Monday, January 29, 2018
Monday, Jan. 29, 2018
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Monday, January 29, 2018. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
We’ll see Planned Parenthood lose its leader in pushing the culture of death, we’ll see that she's leaving while she thinks her side is winning; we’ll see a bit of reality set in apparently amongst Americans on questions of LGBT rights; we’ll see a lament about divorcing sex from love that falls very tragically short; and we’ll see a controversy in Florida about pornography as a public health problem.
Planned Parenthood loses its leader in pushing the culture of death
Late last week came the news that Cecile Richards, since 2006 the president of Planned Parenthood, would be stepping down. She announced that she would be moving on to other activities after spending roughly 12 years at the helm of America's most significant abortion promoter and abortion provider. Cecile Richards’ announcement came with a good deal of attention from the media, she indicated that she would not be leaving political activism but would be moving to a new chapter in her life. She has a memoir coming out in April, and, pointedly, she did not rule out a run for office. Richards, some will remember is the eldest daughter of the late Ann Richards who proceeded George W. Bush as the governor of Texas.
Almost immediately in the aftermath of the announcement, a statement came from the office of United States Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska. The senator said,
“Cecile Richards has two legacies in American life: she was the highly-compensated chief executive of the nation’s largest abortion mill for over a decade. And she killed the left’s old mantra of ‘safe, legal, and rare’ and drove abortion politics to the hard-left.”
That statement from Senator Sasse is timely and absolutely accurate, even the New York Times, devotedly pro-abortion, recognizes the very important and historic role played by Cecile Richards, not only in abortion but in the politics of abortion. The reporter, Amy Chozick, cites Richards as saying,
“For women, access to reproductive health care isn’t a political issue.”
She went on to say,
“The women who walk into Planned Parenthood clinics come from every background, every political persuasion.”
Notice here the fact that Cecile Richards is using the preferred moral evasive language of abortion referring to it as reproductive healthcare; of course, for the unborn child it’s anything but healthcare, it's a death warrant. But to her credit, Amy Chozick writes later in the article, and I quote,
“Her refrain that Planned Parenthood is apolitical will strike some as laughable. Depending on whom you ask, [she’s] a national ‘hero’ or a ‘deeply evil woman’ and ‘mass murderer.’”
Let's just consider what we’re dealing with with Cecile Richards. You’re talking about a woman who became the head of Planned Parenthood in 2006, that year in America there were over a million abortions. Specifically, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 1,242,200 abortions. That pace has continued, if you take it just as an average over the last several years, in something close to a million abortions a year. If you consider all the years that Cecile Richards served as president of Planned Parenthood, you're looking at a total tally of something like 12 million aborted children. Actual numbers of abortions performed for each of those years by Planned Parenthood are not available, but it is known that in 2014 Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinics alone performed 323,999 abortions. Let’s just round that to 325,000. Again, multiply that by something like 11 years.
It is well documented that the pro-life movement has made some considerable gains in moving the American conscience over the last decade, roughly the same period of time that Cecile Richards was the president of Planned Parenthood. The pro-life movement has made substantial gains assisted by new technologies such as ultrasound in the years since 1973 and the Roe v. Wade decision. But it is also clear that in the years that Cecile Richards served as president of Planned Parenthood, the most extreme side of the pro-abortion movement has also gained considerable traction, and Planned Parenthood has gained adherents. When Cecile Richards took the organization over in 2006, it had about 2.5 million members; it now counts 11 million members. Amy Chozick of the Times recognizes that Cecile Richards didn't gain national name recognition primarily because she is the president of Planned Parenthood; rather, it is because in 2015 videos were leaked by an underground movement that demonstrated the unquestionable involvement of Planned Parenthood in the taking of tissues from aborted fetuses and selling organs and tissues of those aborted babies on a market for those very biological commodities. Most Americans by means of those videos were awakened to the fact that unborn babies, the parts of unborn babies, actually had become a financial commodity in the United States, and Planned Parenthood was caught with its own national medical director insisting that she would be able to procure additional tissues and organs for those who wanted them for research and that she was going to do so by specifically arranging abortions so as to crush other parts of the unborn child and not the parts that were desired by the researchers. Chozick is also right that Cecile Richards seemed to relish her role in making pro-abortion arguments, and here's where Senator Sasse’s comment is particularly appropriate. The second thing he said about Cecile Richards is that she successfully demonstrated the truth: That the abortion rights movement in America is indeed pro-abortion, not merely pro-choice. In every possible way, Cecile Richards made pro-abortion arguments, not primarily what had been styled by pro-abortionists during the previous decades as pro-choice. If you go back even to the Democratic Party in the 1990s, former President Bill Clinton ran on a political platform in which he insisted that abortion should be, in his words,
“safe, legal, and rare.”
But Planned Parenthood fought every regulation that would make abortion in the words of the very movement safe, and, of course, that meant only safe for the mother, not for the unborn child whose life was destroyed. And then legal? Well, Cecile Richards certainly accomplished her contention for keeping abortion legal, but as for rare, Planned Parenthood has never had any reason to want abortion to be rare. It is ideologically committed to abortion, this is deeply rooted in the vision of Margaret Sanger, who founded what became Planned Parenthood, and we should note with a decidedly eugenicist and racist vision. But we must also note that Planned Parenthood is still to this day supported by the taxpayers of the United States and not by a little; we’re talking about the astounding figure of half billion dollars of tax support to Planned Parenthood every single year. On this point we simply must remind ourselves that pro-life legislators in both houses of Congress and the President of the United States have the responsibility to stop the funding of Planned Parenthood. Furthermore, while considering Planned Parenthood's pro-abortion motives, we need to remember that Planned Parenthood charges for abortion. Abortion has been a significant income line in terms of the revenue of the organization. Planned Parenthood does not want abortion to be safe, even for the mother; it does not want abortion to be rare; the only point in which it insists is legal — legal under every conceivable circumstance. Not only that, but Cecile Richards has been quite influential in the Democratic Party, moving that party even from the tacit argument of Bill Clinton all the way to the 2016 platform of the national Democratic Party, calling for abortion in America to be legal under every conceivable circumstance, for any reason or for no reason, opposing even legislation that would limit so-called partial birth abortion, and, furthermore, calling for the coerced taxpayer support of abortion even beyond that half billion dollars a year to Planned Parenthood.
The New York Times article is also important for registering the fact that Cecile Richards moved Planned Parenthood very much into what's described here as the
“glitzy fundraising circles”
of cities such as New York. She was doing her very best to make abortion central to the Democratic Party and central to the financial base of that party as well. She also attempted, in the most horrifying way, to make abortion a popular cause, a cause that amongst the cultural elite was itself glitzy. But we also have to note something that she said concerning popular culture. Amy Chozick reports,
“Ms. Richards does see progress in the way abortion is depicted in popular culture, with Kerry Washington’s sexy Washington fixer Olivia Pope on the hit drama ‘Scandal’ undergoing the procedure and articles in Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Essence discussing the issue.”
And as we think about the meaning of the resignation or retirement of Cecile Richards as the president of Planned Parenthood, we have to understand that she is at least in part making way for a younger, even more vigorous leadership, and we also have to understand, shocking as it may seem, that Cecile Richards is going out as the president of Planned Parenthood, not as we might want to think because she sees the abortion rights movement losing the battle, but because long-term she sees it winning.
Reality sets in among Americans on question of LGBT rights
Next as we’re thinking about morality in America, I turn to two articles, both of them appeared in the Washington Post, though the articles appear to be absolutely unrelated. They also appeared in roughly the same week. The first article is by Alyssa Rosenberg. It was published on January 25; the headline is this,
“In Three Years, LGBT Americans Have Gone from Triumph to Backlash. Blame Trump.”
Well, that's a very interesting headline. Two words of great significance: triumph and then backlash. As Rosenberg begins the article, she says,
“The movement for LGBT rights has made stunning progress in recent years. But,”
“the latest results of an ongoing poll commissioned by the gay rights organization GLAAD.”
that’s a poll in which the results would be released at the World Economic Forum in Davos. She says that this poll and it’s results
“suggest that just because change has come swiftly doesn’t mean [that that change is] durable.”
She says that for the first time since the year 2014, this poll, undertaken by the Harris Organization, has indicated an uptick in the number of Americans who say they would be uncomfortable with LGBT neighbors, and, furthermore, with LGBT family members. They would, according to this poll, be less likely to feel comfortable having their child taught by an LGBT teacher or to find out that their doctor was LGBT or even seeing same-sex couples holding hands. According to this report, on all these counts and more there was an uptick this year, the first year since 2014, in the number of Americans who said they would feel uncomfortable. Now looking at the numbers, it's not a really significant uptick. What is significant is the way the story is being covered in the Washington Post. Furthermore, it also tells us that the number of Americans, the percentage as it’s reported in this survey, who gave the basic answer that they support equal rights for LGBT neighbors that held steady we’re told at 79 percent.
So what's the big story here? The story is the story, and the story comes down to this: Here you have the Washington Post reporting on this study, a survey done by the Harris Poll under the sponsorship of GLAAD, and we are told that for the first time since 2014 there has been an uptick in Americans who will tell a pollster that they are uncomfortable with certain dimensions, especially public and private dimensions, of the LGBT moral revolution. But it's also important to note that the CEO of the Harris Poll indicated that that steady response at about 79 percent is steady precisely on what he called the PC, that's the politically correct response. So what's the big story here? The big story here is likely the fact that Americans are answering questions asked by pollsters as they believe they are supposed to answer them. That's the PC aspect of this. They are supposed to say that they support equal rights for LGBT Americans. They know they're supposed to say that, and now they say that when pollsters ask, but when those same pollsters go on to ask some specific questions about either public or private life, it turns out that some of those PC responses start to break apart in terms of being so politically correct. As Christians are thinking about this, I think we can understand at least a part of what's going on here. We come to understand that that kind of virtue signaling that comes from answering the pollsters question in a PC way, it begins to break down once the realities of specific situations are stipulated. And furthermore, even if you put it in this chronological frame 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017, well in 2015 came the Burgerville decision by the US Supreme Court. I think it's probably fair to surmise that for many Americans, including many Americans who previously had said that they did not support the legalization of same-sex marriage, there's an increasing awareness of what the ramifications and implications of the legalization of same-sex marriage actually turn out to be. It is perhaps best described as a moral form, even in this case a political form, of what's described in other contexts as buyer’s remorse.
John Gerzema, the CEO the Harris Poll said this,
“When it comes to walking the walk of LGBTQ acceptance … it seems like Americans are pulling back.”
Lament over divorcing sex from love falls tragically short
The second article ran just three days earlier; it’s by Gracy Olmstead, also in the Washington Post, also with an interesting headline. This headline,
“Divorcing Sex From Love Hasn’t Made Sex More Fun, More Safe or Less Complicated.”
Well, that certainly sounds like an interesting headline. Remember Bill Clinton's abortion supposedly safe, legal, and rare? Well, here we are told that divorcing sex from love didn't make sex more fun, safe, or less complicated. But as you look at the article by Gracy Olmstead, it's clear that what we really have demonstrated here is an understanding that the sexual revolution has brought tragedy rather than happiness. But simultaneously, we need to note that the article doesn't call for a return to monogamous marriage, it really only calls for a forfeiting of the hookup culture and embracing some kind of monogamy, or if not that just a little stability in sexual relationships. Marriage really isn't mentioned much at all. She cites Elizabeth Bruenig, who was discussing a current controversy in American sexuality, very much in the headlines, and Bruenig had said that
“we’ve turned sex into just another social interaction and emptied it of any supposedly sacred or taboo elements.”
And in that she’s right. But, again, she’s not calling for a return to a sacred understanding of sexuality. Instead, what we have here is merely a lament, a very painful and poignant lament of what's happened as Americans have separated sex and love. But the Christian understanding of sex and love, not only put sex and love together, but sex and love together only in the context of marriage, and that's what's missing from the article, it's what's missing from the moral horizon of the article. In one of the strangest understatements, and a statement into a moral vacuum we might note made in the article, we read,
“Sex within a loving relationship has the potential for intimacy and respect in a way that sex with strangers never can.”
Well, if you have to make that argument in the form of that sentence you have already abandoned any way to have moral recovery in sex or love. In a very perceptive sentence Olmstead writes, and I quote,
“Our bodies are not mere shells: The deference or disregard with which they are treated have a deep impact on our souls and minds.”
That is indeed a perceptive and profound argument, but it points to a problem: How in the world can that argument be sustained in a secular worldview? Secular worldview doesn't even have a reality that would be known as the soul; it denies that very reality. But here you have a longing that is expressed in a morally insightful sentence in an article that seems to lose any moral sensibility. Olmstead writes that according to the modern secular logic,
“it is the monogamous and the committed who,”
“are missing out on something.”
Later, she says, but perhaps current controversies and discussions would help us to understand, and I quote,
“those with freer, more casual sexual lives can also miss out on something: the joy of intimacy with someone who knows them deeply and well.”
Again, the problem here is a massive, almost unspeakable understatement. We’re not just talking about the difference between casual sex and sex defined as including intimacy; we’re talking about sex ripped out of the context of the only place where it is beautiful and safe and authorized, and that is within the context of marriage. What we see here is a longing for the gifts of marriage while not calling for a return to marriage itself. There's a longing for intimacy and commitment, there's a longing even for fidelity and monogamy that is made clear in this article, but what we do not see is a call for a return to marriage as the normative, molecular structure of society. We don't see here a return to a morality grounded in marriage. We do not see an understanding of marriage as a lifelong union, a covenant between one man and one woman for one lifetime.
As Christians listen to the cultural conversation around us and do an analysis of the moral arguments in the larger cultural conversation, we need to be very, very attentive, not only to what is present in these arguments, but to what is missing.
Florida legislators consider bill declaring pornography a public health problem
But, finally, even as I am in Florida, I want to note an Associated Press story from Florida. It ran in the Orlando Sentinel, the reporter is Brendan Farrington. The headline is this,
“Florida Could Declare Porn a Health Threat Under New Bill.”
It turns out that the most important word in that headline is the conditional: could. Farrington tells us,
“The state could declare pornography a public health risk that needs education, research and policy changes to protect Floridians, [that] according to a resolution overwhelmingly approved [just days ago] by [the House of Representatives of Florida].”
The representative who initiated the legislation said before a House committee, and I quote,
“Research has found a correlation between pornography use and mental and physical illnesses, difficulty forming and maintaining intimate relationships, unhealthy brain development and cognitive function, and deviant, problematic or dangerous sexual behavior.”
That was Representative Ross Spano. By the way, the representative’s point is emphatically backed up by research: Pornography does have, in terms of at least correlation, a relationship to mental and physical illnesses, difficulty forming and maintaining intimate relationships, and unhealthy brain development. Physiological research has demonstrated the release of certain hormones in the brain that are connected with visual pornography. But what's interesting in this article is the fact that the resolution, though passing the House overwhelmingly, is not without opposition, and one of the no votes came from another Republican representative identified as a medical doctor. His logic is what's most interesting. He said, and I quote,
“We have problems with hypertension, with obesity, with diabetes, with Zika. We have a whole list of things that are important medically. … I’m not so sure that we need to spend legislative time annunciating a specific complaint when we have others that are far more pressing.”
Well, I’ll defer to the medical doctor on some of these illnesses, especially hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and Zika, but if he or any other legislator, or for that matter any American, doesn't think that pornography is a major public health problem, then I don't believe that they understand pornography or public health or perhaps even what it means to face a problem.