Monday, Feb. 18, 2019

Monday, Feb. 18, 2019

The Briefing

February 18, 2019

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

It’s Monday, February 18, 2019. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

As pregnancy progresses, women become happier: A powerful pro-life statement in the pages of the New York Times

It’s true, especially a print media but also a broadcast and digital media, the news coverage over a weekend actually tells us a great deal more about the cultural conversation and the state of that conversation than the news coverage during the week. The reason for that is quite simple. Monday through Friday, the headlines are generally driven by news, immediate news, the kind of news that newspapers, digital media, television can’t resist. But writers, editors, publishers look to the weekend additions for their media, for opportunities to present big think pieces, more conceptual pieces, pieces about the age, about the culture, about the thinking of the moment.

And thus when you look at a Sunday edition of a newspaper, it’s not just thick because of all the advertisements and supplements, it is thick with the kind of articles, the kind of coverage, the kind of analysis that wouldn’t appear Monday through Friday. There just isn’t time. There just isn’t space. And as you look over the weekend, just this past weekend at some of the coverage in just one newspaper, The New York Times, well, it tells us a lot about the state of our conversation and we ought to pay close attention.

For example, an article that appeared in yesterday’s edition included the headline “Doctors rethink advice for women unsure about pregnancy.” That’s a very interesting headline. Women unsure about pregnancy. The article makes clear these are not women unsure if they are pregnant. These are women unsure if they want to be. The article’s reported by Margot Sanger-Katz and Claire Cain Miller. They write, “For decades, researchers and physicians tended to think about pregnancies as either planned or unplanned, but new data reveals that for a significant group of women, their feelings don’t neatly fit into one category or another. As many as one fifth of women who become pregnant aren’t sure whether they want a baby.”

The reporters then go on to tell us, “This fact may reshape how doctors and policy makers think about family planning. For Women who are unsure, it doesn’t seem enough for physicians to counsel them on pregnancy prevention or prenatal care.” Now, before we look any further at the article, there is a very interesting issue that’s addressed here. The New York Times is telling us that we now know what we evidently did not know, at least the we as a society making policy, that there are women who actually aren’t sure they want to be pregnant even when they are pregnant. They’re not sure they want to become pregnant. They’re not sure that the may one day want to become pregnant. And the day that they might become pregnant, they’re not sure they want the baby. They’re not sure they want parenthood, motherhood.

Now, as we will see when this article unfolds, it actually tells us something that is deeply subversive of the pro-choice pro-abortion mentality that is so secure in the elites of our society. Here you have a realization that a focus solely on a woman’s choice doesn’t fit a lot of situations. If there’s one lead issue that gets our attention right away, it is that the New York Times is acknowledging that for many women, this is an ambivalent question, that’s interesting in itself. It’s very interesting that the New York Times has decided that yesterday was the right time to tell us, citing new research.

María Isabel Rodríguez, an obstetrician gynecologist at the Oregon Health and Science University. We are told that her research focuses on family planning and contraceptive policy. She said quote, “In the past we thought of it as binary, you want to be pregnant or not so you need contraception or a prenatal vitamin.” She went on to say, “But it’s more of a continuum.” So interesting, a continuum. A continuum of impression on the part of these women as to whether or not they want to be pregnant even as they are.

Later in the article we are told, “A new analysis of the 2014 results from the Guttmacher Institute, that is a pro-abortion research institute, combined these results with data from abortion providers. It found that in 9% to 19% of pregnancies, the woman wasn’t sure what she wanted at the time.” Now again, we’ve been told that the sole determining moral issue is what a woman wants. Now we’re being told that many women, even pregnant women, aren’t sure what they want.

The encouragement of the pro-abortion argument is if you don’t want the baby or think you don’t want the baby, if you don’t want the baby for any reason or even for no reason specified at all, just go ahead and abort the baby. We will make it as easy as possible. We will make it as convenient as possible. We will make it as widespread as legally possible. We will make the taxpayer pay for it if we have our way. If you think you want an abortion, just go and get an abortion. It’s all about your choice and you make that choice now.

But now in this article you have the acknowledgement that up to 19%, that’s just a data point. Up to 19% of pregnant women aren’t really sure whether they are or are not wanting to be pregnant when they are. Whether they’re happy or they’re not happy that they’re pregnant. There’s a more complete exposition of a lot of the research data, but then there is this blockbuster of a sentence in this article in yesterday’s New York Times. “The research confirms that many unplanned pregnancies can nevertheless become wanted as women’s feelings about pregnancy evolve.” That’s one of those stunning sentences in the middle of an article that didn’t appear to be all that important that begins to make its importance very, very clear.

Here you have an acknowledgement that many women who are ambivalent about the fact that they are pregnant actually become much happier about being pregnant as the pregnancy progresses. Now from a biblical Worldview, that makes perfect sense. It just makes sense that the longer a woman is pregnant and conscious of being pregnant, the more of a relationship she begins to establish with that unborn child. The more hopes and visions and dreams are becoming clearer. The moral gravity of the life within her is becoming more and more apparent. The longer the pregnancy progresses, the less likely she wants to abort, the more happy she is about the fact that she is pregnant, even if she had not intended to be pregnant.

The article goes on to talk about various trade offs and social questions, questions related to abortion, but then very importantly it tells a first person story. “When Carly Tuggle age 19 found out she was pregnant. ‘I was really surprised and I didn’t quite know how to feel about it.'” We are told that she was no longer with the baby’s father and she was homeless living on friends’ couches. “I didn’t not want to have her,” she said. “I just didn’t want to not be able to give her everything that she needed.” The reporters then tell us, “Finding out the baby’s sex made it seem more imaginable, she said. So did finding a program, Mountain Home Montana in her hometown Missoula, Montana that gave her housing, health care, baby items and other services. She now has a job at goodwill and is about to get her high school diploma.

But notice the next paragraph. She says, “I’m very grateful now,” she’s speaking of her six month old daughter Emerson, “I love my daughter and I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.” So let’s be honest, right here embedded in this article is a very clear pro-life testimony. Right in the middle of an article documenting data telling us that a significant number of women who become pregnant are ambivalent. They’re neither overwhelmingly positive or overwhelmingly negative. We are told right in this same article that as the pregnancy progresses, it is not unusual for women to become happier about the fact that they are pregnant, to begin to welcome the pregnancy though unplanned and simply notice how this article that isn’t intended to be an editorial article and all, it’s a news analysis. It’s not on the opinion page. Notice that the word abortion has been rather strategically avoided even though its logic is behind the entire mentality.

Notice that there is a very clear pro-life message and we just need to be thankful for that. We need to be thankful every time a woman talks about her child, speaking of how happy she is that she had the child and did not abort the child. We need to be thankful every time there is a crack in the pro-abortion mentality of the age telling us, well look at this. Here’s some data that tells us that may be a woman’s choice at any given moment is not even all that stable. Here we have an article telling us, and again I just think this is so sweet that many women who do not want to be pregnant who find themselves pregnant over the course of the pregnancy progressing actually become happier and happier about the fact that they really do have a life within them. Frankly, I doubt many people will notice this story given the thickness the size of the Sunday edition of The New York Times. It’s unlikely that many readers even pay attention to every story, but this is a story that should have our attention. And as I had mentioned thus far, it is very sweet.

But next, looking at the same article, we need to notice something that is simply embedded early in the article as if this is supposed to make sense in an article about pregnancy and motherhood. Let me go back to one paragraph. “Sociologists have known from decades of fieldwork that women’s attitudes towards pregnancy and motherhood can be a jumble. Women as well as transgender men may be influenced by social norms about the ideal circumstances for motherhood, romantic ideas about the connections between sex and pregnancy or conflicts between the competing polls of caregiving and work.”

Now, wait just a minute. Here we are told the people who are the focus of this concern, the concern about feelings of themselves being pregnant and becoming mothers. We are told that this is a group that includes women and transgender men. Now I just have to wonder if the reporters put this in or some very alert editor said, now, wait just a minute. We’re going to be criticized by the transgender community if we talk about pregnancy as limited to women. And so oddly enough, there is this reference to the fact that sociologists have known from decades of field work that women’s attitudes towards pregnancy and motherhood can be a jumble women as well as transgender men may be influenced by. Well, it goes on social concepts, on and on and on. Women as well as transgender men.

Let’s just be really clear about the biblical worldview. Women carry babies, women get pregnant, women become mothers, women lactate. Biblically defined, let’s just be clear, all of those functions are without any embarrassment, without any hesitation, without any confusion or lack of clarity. They are apart of womanhood. What it means to be a woman. And yes, that is determined by being biologically female. Also, we simply have to point out necessary for conception, for pregnancy, for becoming a mother, for carrying a baby and for nursing that baby.

In the last segment, I look at this very same article pointing to evidence that should encourage those with pro-life conviction. It’s an unexpected place. It was an unexpected article. But in the second segment, we have to look at the fact that the transgender revolution is being driven so deeply into our society, driven even in this kind of news coverage in what can only be described as a rather awkward way. It’s being driven by an agenda that says you now can’t talk about motherhood and limit your conversation to women.

Part II

What happens when the LGBTQ agenda collides with the United States prison system?

But also in the very same edition, yesterday’s edition of The New York Times, John Leland had a big article with the headline “Winning the Right to Transition in Jail.” Here’s the subhead. A transgender veteran forces an exploration of medical ethics and the justice system. It’s a big story. Buckle your seat belts.

This is one of those stories that if published in any other decade would make absolutely no sense. People living in previous times, not in ancient times, just a few years ago, wouldn’t even have the vocabulary, not to mention the social conceptions to have any idea what this article is about. What would transitioning mean? Well, the article becomes very clear. “When the testosterone started to flow through her system, Jessica Sunderland felt the changes immediately.” Let’s just stop there for a moment. Testosterone surging through her system. Again, this is the moral revolution hitting us in the face in the lead of the article. “I had to do stuff to deal with the anger, she said. Working out and meditating and trying to breathe. I did anything to try not to focus the anger.”

The article continues. I’m reading it exactly. “She was an army veteran who had served in Iraq, but at that moment in fall 2012, she was in the Suffolk County Correctional Facility on charges of burglary, kept in a cell 21 hours per day in a body at war with her conception of who she was. She wanted medication to make it stop and she wasn’t getting it.” The article goes on to tell us that this individual got a court ruling against two doctors at the Suffolk County jail for denying her hormone therapy causing her to start what her lawyer described as an involuntary sex change. The jury found that doctors had violated her constitutional right to necessary medical care and awarded her $355,000 in damages and a slightly larger some that went to her lawyers. The next line, “Advocates for transgender rights say it is the first time a jury has awarded punitive damages in such a case.”

One of the things Christians need to recognize is that it doesn’t always require explicit deep philosophical analysis in order to understand the worldview issues that are at stake. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. In this case it really doesn’t. Consider this line. From Miss Sunderland, aged 32 who filed the original complaint under her given name Jeremy, it was a vindication for a long often solitary battle.” So the lawsuit was filed by someone named Jeremy, but it was evidently one or at least is no celebrated by someone named Jessica. But we are told it is the same person.

But what makes this story interesting for the New York Times is not just any run of the mill gender transition. It is rather the fact that the issue here is the context of jail or prison and the fact that the prison authorities in this case and in so many others clearly aren’t willing to join the LGBTQ revolution with enthusiasm for the simple reason that they can’t. It’s one thing for a virtue signaling politician to try to demand that the prison joined the transgender revolution. It’s another thing to try to explain how exactly that is going to happen. And even as there had been similar realizations about the United States military, here it becomes really clear when the context is jail or prison.

John Leland writes, “If you want to explore the fault lines of gender in the 21st century, you might devise an experiment like the criminal justice system. What does it mean when a person is two years into a transition and assigned to a facility that knows only male and female anatomy?” The article continues. “Tensions that exist on the outside become viscerally exaggerated behind bars where privacy is limited, sexes are segregated and force is unequal. How does an institution built on order accommodate the gray areas of gender diversity?” Let’s just state that from a Christian Biblical worldview perspective, those are exceedingly good questions.

We also have to note something else and that is that as I often said, the Christian worldview is based upon the reality that ontology trumps autonomy. That means that biological physical facts, facts of being will trump assertions of personal autonomy. I may say that I was born in 1492 but I wasn’t. It’s impossible. I may say that right now I am in Beijing, but I’m not. It is impossible. It does not correspond to the facts. I could claim to be this or that and claim my autonomy is the right to declare myself this or that. I could require you to call me this or that or even play into my self conception as this or that, but it doesn’t make me this or that. But let’s be clear, this article comes out of the fact that if all of this is being raised in the society, that’s one thing. If it’s being raised in prison, that’s another thing.

The article is actually quite specific and it’s quite expansive. Mateo Della Torre identified as a racial and economic justice policy advocate at the National Center for Transgender Equality said, “Transgender folks are criminalized in our society. They get kicked out of their home. They engage in the underground economy for survival and law enforcement profiles, transgender women of color as sex workers.” But in this case we do need to note that the individual in jail was in jail for burglary. Later in the article the story becomes quite complicated when the claim is made that the transgender identity led to a dependence upon non-legal drugs that led to, well, you can imagine the burglary charge and the conviction and jail and the setup for this article and the eventual winning of a judgment by this individual against the prison for not continuing the sex or gender transition process.

The article gets preachy as is characteristic when we are told “Our experience of gender is sometimes described as an interaction among anatomy, identity and expression when our biological sex lines up with how we see ourselves and how we express ourselves to others, then gender feels like a seamless hole. When the three pains do not line up the condition is called gender dysphoria or incongruence advocates liken it, we are told to pregnancy requiring medical care but not a disease or a disorder.” Well again, this is really difficult because even if you’re looking at the psychotherapeutic community, it is still considered a disorder.

One of the current demands of the transgender revolution is to reclassify gender dysphoria, the very term that we are told is the right term here, without dysphoria somehow implying disorder. I don’t think that’s likely to happen, but you can count on the fact that the therapeutic community is going to do its best to find some way to declare dysphoria not disordered, not some kind of disease or problem to be overcome.

You also have to note in Biblical terms as you think about how morals change that trying to explain this with the metaphor of pregnancy, well that’s pretty clever. We’ll see if they get away with it. This should be considered as natural and normal as pregnancy. Later in the article about the legal action, we are told, “The jury found that the doctors,” that would be the doctors in the prison, “had violated her rights under the 14th amendment to equal protection of the law advocates for transgender rights. Hope the verdict makes facilities think twice before denying care.” But it is interesting that later in the article it’s made really clear that the prison and jail authorities really don’t have any idea how to do this. Prisons are divided between prisons for men and prisons for women. A part of that is the understanding that women need to be protected from men.

It is a protective issue, but furthermore it is simply one necessitated by the differences between men and women. And to put the matter bluntly, the impossibility, the implausibility of running a prison with a mixed population as if this isn’t going to be an opportunity for more chaos than an already problematic prison system can be expected to endure. Well remember that the jail in question in this story was in Suffolk County, New York, but then we are told, “After one and the Suffolk County jail, she was transferred to a unit for transgender women at Rikers Island where pat searches were conducted by two guards. A woman for the top half, a man for the bottom. Now on probation, she is seeking damages of $1 million.”

Now for obvious reasons, I’m not going to go into any great detail about who would decide who examines what part of whom in a prison context. I’m simply going to say that if you are going to try to push the LGBTQ revolution, you’re going to have to push it arguing that prisons are just going to have to deal with it. But that doesn’t explain how they’re going to deal with it. In this case, a jury found the prison authorities guilty of violating one prisoner’s rights, but what about the rights of other prisoners? What about the right of a society to any kind of sane prisoner justice system? The argument being that isn’t really anything other than pregnancy. It’s a medical bill that simply should be paid if you delay any kind of treatment, then that is a form of discrimination, so get with it, pay for it and celebrate it.

Part III

Transgenderism takes flight: Airlines scramble to meet the demands of the gender revolutionaries

But finally, when it comes to the transgender, the gender revolutionaries, evidently flight is now an issue that is airline flight. Thus the headline that came over the weekend “Airlines to give customers non-binary choice under gender.” The Associated Press reports, “Major US airlines say they will soon change their ticketing process to give passengers the option of identifying themselves as other than male or female.” The story continues. “The gender option on airline sites will soon include choices such as undisclosed or unspecified. There could also be the optional title of mix that is mix or replacement for Mr. or Miss.” Once again, you can predict this line, “The move was praised by advocacy groups or transgender people.”

Beck Bailey of the human rights campaign said, “It’s a significant step forward for non binary individuals so they are not faced with a mismatch between their ticketing information and their legal identification.” We are later told them the story, American, Delta, United, Southwest, Alaska, and JetBlue. They all confirmed on Friday of last week that they are currently in the process of updating their booking tools and plan to add a binary option to the gender menu on their sites. Now, we also simply have to note that evidently one symptom of our age is that the gender menu as it is called on websites is going to get longer and longer with more and more options. Famously, Facebook had offered hundreds of options as recently as just a couple of years ago. Finally, all of this and just a couple of days, just a couple of days in the middle of a revolution.

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I’m speaking to you from National, Tennessee, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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