Thursday, Mar. 8, 2018
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Thursday, March 8, 2018. I'm Albert Mohler and this The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Why America’s double-mindedness is glaringly apparent at the intersection of Down syndrome and abortion
America's double mindedness in moral terms has become glaring apparent. But perhaps on one issue more than any other. This one issue, the intersection of Down syndrome and abortion, demonstrates perhaps more graphically than any other issue or intersection exactly what's at stake in our current moral confusion.
Ariana Eunjung Cha reporting for the Washington Post this week tells us that babies with Down syndrome are put on center stage in the US abortion fight. She goes on to explain that several states have passed or are considering laws that would outlaw abortion for the sole reason of the diagnosis of Down syndrome. States already adopting such legislation include North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana, and Louisiana. And as the report states these states have put quote, "Down syndrome front and center in the abortion debate when the condition is becoming more widely understood and accepted in the United States."
She goes on to report this, quote, "In many neighborhoods today, children with Down syndrome participate in mainstream classrooms and on sports team. Companies, include Safeway, Walgreens, and Home Depot have created programs to train and employ adults with the condition, along with adults with other disabilities. This year, Gerber, the maker of baby food, lit up social media with expressions of delight when it announced that it has chosen Lucas Warren, who has Down syndrome as the company's newest spokesbaby," end quote.
But even as Americans delight in these children with Down syndrome, we continue to be a culture which, according to the latest, most accurate account, aborts at least 67% of all unborn children diagnosed with a propensity to Down syndrome in the womb.
But, as Ariana Eunjung Cha reports for the Washington Post, there is tremendous opposition, even to these bills outlawing abortion for the sole reason of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. The story quotes Karrie Galloway, identified as president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah. She said, quote, "Many parents find that having a child with Down syndrome is the right decision for them, but this does not mean that their experience should lead to a law that forces other families into the same situation," end quote. Here, notice you're talking about a unborn human being, made in the image of God, and a Planned Parenthood leader has the audacity to say that other families shouldn't be put quote, "into the same situation," end quote. Human dignity is simply here denied. The entire context here reduced to a situation.
The Washington Post suggests that the big legal and political background here is the 1972 Roe v. Wade decision and efforts by various state legislatures since then to limit abortion, even in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision. And that's profoundly true. The Down syndrome bills, however, are dismissed by so many simply because they're going to support abortion rights and will oppose any restriction, any restriction whatsoever on abortion rights. This would include not only Planned Parenthood but the entire national Democratic party as the Democratic party speaks through its national platform. These days as we've seen, even in yesterday's edition of The Briefing, a Democratic candidate, even for Congress, who holds any kind of pro-life convictions, is likely to face primary opposition. We're seeing the issue now so divisive in America. We're seeing that tremendous moral divide, not only on abortion and the sanctity of human life, but now on the specific question of the moral and ontological status. That means, the status of being of children with Down syndrome and unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome.
The Washington Post report makes clear that one of the technical issues of the background here is the existence of blood tests and genetic tests that indicate the propensity, the likelihood, that the unborn child is marked by the genetic pattern of Down syndrome. And the Post tells us that this blood test is not yet routine in the United States, though many medical authorities are calling for it to me.
But then the Post report goes on with this, and I quote, "In Britain, where the National Health Service offers a screening for the condition in all pregnant women and the abortion rate for pregnancies that test positive is estimated to be as high as 90 percent, the BBC, that's the British Broadcasting Corporation has explored the idea of, and this put in quotes, 'A World without Down's Syndrome.' In Denmark," the article continues, "where testing is widespread, the Copenhagen Post has reported that Denmark 'could be a country without a single citizen with Down’s syndrome in the not too distant future.' And in China," the Post continues, "the state-run CCTV has not-so-subtly reminded would-be parents through its social-media channels that," and these are the words of the Chinese network, "'current medical science has no effective prevention or treatment measures' for Down syndrome — but that the issue can be, and these again are the words of the network, "discovered through prenatal screening.”
The Post is absolutely right when it describes this Chinese message as not so subtle. It's basically a government message calling upon parents to undergo the test and then to abort any baby that would have a Down syndrome indication.
The Port article goes on. I quote again, "The bills making their way through U.S. state legislatures come on the heels of a report that aired on CBS in the summer that Iceland is eradicating Down syndrome. The report as it goes on, created an uproar. Author Bonnie Rochman, writing in Quartz, called the situation in Iceland a disturbing, eugenics-like reality." The story continues. "The Everybody Loves Raymond actress Patricia Heaton tweeted that 'Iceland isn’t actually eliminating Down syndrome. They’re just killing everybody that has it. Big difference.'” That is remarkable, even stunning, moral clarity and the statement bears repeating. I quote it again. Iceland isn't actually eliminating Down syndrome. They're just killing everybody that has it. Big difference. Big difference indeed.
I appreciate the fact that the Washington Post article goes on to report that thanks to medical advances and better integration into society, many individuals with Down syndrome are according to the paper, living long, productive, and happy lives. The average life span amongst people with Down Syndrome has more than doubled from 25 years in just 1983 to about 60 years now. The BBC report cited in the Washington Post was dated September 29, 2016. The subhead in that report was this: 90% of people in the UK who know their child will be born with Down syndrome have an abortion." So there are concerns," says the BBC, "that a new highly accurate test to identify babies with the condition will lead to even more terminations."
Now, let's just remember the math that the BBC has reported. We're starting with 90% of these babies aborted and the BBC says, "There's now a concern that that number could increase." There appears to be no adequate more alarm at the number of 90%, but here's where Christians have to understand and state clearly that that shocking figure of 90%, or the even more shocking numbers coming from Denmark and Iceland, shouldn't be shocking to us so much in the raw numbers. They should be shocking to us in the wrong moral reality. In the Christian Biblical reality we understand that every single human, at every point of development from fertilization until natural death, under every state and described by every condition is an individual made in the image of God. Is one of God's gifts to creation and especially to humanity and, as an image bearer of God, is to be celebrated and welcomed and treasured by the human community. If the Christian Church does not understand this then how can we expect anyone else to understand this?
One of the most important statements made in that BBC report is this. Quote, "I believe Down Syndrome is a life worth saying yes to. Every life matters regardless of the number of chromosomes we have," referring to the genetic pattern that produces Down Syndrome, that's particularly powerful. "Every life matters regardless of the number of chromosomes we have." Indeed, every life does matter. Every life, regardless of the number of chromosomes. That CBS report cited in the Washington Post article cites one medical authority in Iceland. A nation in which it's declared that Down Syndrome has virtually disappeared, it quoted the authority as saying quote, "We don't look at abortion as a murder. We look at it as a thing that we needed. We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication, preventing suffering for the child and for the family. And I think," said the doctor, "That is more right than seeing it is murder. That's a black and white. Life isn't black and white life is gray." End quote.
Well, there's the collapse of human dignity in the secular worldview for everyone to see. "Life isn't black and white, life is gray. We don't look at abortion as murder," she says, "We look at it as a thing that was needed." Just think about that, "A thing that was needed." We're not going to call it murder, simply because we're going to decide not to call it murder. These are inconvenient human beings and Iceland is going to rid itself of the danger of inconvenient human beings, but here is where we need to know you don't have to follow a slippery slope theory to understand what just the history of the 20th Century tells us about deciding that some lives are not worthy of life.
[foreign language 00:10:07] was one of the mottos of the Nazi doctors. "Life unworthy of life." It might start with one group it will quickly extend to others. Once we decide that any human being made in God's image is, "[foreign language 00:10:21], life unworthy of life." We turn the entire society into a killing machine. The culture of death clearly bears its teeth in that statement from Planned Parenthood. A statement that says other families shouldn't be forced into this situation, but we have to understand that the culture of death won't stop with making this choice, a matter of freedom, or of coercion. It will quickly turn to coercion arguing that there is a moral duty to abort children who are lives unworthy of life taking up too much attention and medical expense.
The doublemindedness of our society, as demonstrated in the fact that so many Americans celebrated that decision made by Gerber, and let's all celebrate it! But it makes no sense to celebrate that announcement and decision and then rest calmly in our beds at night while at least 97% of all babies with Down Syndrome are aborted in American wombs. There is a deep and deadly moral confusion in the heart of America as this conversation makes clear. But this a moral confusion cannot, must not, mark the Christian church where we must find nothing less than clarity in the midst of this deadly confusion.
Prenatal sex selection threatens the very survival of Armenia
But now we shift from the question a Down Syndrome to yet another, but related, article. This one appeared in a major London newspaper in recent days. That newspaper: The Guardian. The Guardian, we should note, is one of the most influential papers in Britain. A paper of the cultural, moral, and political left but it's really telling, therefore, that the headline article in The Guardian is this, quote, "We lose 1,400 girls a year. Who will our boys marry? Armenia's quandary." The subhead in the article is this, "Sex selection may have been outlawed, but a shortage of women threatens the very survival of a country where boys are traditionally seen as an investment and girls as a loss." Suzanne Moore is the reporter from your Yerevan in Armenia. She says, quote, "Sometimes it seems there are so many ways to destroy women that the methods become invisible to us. There are some women you will never see because they will never be born." She goes back to the fact that [Armat Yesin 00:12:33] years ago talked of missing women back in an essay that he wrote in 1990.
"It's because," she says, "Of technologies that enable prenatal sex selection." Now, what she says next is really important because primarily we have considered this a problem concentrated in China and India and perhaps in a few other countries. But it turns out is far more widespread and it's also shocking to find out that, "Even if," she says, "That many people are aware that the sex selection abortions have become routine in China and India they become very common even in Armenia. Here," she says, "120 boys are born for every 100 girls." The Guardian actually tells us that Armenia has the third highest rate of sex selection abortions in the world and that means that it ranks behind only two other nations, China and Azerbaijan. Now, notice that India hasn't been mentioned here, but India has sex selection abortions by the tens perhaps even hundreds of thousands a year.
Suzanne Moore takes us into a Yerevan where she writes about a woman who has two young daughters who tells me her girls say, quote, "Let's go to church to light a candle to get a little brother." They want to boy and she wants a boy, her husband wants a boy, this is why she has had nine or 10 abortions. According to The Guardian, "She's not sure exactly how many and she's vague about what she call, 'A vascular condition,' given as the reason to terminate the pregnancies." But, as the article makes clear, the background reason isn't anything that can be described as medical. No vascular condition, it's instead the fact that so many families demand a boy and do not want girls.
Now sex election abortion became illegal, officially, in Armenia in 2016 but the report in The Guardian indicates, that's hardly put a dent in the number of such abortions and furthermore this is now threatening the very survival of Armenia as a nation. Now just to put the matter is bluntly as we can, a nation cannot exist solely of boys without girls. That itself is a death sentence for a nation, but what we have here is a gender imbalance that has been true throughout much of history. Boys have been considered more economically valuable than girls. As this story makes clear, many of the complaints are that girls grow up and leave. Boys grow up and stay and this means not only geographically and spatially, but in terms of a financial contribution. And furthermore, Armenia, a very small nation wants boys in order that they might fight in its army. Now, that's true also in China and it's true in Azerbaijan, but what we're noticing here is the fact that at least some national leaders in Armenia have understood the problem. They have outlawed sex selection abortion.
But as we discussed previously, even yesterday on the briefing, politics is downstream from culture. The politics, the laws, reflect previous and existing cultural trends. In this case the trend toward sex selection abortion is something that hasn't been stopped or at this point even stoppable by legislation. The culture of death shows up in so many various ways, some of them not even noticed in an article like this. But we need to notice what's here. We are told that the problem of sex selection abortions in Armenia has become particularly acute because the birth rate in the nation has fallen so far. Back in a previous generation, Armenian mothers would have given birth to seven or eight children, but now it's just one on average. Now, let's again just look at the obvious. All this takes is math. You don't have to have profound moral insight to understand that a birth rate of one child per woman is not enough to even reproduce a generation. In most countries that requires a birth rate of something like 2.4.
But in this case it also explains why the sex selection abortion problem has led to a terminal imbalance in the Armenian population. Armenia as a nation currently has a population of only about three million but the nation loses by sex selection abortions about 1,400 girls every single year. One of the persons cited in the article from your Yerevan asked the question, "In the long term, who will our boys marry?" End quote. And here we simply have to look at the fact that this isn't really a long term equation. This is actually an equation with a very short term reality.
The head teacher in a school, a school and Gavar, that has far more boys than girls links this also to the reality of war. She said, and I quote, "Our soldiers are killed on a daily basis. We need girls to reproduce, we need boys to defend the border and," as the article says, "Here in Armenia, a boy child is always another soldier." But in a section of the article that demands our attention Vahagn Austrian who's identified as a research at the Armenian International Center for Human Development, he says, quote, "We are not girl averse as they are in India," he says that instead it says specific context. But what he says following is so very important and distressing, quote, "He talks about fertility rates is the big issue. Everyone stresses this is about not being for or against abortion. 'Abortion,' Austrian insists, is quote, 'Simply the mechanism by which sex selection happens. The right to abortion he says is an achievement of civilization.'" End quote.
Well there you have it. There's the culture of death and absolute self-delusion. Here you have someone claiming in Armenia where the population is collapsing, where the birth rate is so small that the nation's not even reproducing itself. A nation that is aborting by sex selection abortion 1,400 girls in the womb a year. Here you have a leading intellectual in the nation who says, "Well this is really not about abortion, because abortion is a civilizational achievement." Well, just consider what this equation requires. It requires the presence of prenatal diagnostic technologies to reveal whether the unborn child is a boy or a girl and then it requires the availability of abortion. The murder of that unborn child because, in this case, the child is simply not of the right sex.
You know, it's just absolute self-delusion, but civilization only and morally it's a suicidal self-delusion for someone in this context who is an intellectual in that nation who understands exactly what's going on to say ... and I just have to quote it again ... "The right to abortion is an achievement of civilization," end quote. Well, if so, it means the end of civilization. This is what the late British author Malcolm Muggeridge called, "the great liberal death wish." It is the insistence that civilization embrace death, even if that means the death of civilization.
A sign of things to come: Mayor of Coronado removes church directory sign over fear of lawsuits
Finally, in California, the island a city of Coronado has decided to remove a church directory sign that had been on city property. It had been there since the 1960s listing about a dozen different congregations of all varieties, but one citizen in Coronado complained, he says, simply because, "The sign included the word 'church'," which he said was discriminatory. The city, trying to back down from any possible litigation or criticism, has decided simply to remove the sign and it says, according to the Los Angeles Times, it is going to put up a new sign that will be inclusive of all organizations. Whatever in the world that would mean.
Explaining the legal context, University of San Diego Law Professor Mehlman Schwarzschild said, and I quote, "There is a tendency in the country of late for advocacy groups to threaten litigation and or to threaten boycotts often, as I think in this case, on slender grounds and for people in businesses and towns and cities to be intimidated and to stop doing perfectly legitimate and useful things out of fear for what might happen if, for instance, they are sued." End quote.
This is a story of relatively limited consequence in and of itself, but that statement by the law professor, it aptly describes what's going on all over the place. Here is just a sign, but it's not just a sign, is it? It's a sign of things to come.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For informational Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.
I'm speaking to you from Los Angeles, California, and I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.