British statesman Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Unfortunately, today’s society, invaded as it is by the Culture of Death, is a sad testament to the truth of Burke’s observation. Nevertheless, good men who take real action do exist. Robert G. Marshall is one of them.
In the current political climate, whereby the likes of pornographers feel no compunction running for governor, a figure like Marshall is a rarity. He has served in the Virginia State House of Delegates for the past 12 years, fighting consistently and without compromise for true family values and a respect for the sanctity of all human life. These days, that’s no small task. Those who fight for life and decency are sure to be persecuted—Marshall is no exception. He has been ridiculed for his beliefs and bringing them to the political front.
Despite his adversaries’ carping, Delegate Marshall appears unfazed. He continues to take action where action is needed—the way of all good men.
Your work in Virginia state politics has shown your outstanding pro-life/pro-family values. How did these values become such a part of who you are?
Just growing up, I absorbed this from my parents, and I attended Catholic school for first through sixth grades. It’s just always been a part of my life.
How did you become interested/involved in politics?
Actually, that started in the 1950s when I watched the Army-McCarthy hearings on television as a kid. They interrupted Howdy Doody or something. But I found it interesting, and I just always liked politics. I remember my parents always being involved in political discussions. I remember listening to the presidential race in 1948 when I was four years old, listening to the radio, and asking my dad, “Who is this guy (Norman Thomas) running for president?” He was a Socialist. I remember listening to this guy talking on the radio, and I said, “How is this? I thought you had to be a Democrat or a Republican?” And my dad said, “No, this guy is a Socialist, and he’s running for president.” I just had this interest or aptitude—it always attracted me.
What have been some of your challenges/highlights from your 12 years as delegate?
From the right-to-life standpoint, the fight to try to protect Hugh Finn. [Kentucky news anchor Hugh Finn starved to death in 1998 when his feeding tube was removed in a Virginia nursing home at the request of his wife, Michelle. Delegate Bob Marshall and Gov. James Gilmore had opposed the court order to remove the tube.] It was just something that had to be done. I had kind of seen this sort of thing coming from a bill that was introduced a number of years before by a delegate from Arlington, Va. I just said, “This is basically just to justify the starvation of people who otherwise are not dying.” And it turned out to be true, unfortunately.
Hugh Finn was a newscaster in Louisville. He took his seatbelt off for a minute while he was driving to give his daughter some money for lunch. And when he went over a hill, it was icy. Another driver was over the center line and they crashed. The real minute details of the case can be found on our website, www.trincom.org/marshall. If you scroll down to the bottom, there are documents and a narrative, as well as a video of Michelle Finn announcing that her husband was talking.
It was a long, protracted affair. I was contacted by Michelle Finn’s sister, who called me from Philadelphia. I thought to myself, “Why is a lady from Philadelphia calling me about this?” [Hugh’s] nursing home was not in my district. But when she told me that his family, brothers and parents lived in my district, I said, “Well, that now means that I have a responsibility. If the family wants me to do it, I will get involved.” So they called me and we had conversations, and I proceeded.
At one point during that time, I was getting more press in the Washington, D.C. media than Bill Clinton. I wasn’t seeking it; it just happened that way. Here was Hugh, a media personality, to whom these things were being done. There was worldwide attention. There were people sending notices from Japan and from all over the world about what was going on here.
You’ve also been in the media recently for writing letters to various Virginia universities, regarding their distribution of “emergency contraception” or the “morning-after pill.”
The morning-abortion pill. Two universities have stopped distributing it—although one of them still prescribes it. I talked to a delegate, Kathy Byron, who is going to introduce a bill to prohibit universities from including this among the drugs they distribute or prescribe. This is perfectly legal. As an employee of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I have a healthcare plan. We don’t have benefits on our healthcare plan for every drug that’s legal. We just don’t do it. So it’s legal to do this. This lady is going to take the lead. She started something this year on it, and I thought she would be better situated to lead this, although I was the one generating the publicity and the fight on this thing.
There has been much debate recently regarding politicians who claim to be Catholics in good standing, yet vote in favor of legislation promoting abortion and other anti-life issues. What are your thoughts on that?
I don’t feel that anybody can just put their conscience in the closet upon becoming a state legislator. Some things that require faith to accept, I can understand that. But it isn’t a matter of faith that there is a human life in the womb. You can understand that from a serious study of biology. It may be that the motivation for protecting that life might come from your religious beliefs, but that is a broad religious belief. It’s not a sectarian religious belief. And the U.S. Constitution says that no one may impose a religious test as a condition for holding an office. So, that you are motivated by a religious belief to protect the common good, including the lives of unborn children, is not unconstitutional. It’s not illegal, it’s not immoral, it’s not forcing your views on other people.
If you had the chance to speak to some of these individuals, what would you say?
I did this two years ago [regarding debate over a partial-birth abortion bill]. I told the members there, “Look, I have no way to peer into your soul or your conscience, or to know your status before God. But all of us are going to die some day. And we have to have an accounting. So I’m just suggesting to you, if you vote to sustain the governor’s veto, just have excellent reasons to present to the Lord some day as to why you did it, and why you think it should be legal to stab a child in the head and suck his brains out to kill him.” Well, one guy shot up and said, “I resent what the gentleman said!” And I did not accuse him of anything. I said, “Look, I don’t know your status. Just have damn good reasons for the Lord, not for Bob Marshall.”
What things (projects, legislation) are on the horizon for you?
I am going to put in a clinic regulation bill. And I’m probably going to go back and try to get abortion reporting statistics required. I’m also going to reintroduce a study dealing with stem cells. Also, if I don’t do it, we’ll get somebody else to put in a bill calling it a double homicide to kill a woman who is pregnant. As a matter of fact, I have a bill drafted for that purpose. I also have a bill drafted that would bar the execution of a pregnant woman. These are just the pro-life matters; there are other bills in the works, too.
What advice would you give to people who want to become more involved in the political side of the fight to establish a Culture of Life?
Do it indirectly, but get involved at the local level, in your community. Maybe a homeowner’s association, or be concerned about traffic safety and things like that. And then it shows that you truly are concerned about people and their “real problems.” And then you will get the opportunity to meet people who you would normally not deal with; and then they might see that you have a little lapel pin that is a flower or the precious feet. Not everybody is called to run for office. But I can’t do this by myself. I was able to beat opponents who spent almost four times what I did because I had such a huge cadre of volunteers. These people were the “social values” people. These people are more dedicated than the average citizen to spend time to get someone elected.
Bob Marshall In brief
The following are some of Bob Marshall’s highlights versus the Culture of Death.
- Introduced legislation touching on practically every pro-life issue, from stopping pornography, to anti-euthanasia efforts, to pro-adoption license plates. These initiatives include: H.B. 2160, a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to “receive complete and accurate information on her alternatives”; the Health Care Decisions Act (H.B. 2541), also known as the “Loving Will,” which would have made it illegal to remove artificially administered nutrition and hydration given to seriously ill patients.
- Publicly advocated to save the life of Hugh Finn, was killed by starvation after an automobile accident left him hospitalized with brain damage. Marshall joined Finn’s relatives in the fight to keep Hugh alive, saying, “If this starvation was going to take place, I didn’t want it to be in silence. Evil loves the darkness.”
- Started a letter-writing campaign to stop Virginia universities from distributing the morning-after pill. His efforts have led to the removal of the pills from James Madison University’s student health center.