The Briefing 10-06-14

The Briefing 10-06-14

The Briefing


October 6, 2014

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


It’s Monday, October 6, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Response to ruling on Texas clinic standards reveals pro-choice motivated by profit

One of the most important court victories for the pro-life cause in many years came at the end of last week. As Paul Weber for the Associated Press and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, a federal appeals court gave Texas permission to fully enforce a sweeping abortion law signed by Governor Rick Perry last year that would effectively close all but seven abortion facilities in America’s second-most populous state. And Paul Weber is entirely correct when he writes,

“The decision [by a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans] wipes out what was a fleeting victory for abortion rights groups — a lower court in August blocking another portion of the law that say clinics must meet hospital-level operating standards to stay in business.”

Last year the Texas legislature adopted a law that brought abortion clinics under the same kind of medical requirements and medical supervision as would be the case and other medical facilities in the state; including hospitals. Doctors performing abortions were required to have admitting privileges at the local hospital. The facilities themselves also came under expanded regulation; bringing those facilities up to the same kind of codes experienced by the hospitals. The bill was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry of Texas and almost immediately the pro-abortion movement went into overdrive seeking to go to the courts in order to nullify the legislation. The math is itself really interesting. Just two years ago Texas had 40 abortion clinics, at the beginning of last week it had 20, as of the end of last week only seven functioning within the state. What we’re looking at here is a direct collision between the pro-abortion movement and the pro-life movement, and ground zero for that battle right now is the state of Texas.

Manny Fernandez, reporting for the New York Times use this language,

“The decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, will have a [immediate] effect on abortion services in Texas… The ruling gave Texas permission to require all abortion clinics in the state to meet the same building, equipment and staffing standards as hospital-style surgical centers, standards that abortion providers said were unnecessary and costly, but that the state argued improved patient safety. Thirteen clinics [he writes] whose facilities do not meet the new standards were to be closed overnight, leaving Texas — a state with 5.4 million women of reproductive age, ranking second in the country — with eight abortion providers, all in Houston, Austin [or] two other metropolitan regions. No abortion facilities will be open west or south of San Antonio.”

Now you’ll note that these two news reports differ in terms of the number of clinics now functioning; one says 7, one says 8. But in any event, we’ll know this week exactly what the number is and we will also know just how the pro-abortion movement intends now to respond. You can count on the fact that they’ll ask for an immediate hearing by the full panel of the Fifth Circuit, and if they fail there, you can count on the fact that they will then appeal to the United States Supreme Court. Either way, if Texas loses in the next round, Texas itself will appeal to the Supreme Court – meaning, that as the court begins hearing cases just today in Washington, it is likely to face yet another landmark abortion decision in this term or, if not, immediately in the next.

The decision handed down by the three-judge panel includes language of tremendous significance. For example, the judges rejected the claim made by the proponents of abortion that the closing of these clinics would mean that a substantial fraction of Texas women would be outside access to an abortion. They claim that it was not a large fraction when even those who are arguing against the law indicated that the closing of these clinics would mean that one out of six Texas women would be placed out of 150 miles of a local abortion clinic. In the words of the judge panel,

“This is nowhere near a ‘large fraction,’ ”

But the real issue isn’t math in this case, its morality. And the clash of moralities is both instructive and alarming. What we have here is a clash of worldviews, the worldview of the pro-life movement and the worldview of the pro-abortion movement. And the clash of worldviews leads to a clash of moralities. The morality of the pro-choice movement is that the only morally significant issue here is what is claimed to be a woman’s right to an abortion – that is a right that supposedly now is to trump all other concerns.

And, as is almost universally the case, the one person who is absent from any mention at all in terms of the references of the pro-abortion movement to their cause is the unborn child – but then again, they reject the fact that that unborn child is a person; certainly legally defined who might be understood to have any rights, such as a right to life. On the other side, the morality of the pro-life cause points to the fact that there are at least two morally significant individuals involved in the equation of abortion; there is both a woman and the unborn child. Very interestingly, the Texas legislature’s law makes clear that the right of a woman, even a woman seeking an abortion, to a kind of quality medical care that can be found for any other procedure should be the expectation of the woman and the requirement of the state. It should tell us something that the pro-abortion movement is adamantly opposed to requiring that abortion clinics would be up to the same kind of code that would be required of any other kind of similar medical clinic, and after all, the abortions being conducted – surgical abortions – are surgical procedures. It tells you something that the morality of the pro-abortion cause leads to the morally significant assumption that the only issue of moral concern here is the right of the woman. And furthermore, you also have in this clash of worldviews, the revelation that the absolute panic on the pro-abortion side comes down to the fact that there is a reduction of abortion clinics in Texas. And, as one of the pro-abortion advocates arguing before the panel said just a matter of months ago, if there are fewer abortion clinics, there would likely be fewer abortions.

And that points to the real cause of their panic. It appears that the pro-abortion movement is now so adamantly convinced that the only issue here is a woman’s right to abortion under any cause – for any reason or no reason, at any time, that they are absolutely opposed to anything that, for any reason, in any place – would reduce not only access to abortion but ultimately the number of abortions themselves. It remains to be seen exactly what abortion clinics will remain open in Texas, but there’s another angle to this that must always be kept in mind; the culture of death also seeks to make a profit. Abortion is actually in this country a huge business, a multi-hundred million dollar business. And organizations such as Planned Parenthood receive an incredible percentage of the revenue by performing abortions. So as it turns out the pro-abortion movement isn’t driven only by its fanatical obsession with what it calls a woman’s right to abortion, it is also driven by a profit motive. And that is also something that should always be kept in mind when the issue of a reduction of abortion clinics, and thus a reduction of abortions, is treated by abortion advocates as the very fall of civilization itself. For now, thanks to this decision by three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit, the law of the state of Texas on abortion will stand – and that is good news. Not just for women in the state of Texas, and not especially we might point out for unborn children in Texas, but for both women and unborn children elsewhere in America as well. For if this law is eventually, finally, sustained and we must hope that it will be so and pray to that end, it will almost assuredly be emulated by other states as well – and that is profoundly good news.

2) Minnesota debate on teens playing on ‘preferred gender teams’ reminder transgenderism not abstract issue

On Saturday I was in Washington DC at the Verizon Center speaking at a conference on marriage. When I picked up the Saturday edition of the Washington Post, I could hardly believe a headline story on page 1 of that newspaper. The headline: “Transgender athletes struggle to find their playing field.” The writer is Sandhya Somashekhar, and she’s writing about the fact that there are transgender athletes in schools, and they are challenging schools to allow them to play on whatever team that corresponds to the gender they now identify with. As the report says,

“It had been a relatively quiet policy debate until the full-page ad appeared in the local newspaper. ‘A male wants to shower beside your 14-year-old daughter,’ it said. ‘Are you OK with that?’ The ad [according to Washington Post], placed by a socially conservative group in Minnesota, was meant to snap attention to a proposal to allow transgender students to play on teams based on their preferred gender rather than the sex assigned to them at birth.”

And, as the Washington Post reports,

“It appears to have worked. More than 100 community members flooded a meeting this week near Minneapolis, and thousands more sent e-mails. In response, the quasi-public body governing high school sports in Minnesota decided to delay a vote on a new policy covering sports participation by transgender students. Members of the board of directors said they needed more time to study the issue.”

The policy is now going be taken up in December and as the Washington Post says, it was an attempt to grapple with a question that has bedeviled many states. The question is this:

“How do you deal with the growing number of children identifying as transgender who want to participate in the highly gender-specific worlds of high school sports and extracurricular activities?”

This is one of these stories that demands our attention because it makes very clear that this is not just an anecdotal issue; this is not a theoretical issue when it comes to the gender revolution we are now experiencing. We’re talking about the state of Minnesota and we’re talking about a proposed policy that would relate statewide in terms of athletics and extracurricular activities in the public schools there. But as this new story also makes clear, it would also affect Christian schools and other private educational institutions because those schools also play the public schools in the same athletic events; leading to the question, if you have a Christian school that is unwilling to play under these rules, must it forfeit specific games or will it eventually have to forfeit the sport altogether? The article cites Helen Carroll, identified as sports project director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. She said,

“Generally, our society is becoming more accepting in its understanding of gender identity and what that means, and we’ve been very lucky that in the last few years this cadre of young kids has started identifying themselves as trans from a young age. [She then says] It’s really pushing folks to really grapple with and understand what it means.”

Well that’s something of an understatement. Once again we face a clash of worldviews, this time over the kind of policy related to who can play on which team when it comes to gender specific sports. As the Post reports,

“Thirty-two states have adopted policies in recent years regarding transgender athletes, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, with several states [have placed] restrictions on their ability to compete with teammates of their preferred gender. For example, Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina require students to play on teams based on the gender listed on their birth certificate, according to Trans*Athlete, an online clearinghouse for information about transgender athletes. At least 10 states and the District allow transgender athletes to play on their preferred teams, according to [a group known as] Trans*Athlete. New York is expected to consider such a policy this month.”

You can absolutely count on the fact that your state, or your local school district, will confront this issue and likely very soon. This article is filled with the kinds of things that should set off all kinds of worldview and moral alarms. For instance, one young person quoted in the article is identified as an 18-year-old student at the University of Puget Sound and Washington. This individual graduated from a Minnesota high school last year, had been born as a girl but – this is going to the article – “came out as male just prior to his junior year.” At that point, the student remained on the girls’ track team in part because the coach was an advisor to the schools Gay Straight Alliance. This is indicative of the kind of language you find in these kinds of debates. The language of “coming out as male just prior to the students junior year,” the coming out as male is countered in this article by the fact that some of the policies identify, for instance, “biological boys.” We are the first generation, we should note, in all of human history to have to put the word ‘biological’ before the word ‘boy’ when it comes to identifying a young male by gender. In Minneapolis a group known as the Child Protection League stated that there would be a greater risk to girls playing with “biological boys” on teams, and furthermore said that a transgender girl with intact male anatomy could shower next other girls or bunk with them overnight trips, putting at risk of sexual assault.

Now at this point, we should simply interject this puts the entire society at risk of an absolute insanity. One of the realities of the transgender movement is that it always comes with demands that simply cannot be met. And furthermore, it also comes with incommensurate demands, sometimes even contradictory demands. When you look at the issue of gender, you have the feminists on one side arguing that when a boy decides to become a girl, it’s just an exercise of male privilege and then you have the trans-advocates saying that biological sex has nothing to do with an individual’s gender identity whatsoever. The collision of worldview here is not only between those who hold to a worldview that gender is assigned at birth, and is a biologically determined reality, against those who argue the gender is entirely fluid – there’s also a clash of worldviews within the radical agenda of the moral revolutionaries.

As you might expect, an article like this is also filled with absolutely heartbreaking language. One mother, responding to the proposal that children should be required to play on teams is assigned by their biological sex, said,

“It absolutely misrepresents the reality of what it means to be transgender.”

That was said by Alison Yocom, a Minneapolis mother of a transgender 11-year-old boy who is undergoing hormone therapy. The mother said

“You’re not a boy showering next to a girl,” she said. “A transgender girl is a girl. There’s a difference between your parts and your gender, and I know it’s hard to understand and there is a lot of controversy around this, but to be misgendered as a boy when you are actually a trans girl is incredibly offensive.”

One of the things to watch as this story continues to expand, not only over time but over geography, is the fact that many parents who claim to be absolutely enthusiastic about the moral revolution when it comes to normalizing homosexuality and even legalizing same-sex marriage, they have to come to a pause when it comes to the demands of the transgender revolution. That’s another revelation in the story by the Washington Post – it makes very clear that there is a division on this issue isn’t the same division as over the issue of homosexuality.

From a worldview perspective that is, indeed, interesting but it also affirms a basic principle of worldview thinking. When you find yourself in a position of joining this kind of moral revolution, you sign on to it. But then you discover that it has no limits. The moral revolution, the sexual revolution now set loose in our society has no limitation. It isn’t a stable project. It isn’t that it can simply stop with the normalization of homosexuality – it won’t stop with the legalization of same-sex marriage. It won’t stop with whatever comes next.

But now we know at least what the next is, it’s the transgender revolution. And what we see is that there are parents – who despite their claims to hold to a very liberal position on many of these issues – they actually still believe that if their child is, to use the language in this article a biological boy, he should play on a team made up of other biological boys, and vice versa when it comes to girls.

But there’s another angle on this as well and this one also demands our attention. For reasons that have nothing to do with gender ideology, the distinctions between many male sports and female sports or male and female versions of sports has a great deal to do with athletic ability, and strength, and other issues that are rather gender specific – some privileging women, some privileging man. If this is a problem in terms of high school sports just imagine what the total controversy will be when eventually the International Olympic Committee has to come up with some policy to deal with this at this point the IOC is dealing with a patchwork of policies, not anything that amounts to a comprehensive approach to the issue. And for good reason – just think of the composition of the International Olympic Committee.

It does include representatives from very liberal Western societies such as Western European nations, Canada, the United States, but the rest of the world is not signing on to this agenda, and they’re not signing on to this moral revolution. In the rest of the world, they’re still operating by more simple vocabulary. A vocabulary that, whatever the language, doesn’t require the word ‘biological’ before the word ‘boy’ or the word ‘girl.’ Those operating out of a biblical worldview understand that gender is a part of the goodness of God’s creation, and that as we are embodied human beings, our body – also a gift from God, a gift from our Creator to establish our identity – we understand that what we’re looking at here is the unraveling of the civilization and its entire moral understanding. And when we think of the roots of this we can certainly look to more proximate causes nearer to us in history; the ideologies, the academic theories, the political activism behind this. But in reality Christians have to go back where it began, and where began is Genesis 3, where the perfection of God’s creation was corrupted by human sin and by the effects of that sin. And what we’re looking at here is the kind of confusion that can only be explained by the fact that the creature is trying to determine his or her own identity apart from the Creator.

3) Hong Kong protests led by 17-year old voice for democracy

Finally, while we’re talking about teenagers, do you realize that the young man leading the political protest now garnering headlines around the world from Hong Kong is 17 years old he began his career as a political agitator and protester at age 14. This teenager has become a primary symbol in the world of opposition to a totalitarian government and advocacy of democracy and human rights. 17-year-old Joshua Wong was arrested on Friday night along with other leaders of the political protest, and he was released after 40 hours of being held by those authorities. We’re all waiting to see what’s going to happen now, as the Chinese government will respond to these protests. We have to hope and pray that they will not respond with the kind of murderous repression that took place a generation ago in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

But the jury still out to see what the Chinese government will do. A political autocracy, a totalitarian dictatorship, doesn’t want to put up with protesters, regardless of age. But it should tell us something, something that should have our attention as well, that at the head of the protest in Hong Kong, a young man who is helping to advocate for and define democracy in his time in his country and his generation is 17 years old. You know, it just might be that the Chinese Communist Party is found someone they can’t shut up – a 17-year-old the message of democracy.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information go to my website at you can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to For information on Boyce College just go to I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.



Podcast Transcript

1) Response to ruling on Texas clinic standards reveals pro-choice motivated by profit

Fewer Texas abortion providers after court ruling, Associated Press (Paul Weber)

Decision Allows Abortion Law, Forcing 13 Texas Clinics to Close, New York Times (Manny Fernandez)

2) Minnesota debate on teens playing on ‘preferred gender teams’ reminder transgenderism not abstract issue

A question for schools: Which sports teams should transgender students play on?, Washington Post (Sandhya Somashekhar)

3) Hong Kong protests led by 17-year old voice for democracy

Joshua Wong: The 17-Year-Old Public Face of Hong Kong’s Protests, Wall Street Journal (Isabella Steger)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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