking him to school and sports events. 


    And I am sure you cannot forget my bills to provide health insurance for autistic children which almost got me kicked out of the Republican Caucus for my hardball tactics, as well as my decades of pro-child, pro-women legislation.   And this year I authored the cord blood bill to help disabled children and First Responders, which this House unanimously supported.

    I also have proposed HB 334, which passed the House of Delegates 95-2, and which requires women undergoing abortion to be offered medical articles concerning possible complications in future pregnancies, a bill which Planned Parenthood opposes. 


    There are powerful interests which seek to prevent this information from reaching women.  And, there is the tragedy of Planned Parenthood, which endorses pre-natal diagnosis to eliminate the live birth of persons with disabilities. 


    The disabled and their families are reacting in part to words I never said, never meant, and don’t believe.   I served here almost two decades.  You know these news accounts are not fair.  But I continue to apologize to families for the fallout from all of this. 


    I take my oath of office seriously, and believe it is important to protect my constituents by ensuring full transparency about a procedure that may adversely impact their future reproductive health. That is why I strongly believe that Planned Parenthood, which performs roughly one-fourth of all abortions nationwide and opposes protecting women with this vital information, should not be funded by Virginia taxpayers.


    Children, whether wanted or unwanted, intended or unintended, “normal” or disabled, of any background or are blessings from a loving God.  I have held this view from the first day I came here and will hold it to the last day that I serve here.  I will continue to fight on their behalf and on behalf of the courageous families who care for these wonderful children.


    As to the VCU run Capital News Service, I forgive you for making this slanderous claim about me and my life.


    Nevertheless, there remains the journalistic obligation for Capital News Service  to correct the record and to publically acknowledge the following:

    -You never gave me a chance to defend myself.

    -You never checked with me to verify whether I believed your claims or that my meaning was as you suggested.

    -You have made inferences about my words, but presented them to the public as if I actually said them.

    -Your web site claims to present my full comments but a transcript of my actual comments made available by CBN and now on my website shows you ended my comment in mid sentence and omitted my reference to a VCU study of adverse complications from induced abortion relating to low birth weight and premature birth.

    -Your report as to what was allegedly said was NOT verified by professional colleagues or a video of the original press conference. 

    -You are using equivocal meanings to the terms Nature and God to make a claim about children and the Creator that I never made and don’t believe.


    Let the truth be known.  Now, VCU, it is your turn.


    Thank you Mr. Speaker.

    • wendy-banks

      You are one fucked up, sick, twisted wackjob of human being dude. Why don’t you go study some REAL science for a change instead of that hateful, shameing right-wing crap that you’ve been spouting. Real women are NOT going to cower down and become the ‘good little’ brood-mares and servants that men like you want us to be– Our bodies belong to US and US alone– Get over it, it’s 2010 dude, not 1010– We will NEVER go back. And my child is perfectly healthy and not in any way disabled thank you very much.

      You need to check in with reality a little more ‘kay?


      “Give me liberty, or give me death” Patrick Henry

  • amanda-marcotte

    You think using the euphemism “consequences” instead of “punishment” is enough.  We’re not stupid, you know.  We can see right through that.

  • amanda-marcotte

    The funny thing is that these dishonest tactics—sorry, Rep., everyone saw the full, unedited video—will not probably ruin his re-election chances. 


    I’m blown away at the arrogance of the religious right, with their demands that they get to hold beliefs that are offensive and discuss them openly, but we all have to pretend they don’t believe that when it’s convenient for them.  I fail to see why we’re obligated to join the ruse in selling radicals as moderates in order to appease non-hateful voters.

  • jgbeam

    Please post a link.  Not everyone has seen it.


    Jim Grant – Pro-lifer

  • amie-newman

    Here is a clip of what Del. Bob Marshall said but I will find another as soon as I am able. Or if anyone has the clip handy, please do post:


  • colleen

    This article has links to video and downloadable audio:


  • harry834

    I’m hoping we can come to answer the question: “did or didn’t bob say what we say he said?”

    The videos should help.

  • ahunt

    “Planned barrenhood?  Men who think that women have one function?”


    Seems to me, Bob…that YOU are kind of man who thinks that women have but one function…and that is to produce children whether or not such is the goal and desire of women.


    Tell us, Bob…is there any room in your world view for women who would do other things in their lives?

  • crowepps

    “I could have certainly used better words to explain the medical research findings which show a high incidence of complications following induced abortions.”


    An incidence which is lower than that of the complications of pregnancy itself.

    “I also have proposed HB 334, which passed the House of Delegates 95-2, and which requires women undergoing abortion to be offered medical articles concerning possible complications in future pregnancies, a bill which Planned Parenthood opposes.”


    How about a bill that requires women whose pregnancy tests are positive to be offered medical articles concerning all the possible complications of pregnancy, including disability and death, so that they’re clear about the terrible risks they’re taking by wanting to have children?

    “And, there is the tragedy of Planned Parenthood, which endorses pre-natal diagnosis to eliminate the live birth of persons with disabilities.”

    As does, of course, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, endorses pre-natal diagnosis, that is, since being prepared for the complications attendant on those disabilities is really important at the time of birth.  Of course, neither the member of ACOG or those at Planned Parenthood would seek to interfere in the absolute right of the parents to make their own choices when they hear the results.

    ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 88, December 2007. Invasive prenatal testing for aneuploidy.

    American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

    Prenatal diagnosis of fetal chromosomal abnormalities is the most common indication for invasive prenatal testing. The prevalence of chromosomal abnormalities in clinically recognized early pregnancy loss is greater than 50%(1). Fetuses with aneuploidy account for 6-11% of all still births and neonatal deaths(2). Chromosomal abnormalities that are compatible with life but cause considerable morbidity occur in 0.65% of newborns, and structural chromosomal rearrangements that will eventually affect reproduction occur in 0.2% of newborns(3). Consequently, screening and diagnostic programs to detect the most common autosomal trisomies in liveborn infants, including Down syndrome, are well established. The purpose of this document is to provide clinical management guidelines for the prenatal diagnosis of these aneuploidies.



    Children, whether wanted or unwanted, intended or unintended, “normal” or disabled, of any background or are blessings from a loving God.


    You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but then, I imagine you, your spouse and your kids aren’t living in a car while waiting for your number to come up at one of the 120 homeless shelters in Virginia, or eating at the soup kitchen.  Women in that situation need birth control.

    “In 1989, when Marshall was working as the research director of the American Life League, he told the Boston Globe that he opposes all forms of abortion and birth control that take effect after conception. “We’re against the IUD and pills, too. They don’t prevent ovulation and conception, they prevent implantation, which is abortion.”

    This is a clear indication that Mr. Marshall has no idea what scientific evidence actually means.  There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that birth control pills or modern IUDs prevent implantation and a great deal of evidence that they do not.



  • crowepps

    As I understand Bob’s defense, the words came out of his mouth but since there is more than one definition available, they are ‘equivocal’, he didn’t mean what everyone says he did.  Instead he meant something different, like ‘Nature’ punishes the woman for having an abortion by impacting her future pregnancies.


    I haven’t yet seen his explanation for why women who have never had abortions but who instead want to have children and complete their pregnancies are ‘punished’ by Nature with miscarriages, stillbirths, complications and death, but I’m sure he’s got a doozy.

  • jgbeam

    Bob’s obviously not our best spokesman.  Can’t blame you all for piling on. 


    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer.


  • rebellious-grrl

    Comparing Amie to the KKK or Nazi’s is absolutely absurd. To inform yourself about white supremacy groups you may want to read “Blood in the Face” by James Ridgeway. Or if you don’t like reading you can watch the video based on the book (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101479/).

    Despite “Jane Roe” aka Norma Leah McCorvey’s “conversion,” Roe vs. Wade still stands as a Supreme Court decision and the law of the land. Brilliant article Amie, Thank you! And thank you for being on my side.

  • rebellious-grrl

    Well said!

  • crowepps

    If Rep. Marshall hadn’t decided to defend himself by first denying outright that he had said, calling the reporter a liar, and then implying that the people who were listening to the video of what he said themselves were all delusional, I imagine the subject would have been dropped pretty quickly.


    I wasn’t aware that ProLife had anyone who could be described as a “best spokesman”. Every one that I have tried to engage with is both pig-ignorant of the facts of reproduction and has a basic argument of “I/my friends/my religion believe this and therefore we’re entitled to force everyone to live their personal life to our standards”.

  • crowepps

    Many in the Christian Right do not make such interpretations. … Next time, try protecting innocent victims and punish the perpetrators, not the other way around.

    How can you reference “the Christian Right” as though it were a monolithic block with identical beliefs and THEN demand those outsiders looking on in horror at the insanity of it to sort the ‘innocent victims’ from the ‘perpetrators’?


    It’s YOUR monolith. YOU sort out what the approved line is, expel the heretics among yourselves, and then let us know to exactly which bumper sticker arguments we should be responding.


    I must say, your choice of the username ‘Odumba’ is so pathetic there isn’t a response gentle enough not to sting. The fact that you thought this would be ‘clever’ instead of instantly branding you an ignorant bigot leads me to the conclusion you’re 13 or 14 and intellectually challenged.

  • amie-newman

    I appreciate the information you provide to Odumba. I did not address Odumba’s comparison of me to the KKK or the Nazis because it’s just ridiculous, but I’m glad you did! Yes, Roe v. Wade is the law of the land but it has certainly been used as a political football for conservative candidates who want the Christian Right endorsement and support: either state clearly that you want Roe v. Wade overturned or you are clearly not on the side of “God.”

    Thanks again rebellious girl!

  • prochoiceferret

    Bob’s obviously not our best spokesman. Can’t blame you all for piling on.

    Don’t you mean to say, “Bob is a skilled and effective advocate for the pro-life side. I see that none of you pro-choicers can hold a candle to his command of logic, scientific fact, and morality.”


    Oh, and “Abortion is not health care.”

  • callah

    To the Men and Women who passed this bill I say this:

    “Get out of my life and stay out of it! Keep your little messsages from your invisible friends to your self. Your so called”sin” causes women to lose children? You are insane.”

    I google-ed the numbers and the majority of women who miscarried or had abortions were in the 35 to 55 age group in Utah. This is an assult on Older women, while using a “17 year old CHILD” as their excuse for their actions.

    Where the H$#@ were you before she got knocked up? Arguing about how Evil birth control is? What does your childrens services do besides collect a pay check?

    Also, Who is going to PAY FOR all these children when you lock up their mothers or do the children go to Jail with Mommy? And Who PAYS for all those low income children….our tax money?

    This is exploitative bullshit.

  • callah

    As far as the adoption issue…..hey, it’s POPULAR for movie stars to aoupt children from other countries, not American unwanted children. I know, I was one of those unadoptable children once apon a time, in the south. How many of you came to “Look me over” when I needed a family? None that’s how many. I never seen anyone come , and no one I was raised with were adopted, either. I guess if the powers that be, had told them I was half Italian and half Pakistani that would have changed things, huh..in the south, in the 60s? NO…they told me NOT to tell anyone about my ethnic extraction, because Gypsy, black, Italian children were thought of as nothing but indentured Slaves to be used. Hey by wow…the freed the Black people right?While ripping off and distroying the American Gypsies culture to make money. Maybe Old Joe wasn’t as crazy as everybody thought just FREAKED out to the point of killing himself, like my Mormon friend did when she faced the possibility of child #5.


  • callah

    Do we all agree that Utah is a “Mormon State”? From their own women:

    Like Chapman, girls start early learning to accept their role. Thus, the reminders to “Stay Pure,” “Smile,” and “Keep Sweet” that they post at home or carry in the pockets of their home-sewn, flowered frocks. Still, some never get comfortable with the arrangement. “It takes a while to get over the jealousy. You learn pretty fast to try to ignore what you’re feeling,” said Katie Cox, who for 38 years has endured what she calls a “hands-off” relationship with her sister wife. Added Chapman: “I’ve seen women scratch, kick, pull hair over how they load the dishwasher.”

    The pecking order for FLDS members is unwavering: Children are subordinate to their mothers, who are subordinate to their husband, who is subordinate to the church prophet, who answers to Jesus Christ.


    How can any of you trust that this Law was enacted to “protect women” is beyond me!

    Go Wikipedia “The Church of the Latter Day Saints” and read for your self and think, Utah is a Mormon State, they admit to it, they got into the US as a Mormon State.

    Were going back to the Dark Ages here, People….

  • elyzabeth

    I’m afraid Ms Newman’s characterization of anti-compassion, anti-Red-Letter Christianity is all too accurate.  You aren’t familiar with Texas-style old-time religion apparently.


    I’m on a campus–and students are supposed to be more open-minded and tolerant than the general population, right?  We still have a loud faction of the student body that opposes the fact that we have a GLBT club, a Women’s Resource Center, a NOW Chapter, a Sexual Health Awareness program, and that we had The Vagina Monologues performed on campus.