The Briefing

Friday, August 24, 2018

Friday, Aug 24, 2018

Tags: Abortion, Audio, Cannabis, Chelsea Clinton, Planned Parenthood

Transcript

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

It's Friday, August 24, 2018. I'm Albert Mohler, and this The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part

According to Chelsea Clinton, you should support abortion for economic reasons. Why this is a truly wretched argument

The issue of abortion is never merely about the issue of abortion. It is so deeply embedded as a moral issue and questions about the meaning of life, the dignity and sanctity of life, and, of course, how we understand human beings as moral creatures, whether or not we claim an absolute autonomy for the human being as an individual. What we see in the abortion issue is a reflection of the entire society's great shift in worldview and in moral thinking over the course of the last several decades. But sometimes an event happens or a statement is made which crystallizes the issues at stake.

That took place just a few days ago at an event entitled "Rise Up For Roe.” The event was in New York City, and we are told that it is part of a series of events that were sponsored by NARAL – that's its formal name now that stands for the National Abortion Rights Action League – and Planned Parenthood. Those two organizations came together in these events and tried to organize and energize political opposition to the United States Senate's confirmation of Judge Brett Cavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court.

At one level, the events are noteworthy in themselves. It tells us just how much the issue of abortion defines America. Because most of the media about Judge Cavanaugh, once he was announced as President Trump's nominee to the court, most of that media attention focused on the question of Judge Cavanaugh's understanding of abortion and the constitutionality of abortion.

On the other side, what's really interesting is to see the laser-like focus on the very same issue. Now you see NARAL and Planned Parenthood coming together in these events to make abortion the sole issue of opposition, what they see as the most important issue, the single disqualifying issue, the most urgent moral issue related to the nomination of Judge Cavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

But the most newsworthy dimension of the Rise Up For Roe event in New York City came down to comments made by Chelsea Clinton. Charles Cook, of National Review, broke the story when he cited the statements made by Chelsea Clinton, including these, "Whether you fundamentally care about reproductive rights and access rights – because these are not the same thing– if you care about social justice or economic justice agency, you have to care about this," she said. "It's not a disconnected fact to address this T-shirt of 1973 that American women entering the labor force from 1973 to 2009 added three and a half trillion dollars to our economy, right?"

Clinton went on to say, "The net new entrance of women, that is not disconnected from the fact that Roe became the law of the land in January of 1973." "So," said Chelsea Clinton, "I think whatever it is that people say they care about, I think that you can connect to the issue." "Of course," she concluded, "I would hope that they, meaning the American public, would care about our equal rights and dignity to make our own choices." But she went on to say, "If that argument is not sufficiently persuasive, then shift to another argument", such as the argument she offered, "that abortion has been great for the American economy.”

Just a few days later, Jeff Jacoby, columnist for The Boston Globe, summarized Clinton's argument as this, "As Clinton sees it, the freedom to destroy unborn children has been a powerful economic stimulus. Her argument is that by legalizing abortion nationwide, Roe freed more women to go to work unencumbered by motherhood. Those women, over time, have added 3.5 trillion dollars to the US economy." Now, Jacoby pressed right back on the economic argument, "As a matter of history, economics, and above all, morality," he says, "this is a singularly wretched argument."

Now that's a singularly accurate description of Chelsea Clinton's singularly wretched argument. But it's not only wretched in the most important dimension, which is moral, it's wretched as a matter of economics. How in the world could someone like Chelsea Clinton, speaking at this Rise Up For Roe event in New York City, make the claim that abortion has been by trillions of dollars a great boon to the American economy? Well, here's the basic argument. She is making the case that American women have entered the workforce after the legalization of abortion by Roe v. Wade in 1973 in such numbers that they have added economic energy and impetus to the economy, adding up to multiple trillions of dollars.

Now, to run the argument backwards, she is by implication saying that if those women had not entered the workforce, then that economic advance would not have been made, and that those women would not have entered the workforce unless they had had access to the workforce by making the claim to abortion.

Behind that is the claim that American mothers are an impediment upon the economy, because being mothers rather than workers, they are then robbing the economy of all the energy that their presence in the workforce would bring. Now, Chelsea Clinton did not make that argument backwards, because she didn't have to speaking to Planned Parenthood and NARAL. Why is that the case? It is because that is almost exactly the argument made by the proponents of abortion when they argued the case Roe v. Wade before the US Supreme Court. Those who were arguing for the legalization of abortion, that is ruling that abortion was a constitutional right (that's exactly what the Supreme Court did in 1973 by a 7-2 vote in the Roe v. Wade decision), they made the argument that in order for women to have equality in the workforce and in public life, they must be unencumbered by the reality of motherhood. The only way they could assure themselves of being unencumbered by the shackles of motherhood was to have access to legal abortion.

But this also explains why abortion has become the central sacrament of the American left and furthermore, the most deadly dimension of the secular worldview. It is because abortion becomes liberation, according to those who made the argument for Roe v. Wade. A necessary liberation they argued before the court. And not only that, they are reducing matters of the sanctity and dignity of human life, a moral question of the magnitude of abortion, to dollars – dollars and cents, an economic benefit, they are claiming, to the United States economy.

Jeff Jacoby and others have pointed to another faulty dimension of her argument, and that's just the basic economics at stake. Now consider the fact that yes, it actually has been economically important that so many American women have entered the workforce. That's just an economic fact. But it is also true that the American economy has suffered tremendously by the falling national birth rate, by the fact that families are having fewer children. Because even as workers in the economy represent economic energy, so too do children. That's not just of economic importance. It's of an even more fundamental moral importance.

Jacoby asked the question exactly right, putting the two dimensions together when he writes, "Since the Supreme Court's decision in 1973, there have been 60 million abortions in the United States, the overwhelming majority of them for non-medical reasons." Then he asked the question, "What would it have meant to the American economy if those tens of millions of babies had been born?" So as you look as those 60 million aborted lives in America since 1973, just imagine what would have been the addition to the United States economy by not only the workforce entry of many of those 60 million American lives, but also the economic impact as consumer and participants in the larger economy.

The modern secular worldview is particularly, especially deadly on the issue of abortion. It's deadly in other dimensions as well these days, but it really all started with abortion and Roe v. Wade in 1973. It should be chilling to all of us to recognize that someone like Chelsea Clinton – who after all, by the very virtue of her name and parents, has entrée into the media discussion and American public life – it should be chilling to us that she made the case against Judge Brett Cavanaugh as a justice of the United States Supreme Court and for abortion in such absolutely calculated terms, saying that if you are speaking to some who will not accept the liberal argument for abortion based upon right and autonomy, then try economics. Maybe you can convince people to support abortion because of money.

Frankly, it's hard to imagine an adequate vocabulary to make moral judgment on such a claim on such an argument. But this also leads to some of the inherent conflicts, some of the inherent contradictions in the thinking of the left on so many of these issues. If the fundamental issue really is economics, and if the entry of even more women by means of abortion would lead to an even greater gain in the economy, then why not argue that abortion should be either encouraged, or for that matter even mandated in some situations?

But then recognize, the left is really coming very close to that in America today, because when they talk about, as the Democratic National Platform has called for the last two presidential cycles, requiring taxpayer support for abortion, they're really talking about the taxpayers, the citizens of America, offering an incentive to women to abort, rather than to have a child. So it turns out this economic argument for abortion, as chilling as it is, didn't just emerge from Chelsea Clinton a few days ago in New York City. It's been there all along, horrifyingly enough.

Part

Power of Planned Parenthood on display as amendment to defund abortion provider fails in US Senate

Next we turn to the United States Senate, where yesterday afternoon Planned Parenthood funding in the United States federal budget came up for a vote. It was to the credit of Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul that the issue eventually reached the floor of the United States Senate. There we should note the effort to defund Planned Parenthood failed by a 45-48 vote.

But wait just a moment, you say. There is a Republican majority in the United States Senate. That majority explains how the measure even came to a floor vote. How is it that once it reached the floor, it could fail? Well, here's how it failed. It is because two Republican senators voted in support of Planned Parenthood, or at the very least, we should say, they voted against defunding Planned Parenthood. Those two senators were Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

What's most important to recognize here is that it took this long. It took until August of 2018 for the issue of defunding Planned Parenthood once again to reach the floor of the United States Senate. Then it is sad and significant that having reached the floor of the Senate, it failed. So, you ask, how is it that an organization as notorious as Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, receiving about a half billion dollars, all told, of federal money, how is it that an effort to defund Planned Parenthood in the Senate could fail with a Republican majority? The answer is because at least two of the Republicans defended Planned Parenthood. It's just really sad, but fundamentally important for us to recognize that an organization, even an organization as deadly as Planned Parenthood, is so absolutely tenacious in the corridors of political power.

Part

Why the promised economic boost from cannabis may not be all good news

But next, as we're thinking about different issues notable in the moral revolution we are experiencing, from time to time we have to come back to the issue of marijuana. Noting very interestingly that it is tracking almost the same kind of chronological and moral development as the question of LGBTQ rights, but in particular, the question of the legalization of same sex marriage. In all these cases, the moral revolution tends to follow the same kind of logic, often the same kind of chronology.

As Theo Hobson, whom I often quote on the nature of a sexual revolution affirms, the revolution is only complete when what was condemned is celebrated, what was celebrated is condemned, and those who will not celebrate are then finally condemned. We have not reached that last stage in the marijuana revolution yet. Only a minority of states actually have legalized so-called recreational marijuana. But in the course of just the last several months, and in particular the last couple of years, you're looking at the reality that some surprising states have legalized so-called medical marijuana. Such as voters in the state of Oklahoma, just not long ago legalizing or at least putting into motion the legalization of medical marijuana. It comes down to medical marijuana for virtually any reason whatsoever.

But as we're looking at marijuana, there are often some milestones along the way. One of them was an article that appeared on the front page of USA Today just a couple of days ago. It was on Tuesday. Randy Tucker, writing for USA Today, originally from the Cincinnati Inquirer tells us, "Help wanted, bud tenders, cannabis chefs, flavor scientists, and extraction technicians." He goes on to tell us that those are just a few of the new job categories opening up in the budding legal cannabis industry in more than two dozen states, where the drug is legal for medical or recreational use or both.

A quick scan, he tells us, of online help wanted ads shows cannabis companies are seeking a slew of new employees with all skill types, ranging from office managers, to accountants, to CEOs. We began The Briefing today by talking about an economic argument for abortion, but we should note economic arguments are often used in all kinds of moral debates. That has been particularly the case on the issue of marijuana, which make no mistake, is a major moral debate.

The economic cases have been made that marijuana will increase tax revenue and be a boon to the economy. Here, we are told, that there is great good news that a legalized cannabis industry is going to mean lots and lots of jobs for Americans. It's also very revealing to look at this and understand some of the job descriptions and job categories.

One of the most central arguments made by Tucker in this front-page article for USA Today, is that the economic boon promised by the legalization of marijuana will come with all these new jobs, some of which he describes will require cannabis-specific skill sets. That's not something you've probably seen in at least legal help wanted ads before. He goes on to describe some of the new cannabis-specific jobs and their skill sets as including the job entitled "bud tender". He says it's the "industry term" for sales people who, like bartenders, greet customers from across the counter at retail dispensaries.

In Ohio, he explains, for example, "Fifty-six licensed dispensaries are looking to hire bud tenders to help medical cannabis patients select the best strains to treat each of the twenty-one conditions that qualify for cannabis therapy in the state." Now, I know there are arguments made for medical marijuana. My response to that is that I am quite open to medical arguments made by medical authorities on behalf of anything that might be defined as medical marijuana. But we should note that at least it is simply a fact right now that the central medical authorities in the United States do not recognize medical marijuana as a legitimate medical therapy. But that's not to say that evidence could never be induced for a positive medical effect of marijuana, but what is really clear, implicit in the paragraph I just read in this USA Today article, is that it is unlikely, that if there is a real medical issue here, it is going to be defined by the legitimate description of twenty-one different ailments, each with a different array of specified cannabis, which will be answered in need by someone described as a bud tender.

Just in case you might wonder what exactly the job description of a bud tender in this context might be, Tucker tells us, "Otherwise known as patient care representatives, bud tenders must be able to articulate the characteristics and properties of each strain of cannabis they sell." Tucker's story goes on to tell us that the jobs promised in the marijuana revolution will be numerous and widespread across different categories and pay scales. But he indicates that at least some of the cannabis jobs are likely to pay to and more than $100,000 a year. But then it turns out that when you get to those high-salary ranges, it's not so much because of expertise on marijuana, per se, but rather a background in science and technology, with the appropriate academic degrees.

One of the job categories at the very top is identified as a master extractor who "take cannabis plants and turn them into oils and other concentrates allowed for consumption." But it's also morally telling that the most urgent need in the marijuana industry is not for bud tenders or master extractors, but rather for the people otherwise known as growers, or farmers. It turns out that the most important need the marijuana industry has is for people who can grow something. In this case, something specific, marijuana.

All this points also back to the interest of USA Today and marijuana. I have credited USA Today with an unusually important attention to the medical and health dimensions of a largely unregulated industry. USA Today has pointed out, for example, that not only is the marijuana sold today for consumption much higher in hallucinogenic effect, but it is also likely to be contaminated in a way that other kinds of pharmaceuticals, if you're going to call this a pharmaceutical, would not be.

Back in July, USA Today featured another front page article by Trevor Hughes, telling us that the consumption of marijuana is increasingly shifting from smoking it to eating it or consuming it in some kind of marijuana or cannabis edible. In that article, back in July, Hugh tells us, "Marijuana enthusiasts say the trend reflects a desire by consumers for stronger, healthier, or more discreet ways to consume cannabis." In that series, that first word has to be the most morally significant stronger. That is to say that in these new edibles, there is the opportunity even to increase the hallucinogenic effect that might come by smoking. Eating, as it turns out, might be even more powerful than smoking marijuana.

That takes us back to the article by Tucker in the front page this week of USA Today, where we are told in the job category, one of the new jobs will be a cannabis chef. As he describes, "Cannabis chefs infuse edibles such as cakes and candies, even savory dishes such as wing sauces and dips, with specific doses of cannabis oils and concentrates that comply with state laws." They also, Tucker tells us, must "use their culinary skills to mask the sharp taste of THC, the main mind-altering ingredient in cannabis that gave old-school pot brownies an earthy taste."

Let's just say that earthy taste was something of a euphemism but as were thinking about the economic dimensions of this moral revolution, it takes us back to an article in the New York Times by Nick Corasaniti, in which he speaks of how this is playing out in the state of New Jersey. As we described previously on The Briefing, the new Democratic governor of New Jersey, Phillip Murphy, ran on a platform of legalizing marijuana in the state. He made multiple arguments. One of them was the argument that it was necessary for criminal justice reform. That's not an illogical argument, but he actually got to the main argument, which was that the tax coffers of New Jersey need the income from taxing legalized marijuana.

But in this article by Nick Corasaniti, Governor Murphy says that decriminalizing marijuana is not going to be enough. In the governor's words, it "doesn't get it done.” Why? "Because it leaves the business in the hands of the bad guys. It leaves our kids exposed, and it leaves the industry unregulated and untaxed.” Oh, that's interesting. So here you have the governor saying that criminal justice reform is not going to be good enough, because after all, there are other issues at stake. What might those issues be? Well, he gets to it here: "So while social justice and protecting our kids might be of paramount importance, if there's a way for the state at the end of the day to make some revenue out of this, we should accept that."

Well that takes us right back to the logic of Chelsea Clinton on abortion. It's really about money. Now the governor of New Jersey admits, "Well, maybe it's really about money." So even as the governor says, he's driven by higher moral considerations, I'll just quote him again. This is how he ended the sentence: "If there's a way for the state at the end of the day to make some revenue out of this, we should accept that." As if the state of New Jersey is going to begrudgingly accept this tax revenue when it really is too high-minded to have any other motivation whatsoever. Who would think otherwise? That logically should note, will not be limited to the state of New Jersey.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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