Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019

Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019

The Briefing

January 24, 2019

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

It’s Thursday, January 24, 2019. I’m Albert Mohler and this is the Briefing. A daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

After enacting new abortion law, a mother’s womb in New York is now an even deadlier place to be

In 1970, New York state was believed to have some of the most liberal abortion laws of any state in the country. So much so that New York was considered a so called destination state for women in other parts of the country seeking legal abortion. The pro-abortion movement back in 1970 had hopes that New York’s law would become something of a model for other states legalizing abortion.

All that changed in 1973 when the Supreme Court of the United States usurped the entire political process and legalized abortion in all 50 states. Effectively legalizing abortion on demand. Demonstrably the Supreme Court handed down by judicial fiat a regime of abortion that was even more liberal considerably more liberal indeed than even New York states liberal laws of 1970.

About two decades ago liberals in New York in the pro-abortion movement decided that in light of the fact that Roe v. Wade might one day be reversed they decided that they would put their political energy into a new act concerning abortion in New York state that would not only protect everything that was covered by Roe v. Wade, in what is often called a woman’s right to abortion but would actually on behalf of the liberalism of New York state take abortion rights even further.

For many years and until the fall of 2018 there was a major obstacle to that effort and the obstacle was the republican controlled New York senate. Democrats gained control of the Senate in New York in November and thus they have control of almost all of the state process there in the Empire State. They have a liberal, democratic governor Andrew Cuomo serving in his third term and they have now democratic majorities in both chambers of the New York state legislature.

That explains why on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, on Tuesday of this week governor Cuomo signed into law an act concerning abortion that as summarized in the headline by CBS allows abortions up until a baby’s due date if mothers health is at risk. Caitlin O’Kane reporting for CBS tells us, “New York state has enacted strong new legal protections for abortion rights.” The new law signed by governor Cuomo safeguards rights laid out in Roe v. Wade and other court rulings including a provision permitting late term abortions when a woman’s health is in danger.

Just consider again, this is CBS News, this is not some conservative pro-life website. CBS runs the story with the headline, “New York passes law allowing abortions up until baby’s due date if mothers health is at risk.” This may well be the most radical abortion legislation enacted by any state. We have to look closer at the story to understand why.

in the first place the New York removes abortion altogether from the states criminal code. It’s just not there. It is no longer a matter even potentially of any kind of criminal understanding. Instead, following the logic of the pro abortion movement that abortion is now to be considered nothing more that a woman’s reproductive health, the New York legislation effectively declares it to be so. Consider secondly that the act just signed into law by governor Cuomo redefines person according to New York state law as, listen carefully, “A human being who has been born and is alive.”

Again, a human being who has been born and is alive. Just consider how truly radical that declaration, that definition is. Remember that over a decade ago the United States government recognized those designated as the unborn victims of violence. You’ll remember that there were headline news stories about pregnant women who were murdered and the question was would the murderer be charged with one murder or with two.

The moral demand of the American people including an infamous case in California was that the murderer should be charged with two murders. That now appears to be incompatible with the law in New York state which now defines a person only as a human being who has been born and is alive. If nothing else, those words by themselves rendered the mothers womb in New York and even deadlier place to be.

The third dimension we need to note is that abortion is defined now in New York state as a fundamental right. That’s not just legal language. When a right is declared as a fundamental right it means that it cannot be subverted or compromised. What we need to note in the case of New York is that this act, this legislation defines abortion as a fundamental right in order to make it extremely difficult for there to be even a moral interrogation of the question of abortion in New York state.

Abortion is simply now we are told a fundamental right, period.

Fourth, we have to understand that the zealots seeking to expand, we now know quite successfully abortion rights in New York also demanded that it be non-medicalized which is to say the law explicitly says that some medical professionals who are not doctors may now perform legal abortions in New York. Here’s where moral arguments demand a very close attention. Back when there was a push for legal abortion in the United States in the 1960s and in the early 1970s, and then continuing when arguments for abortion were made by the pro abortion movement. Those arguments were overwhelmingly medical in form.

You might remember that we were told that abortion is supposed to be, as the Supreme Court indicated, simply a private matter between a woman and her doctor. That was the language used over and over again. Between a woman and her doctor. Guess who disappears in this new New York legislation? The doctor. Furthermore, there have been those in the pro abortion movement who have been arguing that the entire argument for abortion should be non-medicalized. Simply, it should be stated we are told, as a fundamental right that is necessary in order for women to have equality with men.

In an article published just a few days ago in The Atlantic by Jia Tolentino, a professor at Northwestern University is cited making this argument explicitly. “We have to understand she said, abortion as an equal rights issue. Only women can have the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy after sex.” Here you have an argument that was made in the oral arguments for the Roe v. Wade case back in 1973, an argument that women to be equal with men, must be able to be no more pregnant than a man. That’s the blunt argument made.

It’s explicit in what that Northwestern University professor said, it was explicit in the arguments for Roe v. Wade. A woman must be able, she must have a fundamental right to be as nonpregnant, as un-pregnant as any man. Now in that argument we have to recognize we are looking at a human attempt to turn the entire order of creation upside down. Of course, there’s more to the story than this.

Tolentino’s point is that the big story in the New York act is the legalization of late term abortion and Tolentino points out eventually the question of late term abortion becomes the entire question of abortion. Tolentino’s argument comes down to this, if any abortion can be wrong than maybe all abortion is wrong since no abortion can be recognized as wrong, there can be no wrongness associated with even late term abortion. Remember the CBS headline? It’s right.

Abortion right up until the due date of a baby. For that matter it could be after the due date if the baby hasn’t been born yet. Remember, a person is defined as a human being that has been born and is alive. So much for even the due date. We need to remind ourselves that the Roe v. Wade decision artificially but structurally and legally divided pregnancy into three different trimesters. Each of three months. That covers the nine months of a normal human gestation in the womb. According to Roe v. Wade a state that is the government has no right to intervene in the first trimester, has a limited right top intervene to protect the unborn life in the second semester but has a great deal of right, according to Roe v. Wade, to intervene, to protect unborn human life in the third trimester.

That’s what has now been completely undone in New York state by this new act. The deadly nature of this new legislation in New York is made more clear than anything else in the fact that late term abortion is now legalized right up until the point of birth. Tolentino’s article seems to understand that. She gets it. She writes, “I come to think that understanding late term abortion is a key to understanding abortion and reproduction generally.” She then says this, “For people who believe that abortion is a medical procedure that a woman chooses to have or not have in consultation with her doctor, why would we restrict abortion in our legal codes at all? The decision to restrict abortions.” She writes, “In the legal code is based on the idea that there are people who want to kill babies and the law exist to prevent killing. The conviction that we should instead regulate abortion medically she says is rooted in the proposition that late term abortions happen, not because women and doctors want to kill babies but because circumstances conspire to make late term abortions necessary and hat the women who are in these situations and their doctors are the people best suited to decide when those circumstances have arrived.”

Now hold on let’s look at that for just a moment. But what we need to understand is that there is a distinction in the law between saying that an abortion might be permitted if a woman’s life is in danger and saying on the other hand that it will be permitted if a woman’s health is in danger. The pro abortion movement has been arguing for the word health in this regard and they did so successfully even in the Roe v. Wade decision. What difference does it make? Well, the act just signed into law in New York state allows for the state of New York to protect unborn human life in the late stages of pregnancy unless a woman’s health is in danger.

Here’s the issue, the word health there has been defined legally and this argument was even there in the Roe v. Wade decision in such a way that it can mean anything, it can mean everything. It does not have to mean that a woman’s physical health is even endangered. It certainly doesn’t have to mean that her life is threatened. Those are the kinds of cases that are put forward routinely as if that what we’re talking about here. The insertion of the word health explicitly, legally includes so called emotional health and sense of well being.

By the time you understand what is behind the insertion of the word health when it is expressed as health of the mother and abortion as the question it means anything and everything can and will be defined as a matter of health.

Finally, on this story the direction all of this is headed is made clear in the Tolentino article when she cites Katrina Kimport, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco who simply offered these words, “It becomes very complicated when you say that the law decides whether a reason for abortion is valid or invalid. But when you let patients decide about abortion it’s much, much simpler in the end.”

Of course it is. Much, much simpler in the end. Simply deadly. Simply horrifying.

Part II

Why the concept of ‘lethality’ must be considered when it comes to military policy

Big news came from the Supreme Court in recent days. Two different stories, both by Adam Liptak on the front page of the New York Times. The first was, “Supreme Court revives hurdle to the military transgender ban stays as appeals advance.” The second headline, “Justices accept New York case on gun rights.” Both of these are big news, thus both of these stories arrived on the front page of the print edition of the new York Times. Both deserve our attention. We’ll turn today to the transgender ban.

Liptak reports, “The Supreme Court granted the Trump Administration’s request to allow it to bar most transgender people from serving in the military while cases challenging the policy make their way to the court.” He continues, “The administrations policy reversed a 2016 decision by the Obama administration to open the military to transgender service members. It generally prohibits transgender people from military service but makes exemptions for those already serving openly and those willing to serve in their biological sex.”

Let’s remind ourselves of the background here. Indeed in 2016 remember that’s just a little over two years ago, the Obama Administration did declare that it would be opening the military to openly transgender persons however, the Obama Administration also delayed the implementation of that policy simply because they had no means of implementing it. Soon after taking office President Trump indicated that he did not support the Obama decree and shortly thereafter an executive memorandum fro the White House came down effectively blocking the implementation of President Obama’s decree.

Here’s where the situation get extremely interesting. As you might expect the people who do want the inclusion of openly transgender people in the military and also want the military to pay for gender transition or reassignment surgery, they went to the federal courts in order to bar the trump Administration from implementing its policy and has been the case in so many different issues. Some federal district court judge has moved to issue a nationwide hold or injunction on the Trump Administrations policy.

By the way, that in itself is a threat to our constitutional system of government and the separation of powers. It should not be the case that a single US district court judge somewhere in the country can hand down an injunction against an executive order made by the President of the United States. That is unhealthy and is a threat to our constitutional order regardless of who’s in the White House whether the president is a democrat or a republican. Now, the decision by the Supreme Court to allow the Trump Administration policy to take affect is not the Supreme Court deciding the issue on the merits of the question legally, morally or constitutionally. It does mean that the Supreme Court by a five, four vote did not allow a lower courts injunction to stand. At the same time, the Supreme Court did allow the cases to proceed through that appellate process.

The Supreme Court declined a request to take the issue immediately. To take it away from lower courts basically to jump through or over the legal process. Just about every version of the mainstream media has noted that the five, four vote was very much along predictable lines. The justices appointed by republican presidents voted to uphold the Trump Administrations policy. The justices that were appointed by democratic presidents voted exactly the other way. Once again, we are looking at a very divisive moral issue and we’re looking at a deeply divided court reflecting a deeply divided country but it also underlines that when the equation is five to four it matters tremendously which side had five rather than four.

Nicole Russell writing for the Washington Examiner got it right when she pointed out that the military transgender ban handed down by the Trump Administration, “Is more reasonable than you think.” That’s probably because most Americans think what the mainstream media by even communicating headlines insensate that they should think. We need to keep in mind the very purpose of the military. The purpose of the United States military is to defend the United States and its interest around the world. There is as word that is inherently and intrinsically tied to the military. It is a word that most Americans would probably rather not think about. That measure comes down to the word, lethality. How lethal is a nations military?

How does a decision, how does a policy enhance or detract from the lethality of a nations defense forces? That’s the crucial question. The only reason you have defense forces, an Army, a Navy, an Air Force, the Marines, the Coast Guard, you go through the entire list. The only reason why you have a military is for that military to be effective as a lethal force. The argument that the Trump Administration is making is one that is backed up by centuries. You could even say millennia of military experience and that is that when you bring into the confines of a military fighting force extraneous issues or even complications that do not belong there you subvert and you diminish the lethality of your own defense forces. To get to the bottom line on this issue, the policy does not say the transgender persons would not intend to serve the country well even bravely and courageously. It is simply a reflection of the fact that when you insert gender confusion, gender dysphoria, transgender identity into the unique confines of a fighting force in the context of training and of deployment you are reducing the lethality. You are confusing the very purpose of your military.

By the way, that is a modern problem. Confusing the purpose of the military for many especially on the cultural left in this country the military is a way of bringing about social change, not a way of defending the country and its national interest. The decision by the Supreme Court that five, four decision that was handed down on Tuesday means that the issue itself will now wind it’s way through the various appellate channels and you can count on the fact that it will eventually on its merits arrive back to the United States Supreme Court. The five, four decision handed down on Tuesday is at least a very significant sign of the way the court is likely to rule on the merits of the case when it has the opportunity.

Part III

If ‘equal’ doesn’t mean ‘exactly the same’ on the Titanic, it can’t mean that in the military either

There is another major development in the armed services this week. A group known as the National Commission on Military national and Public Service released yesterday a report that’s a preliminary report on advisement’s made concerning the future of the draft. Gregory Court in a front page article yesterday’s edition of USA Today reported the story this way, “Three years ago congress created a commission to help to answer a pair of questions is the selective service system which requires 18-year-old men to register for a potential military draft working?” The next sentence, “If so should it be expanded to include women.”

Behind this is a massive moral confusion that comes right down the military policy. Again, so many have believed that the military’s purpose is to bring about social change therefore there was the demand to include women in the military and that means not only in the military but directly in combat units. This is something that has run countered to the experience of just about every military at every time but this was something that was pushed through largely on the basis of political pressure. Again, we are not questioning what women can do nor the courage that many women, millions of women have demonstrated by means of service in the armed forces. We’re talking specifically about combat but we’re also talking in the case of the draft or registration for the draft about what this artificial idea of the quality of sameness between men and women really comes down to. There are now groups suing, saying that since women are now in the military and according to another policy handed down by the Obama Administration, to have equal access to combat roles if women can serve in those positions then how can women be exempted from the necessity of registering for a potential draft if 18 year old men are required. Why not 18 year old women?

This is where anyone understanding such a policy has to see that now if there is a draft you can count on the fact that young women are going to be drafted along with young men. The logic is extremely clear. If women can serve then under the right circumstances they must serve. They will even be enlisted, drafted and coerced to serve. As we not behind all of that is the massive insistence of so many in our society that equality is the only meaningful category. Men and women, males and females have to be considered equal in every way and equal evidently means same.

There’s another very interesting article that appeared on this issue. It appeared in the January 14 edition of the Wall Street Journal by Heather McDonald. She’s of the Manhattan Institute. She’s author of the book, “The Diversity Delusion. How Race and Gender pandering Corrupt our University and Undermine our Culture.” Heather McDonald is a prominent public intellectual in the United States. She begins her article by writing, “the Obama era policy of integrating women into ground combat units is the misguided social experiment that threatens military readiness and waste resources in the service of a political agenda. The next defense secretary should end it.” She goes on, “In September of 2015 the Marine Corps released a study comparing the performance of gender integrated and male only infantry units in simulated combat. The all male teams greatly outperformed the integrated teams whether on shooting, surmounting obstacles or evacuating casualties. Female marines were injured at more than six times the rate of men during preliminary training. Unsurprising.” She writes, “Since men’s higher testosterone levels produce stronger bones and muscles. Even the fittest women.” She continues, “Which the study participants were must work at maximal physical capacity when carrying a 100 pound pack or repeatedly loading heavy shelves into a cannon.”

McDonald continues, “Ignoring the marine study then defense secretary Ash Carter opened all combat roles to women in December 2015. Rather than requiring new female combat recruits to meet the same physical standards as men, the military began crafting gender neutral standards in the hope that more women would qualify.” She goes on also to report that, “Only two women have passed the Marine Corps fabled infantry officer training course out of the three dozen who have tried.” And she also makes clear that even in those cases the qualifications had to be renegotiated. Among the changes was lowering some of the physical standards which McDonald notes reduces the lethality … there’s that word again, of the American military.

Furthermore she points out the moral complications of, “Putting young, hormonally charged men and women into stressful close quarters for extended periods.” Which she says, “Guarantees sexual liaisons, rivalries and break ups all of which undermined the bonding essential to a unified fighting force.” Now, again remember that it is supposed to be a fighting force. That’s the very purpose. She writes about a marine commander in Afghanistan who had said that rigorous discipline had been the norm until four women, three service members and a translator arrived at the post. According to the report the atmosphere changed overnight form a, “Stern business like place to that of an eighth grade dance. We are told the officer walked into a common room one day to find the women custard interested he center, they were surrounded by eager, young, male marines, one of whom was doing a handstand.” McDonald continues by writing, “Long before infantry integration became a feminist imperative, evidence was clear that a coed military was a sexually active one. In 1988 then Navy secretary Jim Webb reported that of the unmarried enlisted navy and air force women stationed in Iceland, half, half, were pregnant. Getting to the fundamental issue of reality even if biology.” She writes, “The claim that female combat soldiers will perform as lethally as men over an extended deployment entails a denial of biological reality as great as the one underlying the transgender crusade.”

She concludes, “The incoming pentagon chief can expect an aggressive grilling on gender integration from the senate armed services committee. He should promise to resolve the claim that when it comes to combat there are no significant physical differences between men and women.” Her last words are these, “He could do it by pitting an all female infantry unit against an all male unit and seeing how they measure up.”

This is where the Christian worldview reminds us that men and women are indeed equal in every important sense. The most important sense equally made in the image of God. But equal does not mean same. Equal does not mean confused. The Scripture is very clear that God reveals his purpose in creating human beings as male and female. That’s a fundamental distinction that in no way compromises the right understanding of equality but in every way makes very clear that God had a purpose in making men and women also as different. Furthermore, when you think about the issue of the draft. When you think about all the gender confusion, when you think about women in the military, Heather McDonald is really looking at efficiency, effectiveness, even again that category of lethality. Christians have to understand deeper issues including the fact that it is an insult to human dignity. Biblically understood to coerce women into serving in roles which include this kind of forward deployment service in units like the infantry and land combat.

Even as there will be people who will say that’s not fair, that’s not equal, let’s just ask a fundamental question and I will expand on this further in a future edition of the briefing. If it doesn’t make any difference in this regard, if women in combat in this context, if it really doesn’t make any difference then why would it make any difference if a passenger liner is sinking that women would have preference to men that men would have a responsibility to save women and children … well, skip the children for a minute, just think about women. If equality is the only norm then that entire moral system breaks down.

For now just consider it this way, if equal doesn’t mean exactly the same on the titanic, then equal certainly doesn’t mean, can’t mean, exactly the same in the military either.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at You can find 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’m speaking to you from Orlando, Florida, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

Subscribe via email for daily Briefings and more (unsubscribe at any time).