Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019

Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019

The Briefing

January 10, 2019

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

It’s Thursday, January 10, 2019. I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

After trying to reinvent itself, Planned Parenthood doubles down on their “core mission” as an abortion provider

In real terms, Planned Parenthood must be considered just about the deadliest organization in the United States. In the year 2016 alone, the organization aborted 321,384 unborn human beings. In 2018, the organization gained a new president, and it also began to emphasize a new public relations strategy.

For years now, Planned Parenthood has been trying to avoid the use of the term abortion, especially in the national media, and you can understand from a public relations strategy why. The organization has been trying to insist that it’s about reproductive health, or women’s health, and that’s why in 2018, with the election of Dr. Leana Wen, the first physician to head the organization, Planned Parenthood has sought to present her as all about health, of course not about abortion.

That is also a part of the strategy that has led Planned Parenthood to misrepresent abortion as a percentage of what it does, arguing in some cases picked up by the media, that abortion represents only about 3% of the procedures or the processes that are undertaken in a Planned Parenthood clinic, but that 3% is a misleading figure, of course, because it lists every single action that might be listable under this kind of examination or medical treatment, or for that matter, simply a health screening, and it buries the abortion statistics in an avalanche of other listings.

The number 321,384 from just the year 2016 cannot be erased or put out of mind. That means 881 abortions, killings of unborn human beings, a day. It means that a human life in the womb is extinguished, or was in 2016, every 98 seconds. It means between 2011 and 2016, fully 1.9 million unborn human beings were aborted within the abortion process of Planned Parenthood. Those are unavoidable numbers, they’re horrifying numbers. They are numbers even hard to articulate.

What’s harder to take is Planned Parenthood trying to reinvent itself, and it’s also hard to take the mainstream media’s complicity in trying to help Planned Parenthood to get away with it. Back in November, Dr. Wen appeared on the CBS This Morning program, and she skillfully avoided ever using the word abortion, and those who were the hosts of the program did their very best to try to offer her every opportunity to talk about everything but abortion, as if to say, “There’s nothing to look at here, simply move on.”

There’s more. Back in November, also, in an interview published on the last page of the New York Times Magazine, Dr. Wen went so far as to use this kind of language. She said, quote, “Individuals can have their own views about abortion. What I have a problem with is when they or the government imposed their will on women’s bodies and health.” She went on to say, “It’s insulting when people describe their anti-choice stance as pro-life. What I do,” she said, “is promote life and the well-being of women, and families, and communities.” Her last words in the interview, “I’m a physician. I went to medical school. Everything I’ve ever done is to save lives.”

Now, just consider the evil of that statement, the evil in the fact that she made the statement, the evil frankly, in the fact that it was published in the mainstream media without any acknowledgement of the horror of what she had just said. Just in the last week, Dr. Wen has begun stepping on her own message in a most revealing way.

Ema O’Connor did an article on Dr. Wen based upon an interview with her. The headline at BuzzFeed news was quote, “Planned Parenthood’s new president wants to focus on non-abortion healthcare.” The subhead in the article, “The organization is still committed to providing abortions and reproductive care, but Wen, the first female physician to run Planned Parenthood, is embarking on a cross-country listening tour to learn how best to add or expand non-abortion services.”

It would appear that in this case, there is another cooperative media organization facilitating Dr. Leana Wen trying to represent Planned Parenthood as all about women’s health, using that kind of health language, even trying to assist her by saying that they are trying as an organization to re-define themselves away from abortion as their main business. That’s what’s implied here.

That’s where the story gets extremely interesting, because the most offended person in the light of that story was Dr. Leana Wen herself. For example, the Washington Times headline is this, “Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen, ‘Abortion is our core mission.'”

Jessica Chasmar reporting for the Times tells us, “Planned Parenthood president Dr. Leana Wen has affirmed the organization’s commitment to providing abortions after she claimed the news media misconstrued her earlier comments about expanding non-abortion services. Dr. Wen clarified earlier this week that Planned Parenthood’s core mission,” those are her words, “is to provide, protect, and expand access to abortion. ‘We will never back down from that fight,’ said Dr. Wen. ‘It’s a fundamental human right, and women’s lives are at stake.'”

Now, the forum in which Dr. Wen decided to push back has been Twitter, and her tweets over the last few days are incredibly revealing. Again, in the most important of them, she identified abortion as the core mission of Planned Parenthood, remember? That’s running counter to the message that she was giving as she was elected, and that Planned Parenthood was trumpeting in her election.

This is an absolute contradiction of what she had been trying to say with media complicity in the early days of her leadership of Planned Parenthood in the fall. What she has now done is to reveal the fact that under pressure, Planned Parenthood is ready to say aggressively it’s really about the core mission of abortion.

Looking at her account on Twitter, the tweet in which she said that abortion is the core mission, to use her language, “First, our core mission is providing, protecting, and expanding access to abortion and reproductive healthcare.” That tweet was posted apparently at 10:31 a.m. on the 8th, that is on Tuesday, but there are other tweets that she has also offered very much in response to her own concern about the BuzzFeed article; the article saying that Planned Parenthood was going to be emphasizing dimensions other than abortion.

She went on to say, “Women’s healthcare is healthcare, reproductive healthcare is healthcare, and healthcare is a fundamental human right.” Now, the language we need to look at specifically and very carefully there is the packaging of what’s identified here as reproductive healthcare as simply healthcare, and then the argument that healthcare is a fundamental human right.

This gets to language that has been recently appearing in the mainstream media, for instance, on the editorial page of the New York Times, indicating that abortion itself is a fundamental human right. That’s a particularly alarming argument, and one that wouldn’t have been offered with a straight face until quite recently, at least in those terms.

Yesterday, Planned Parenthood itself on its Twitter feed quoted Dr. Wen as stating quote, “Reproductive healthcare, including abortions, is part of the full spectrum of healthcare, and healthcare is a human right,” end quote. We have to look at this particular renewed candor on the part of Planned Parenthood, and understand that at least in part, perhaps what’s going on here is that the Planned Parenthood leadership is having to check its notes about talking points with many a liberal incoming freshman in the Democratic class in the House of Representatives.

What we are seeing there, just over the last few days with the beginning of the 116th Congress, is a renewed, very aggressive liberal defense of abortion that comes down to suggesting that any kind of reluctance to talk about abortion is a form of cowardice, or caving in to the pro-life movement.

What’s particularly vital for all of us to recognize right now is that this very week, the new president of Planned Parenthood came right out and said that abortion, providing abortion, promoting abortion, is the core mission of Planned Parenthood. The next time Planned Parenthood tries to tell the American people that it’s not so, let’s just go back and quote the organization’s president, because she has not only said that it was so, she has repeated it and amplified the message, lest there be any chance we have misunderstood.

Part II

New York Times reveals that it’s not very healthy to be a woman, particularly a pregnant woman, who works for Planned Parenthood

Meanwhile, the New York Times does deserve credit for major front page investigative report that appeared there a couple of weeks ago there on the front page of the New York Times, with the headline, “They helped the pregnant, no one helped them.” The article’s by Natalie Kitroeff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, and it has to do with Planned Parenthood mistreating the women who work for Planned Parenthood when they become pregnant.

As the reporters tell us, “As a medical assistant at Planned Parenthood, Ta’Lisa Hairston, urged pregnant women to take rest breaks at work, stay hydrated, and please eat regular meals. Then she got pregnant, and couldn’t follow her own advice. Last winter, Ms. Hairston told the public resources department for Planned Parenthood clinic in White Plains, New York that her high blood pressure was threatening her pregnancy.

She sent the department multiple notes from her nurse recommending that she take frequent breaks. Managers ignored the notes. They rarely gave her time to rest or to take a lunch break. She said quote, ‘I had to hold back tears talking to pregnant women, telling them to take care of their pregnancies when I couldn’t take care of mine. It made me jealous.'”

The New York Times then writes, “Discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers remains widespread in the American workplace. It is so pervasive, that even organizations that define themselves as champions of women are struggling with the problem.” Now, I’m going to stop there and say that appears to be a journalistic way of trying to take the pressure off of Planned Parenthood, even as the newspaper is publishing this investigative report.

The next paragraph, “That includes Planned Parenthood, which has been accused of sidelining, ousting, or otherwise handicapping pregnant employees, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees.” End quote.

It is also interesting in the current political climate that most Planned Parenthood affiliates,” we are told in the New York Times, do not offer maternity leave, and one of those affiliate leaders trying to defend the policy said quote, “It’s easy to accuse someone of hypocrisy if you’re not the one trying to find $2 million out of thin air.” She went on to say in exasperation, “You try to be the Planned Parenthood that donors expect, and yet it is unattainable.” End quote.

It is very interesting that Planned Parenthood’s affiliate leader herself got to the word hypocrisy, even before it had been used by anyone else in that context in the article, but this is an article. It’s actually a vast article documenting the mistreatment of women who had become pregnant working for Planned Parenthood, but there we have to ask the question, is it even plausible that Planned Parenthood can try to argue that it is all about the health of women, when even the New York Times runs this major front page article documenting that it isn’t itself very healthy to be a mother working for Planned Parenthood?

In light of that, it was also interesting to look at the fact that when the New York Times article ran, Christopher Scalia, son of the late Antonin Scalia, Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, simply made the observation quite wisely that if we think mothers are mistreated by planned parenthood, we should come to understand what the organization does to babies. Just remember that all of this comes as we recognize that this very week, the head of Planned Parenthood is the one who told us that abortion is the organization’s core mission.

Part III

What New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s commitment to expanded abortion rights tells us about the modern Democratic Party

While we’re thinking about this particular issue, next we need to go to the inauguration of New York’s governor, also in recent days. Andrew M. Cuomo was sworn in this Monday to his third term as the governor of New York. What’s really interesting about the fact that he was inaugurated this week, and gave his third inaugural address, is that he gave so much attention to promising to expand abortion rights legally in New York.

What’s so astounding about that, is the reality that when you think about abortion and New York, it is quite reflexive to think about one of the most liberal places, one of the most liberal state in the United States, in the first place. This takes us back to an article that ran July the 19th of 2018 by Julia Jacobs. The headline, “Remembering an era before Roe when New York had the most liberal abortion laws.”

Now, what Jacobs is talking about is the three years before Roe v. Wade was handed down by the Supreme Court, New York had approved a very liberal abortion law, but it’s also really important to recognize that even as New York was understood in the early 1970s to have the most liberal abortion laws in the nation, even though New York was considered a travel destination for abortion for many women across the United States, the reality is that the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 legalizing abortion on demand actually declared by judicial fiat at the Supreme Court, laws that are even more liberal than New York’s law was, considered the most liberal in the land, before Roe v. Wade was handed down.

Just as an historic note, that is one of those clarifying issues that helps us to understand why Roe v. Wade singularly galvanized so much cultural and moral attention, so much horrified attention amongst biblical Christians, when it was handed down in 1973. It wasn’t just as if you could even say, “Just the legalization of abortion,” it was a sweeping declaration of a woman’s supposed right to abortion under almost any circumstances, for any reason, or no reason at all.

That takes us back to Cuomo’s inaugural address for his third term on Monday, because as Vivian Wang of the New York Times reported, “With Hillary Clinton to his right, female elected officials seated before him, and cheering women filling the audience, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo promised to protect women’s reproductive rights by expanding the state’s abortion laws within the first 30 days of the new legislative session.”

So what’s going on here? Why would the governor of New York in this particular time in that context, be making such an argument about the necessity, in his logic, of expanding New York’s protection for abortion? Well, of course, looming in the background is what the defenders of abortion declare is an emergency with the nomination of two new justices to the Supreme Court by President Trump, and a Republican Senate, and the fact that in many states, there have been new restrictions on abortion that have been passed into law.

The argument being made by Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, is that it just might be that Roe might be reversed or struck down, and under that situation, the laws that New York would then have going back to the 1970s, when the laws were considered the most liberal in the country, would not be liberal enough, and thus he has pledged as of Monday to expand a woman’s access to abortion by the law in New York, and to do so within the first 30 days of the new legislative session.

Now, one of the realities that we see here framed quite clearly is the obsession of the left, and now of the Democratic Party in the United States, on the issue of abortion. The Democratic Party has now gone so far as in its 2016 platform to argue for the coerced tax payer support, tax payer funding, of abortion. With the Democrats taking the house in the 116th Congress, it is now very clear that the energy in that party on this issue is very similar to what we see in the energy in the New York governor in his inaugural address on Monday.

Sometimes when you look at an article like this, you also need to look at the facts that are considered by the reporter and by the editors important. For instance, listen to this. Quote, “About 10% of New York’s women lived in a county without an abortion provider in 2014.”

Now, that’s the date of a study done by the Guttmacher Institute. That’s a research group, the newspaper acknowledges, supports abortion rights, but what’s really, really important for us to recognize is that it is evidently considered a scandal that 10% of New York’s women would even live in a county in which abortion is not readily available, as if it is some kind of extreme hardship for a woman to even have to travel to an adjacent county.

That tells you again about this kind of obsession about abortion on the left. And of course, in all of this political speech, and in all of this public relations effort, what is completely absent is even the slightest acknowledgement of the humanity, of the moral status, even of the existence in any meaningful way of the unborn human life that is destroyed in abortion.

Part IV

Can California move even further left? Gavin Newsom thinks so and has a plan to do just that

As you’re thinking about governors this week, we also have to recognize that California has a new governor. In this case, the newly elected governor who took the oath of office, also on Monday, in this case for his first term, is Governor Gavin Newsom. The importance of Governor Newsom in this case to worldview analysis, is understanding that he represents a significant shift to the left in the nation’s most populous state, which was already solidly identified with the cultural and political left.

The New York Times acknowledged quote, “Mr. Newsom, age 51, had been California’s Lieutenant Governor, largely a ceremonial position, for eight years under now former California Governor Jerry Brown. Before that, he served as mayor of San Francisco, where he positioned himself for the most part, on the liberal side of the spectrum.” As the Times goes on, “He was an early promoter of same sex marriage, and the legalization of recreational marijuana,” but the significance of Governor Newsom’s inaugural address on Monday is the fact that he declared that California, and that means California’s government, is now taking a considerable step to the left of Jerry Brown.

In the most specific, if controversial portion of his inaugural address, Governor Newsom declared that California will move towards a paid parental leave program, but as Claire Kane Miller and Jim Tankersley of the New York Times indicated, the big problem is that he declared this new policy, but there was no reference to how it is going to be paid for.

As the reporters tell us, “The Governor’s expected to produce a proposal to give families six months of paid leave after the birth of a child.” The next sentence, quote, “What’s unclear is how California would pay for it. The proposal, which the Governor is expected to include with his budget this week, would be the most generous state policy in the nation at a time when federal paid leave proposals have stalled. Yet,” the paper goes on to say, “it does not include a plan to finance it, and there’s no guarantee that the legislature would approve raising the money.” End quote.

Well, the paper goes on to say, “That’s the problem that has stymied those who press for paid parental leave at the national level as well.” What we are looking at here is something Christians understand as just a basic reality of life. There is a finite amount of money. The resources are limited. You can’t spend the same dollar multiple times, and when it comes to something like paid parental leave, there is massive public support for the proposal until the public figures out someone’s going to have to actually pay for this.

Even in California, there is no real evidence that the people of California, who say that they avidly support this proposal, are even willing to make any major financial commitment to making it happen. This is one of the problems of contemporary politics. It’s quite easy to talk about a program and ask the people if they want it. The answer is almost always going to be yes, but by and large, in the end, some of the same people who say that they want it, are the people who are going to have to pay for it.

Even if the people say, “We want other people to pay for it,” California and many other high tax states are learning the hard way that people don’t have to live in those states, that they can vote not only at the ballot box, they can vote by deciding where they’re going to live, or perhaps more pointedly, where they’re not going to live. This is a basic issue of reality, but politicians, and in many cases voters, don’t want to recognize it.

The government can only over time, offer the programs that the people are willing to pay for. That’s a stunning reality that is irrefutable, and yet it is almost undiscussable amongst many in the public. For that matter, amongst many politicians who are promising the programs, without acknowledging the fact that they’re going to have to be paid for.

Part V

German reporter accused of making up facts in characterization of rural America. What does this tell us about truth and why it matters?

Finally, also over the last couple of weeks, a pretty stunning story that came from Europe, but has a dateline here in the United States, it turns out that one of the major reporters, investigative reporters for one of the most important periodicals in Germany, was caught making up the stories that had made him famous. Reporters Bojan Pancevski and Sara Germano for the Wall Street Journal tell us, “Europe faces its largest journalistic scandal in years after Der Spiegel, the continent’s biggest selling news magazine, said one of its star reporters fabricated facts in his articles for years.”

Now, this is all over against the background of the discussion of what’s sometimes called, “fake news.” Of course, you’ve had so many in the mainstream media saying that what distinguishes the mainstream media sources from others is the fact that the news there is not fake. It follows very clear journalistic standards, is fact checked, and backed up with all kinds of editorial guidelines and protections.

In this case, the most famous of all European news magazines that had a very famous reporter by the name of Claas Relotius, it turns out that it was itself publishing fake news in the form of fabricated reports from the famous reporter. One of them did have to do with the United States. It has to do with a town in Minnesota, a rural town by the name of Fergus Falls. Trying to present what turned out to be a cartoon characterization of a small American rural town, Relotius actually just made it up.

That’s how he got caught, because several of the residents of the town began to understand that the story was fabricated. Once the story was translated, the residents in Fergus Falls didn’t recognize the story as matching their own community.

As a team of reporters for the New York Times put it, quote, “The fabrications in the article ranged from the trivial, an account of the foreboding forest that does not exist, and a Super Bowl party that did not happen, to the personally devastating, the city administrator was falsely portrayed as a gun obsessed romantically challenged man who had never seen the ocean, to the downright inflammatory. Mr. Relotius,” that’s the reporter, “claimed falsely, according to residents, that there was a sign that said, ‘Mexicans keep out,’ at the entrance to town.”

Again, we simply inject here it was made up. Quote, “He seemed to conflate and invent biographies for different Hispanic people, and said American Sniper had been playing for months on end at the local movie theater, a claim rebutted by residents.” Speaking of this particular story about Fergus Falls, Minnesota, Der Spiegel acknowledged that the article, quote, “distorts reality.” End quote.

In worldview terms, what might be most important about this article and about Spiegelgate, as it is increasingly known in Europe, is the fact that we all want to be told the stories we want to be told, and in this case, the editors of Der Spiegel and the readers of that German, very influential magazine, evidently wanted to be told about the yokels of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, as well as other stories that were consumed and celebrated by this reporter.

It’s not enough to be told the stories we want to be told. The truth really matters. A story, of course, doesn’t have to be true to be interesting, but it does have to be true to be true. Christians underline and must affirm that the truth always matters, in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, in the pages of Der Spiegel, everywhere, anywhere, all the time.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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