Thursday, April 16, 2020
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Thursday, April 16, 2020. I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
America’s Abortion Battle Rages On: Some States Limit Abortion Access While Planned Parenthood Doubles Down on Abortion During Pandemic
Signs of the times, even in the midst of a pandemic. The pandemic is something of a pressure cooker on the society, and in the midst of this pressure, we begin to see fissure lines that we might have missed. We're seeing basic worldview issues emerge, and we're seeing them emerge in the very context of this pandemic.
Just consider yesterday's front page of The New York Times in the print edition. Headline: "Women Suffer As Shutdowns Curb Abortion." Sabrina Tavernise is the reporter on the story. But before looking at this story, let's just consider the headline, again, “Women Suffer As Shutdowns Curb Abortion.” Now, you're looking at the fact that this is a big news story. Tragically enough, it's undeniably a news story. You're also looking at the undeniable reality that The New York Times is a crusading pro-abortion newspaper. Its editorial pages and its news reporting all make very clear that in the worldview of those who write and edit and publish The New York Times, presumably given their market, those who read The New York Times primarily in New York and in the northeast, they share the same worldview, a worldview in which the unborn human being is simply a non-existent moral reality.
That is made abundantly clear in this headline because even as it is about abortion, the first word is “women”—"Women Suffer As Shutdowns Curb Abortion.” You can pretty much figure out where the news story is going. In the midst of the pandemic with near universal calls across the United States for no non-essential medical or surgical services, you have state by state differing responses. In the most pro-abortion states, you have the insistence that abortion clinics must stay open. In the more pro-life states, you have a battle to try to argue that abortion certainly is not an essential medical service. Essential in this case, just consider this, essential for the preservation of life. That is the argument for an essential medical procedure. But, of course, the very idea of abortion is the termination, the ending of the human life inside the womb, and thus you see that worldview divide, a divide that is now so deep that in parts of this country it isn't plausible that you would defend the unborn baby, and other parts of this country in which it isn't plausible that you would legalize killing the unborn baby.
But in its headline stating “Women Suffer as Shutdowns Curb Abortion,” it's clear the direction that The New York Times news reporting is going to take, and in the continuation of the story inside, we read this: "In at least seven states across the South and the Midwest, authorities have included abortion as a non-essential medical procedure, arguing that postponement is necessary to preserve medical and protective equipment. Abortion rights groups say the pandemic is being used as a pretense to restrict abortion, and have sued to stop the states, which on Tuesday included Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas."
Now, there are some other very interesting things to think about here. Just consider that list of states. Again, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. What's the outlier there? It's the State of Ohio. Geographically, Ohio is a very different state culturally and politically than the other states identified with the deep south or the southern states in the west. That has to do with the fact that all those states put together, they're basically part of what continues to exist in some way as the Bible Belt, not so much Ohio.
So why is Ohio on that list? Well, elections matter. Elections matter in Ohio. Ohio is one of those states that has produced an inordinate number of American presidents. That was especially true in the 19th and early 20th centuries because Ohio so perfectly represented America in terms of the nation's politics. Not as much so now, but still it's very interesting to understand that Ohio is one of those bellwether states. It's one of those states that almost as a parable represents middle America, the kind of America that still appears on postcards and in the American imagination. It is still possible for a state like Ohio to be clearly identified in this case on the pro-life side, especially when you consider the current legislature and the current Republican Governor Mike DeWine.
Alexis McGill Johnson, the acting president and chief executive at Planned Parenthood Federation of America said, " It has become a day-by-day, week-to-week fight." Now, again, in worldview analysis, let's just consider this claim: a day-by-day, week-to-week fight. Fight indicates conflict. Conflict indicates disagreement. In this case, the disagreement is over something as fundamental as whether or not unborn human life is to be respected and protected. But one of the other things we need to recognize is that when you look at the pro-abortion side, it always says that it's in a fight against any effort to restrict abortion and it is, and the pro-abortion side is extremely frustrated by any pushback on the legalization and access to abortion demanding, of course, not only universal access to abortion for any reason or no stated reason, but also taxpayer funding of abortion.
In the narrative section of the article, it speaks of one abortion clinic there in Texas where after a federal judge backed the state's declaration that abortion is a non-essential surgical service and thus would come to an end in this day, she had to walk out to the waiting room and tell several women who were waiting for an abortion that they would not be able to obtain their abortions in Texas.
There's another very interesting statement later in this article where the reporter tells us: "Overwhelmingly, abortions happen in clinics, not hospitals, but the clinics,” we are told, “have also changed their rules to account for the coronavirus." Now that's one of those little sentences the most readers are probably going to race over if they read the article at all. Why should we stop for a moment? Well, it's morally significant that most abortions do not take place in a hospital, but rather in an abortion clinic. Why is that significant? It is because hospitals exist almost always, at least in their founding, in order to preserve and protect and enhance life, not to bring life to an end. It is still true that abortion carries a moral stigma. Let's be thankful for that. Even as the pro-abortion movement has been arguing that there should be no moral stigma against abortion, most hospitals don't want to have anything to do with the surgical abortion business. They don't want the reputation. What does that tell you? That's even more interesting when you consider the fact that perhaps the people who run the hospital will say they're pro-abortion. They may vote pro-choice, as they may call it, or pro-abortion, but the bottom line is when it comes to their own reputation, they don't want it associated with abortion.
Speaking of women who are determined to abort their babies regardless of the pandemic, the reporter tells us, "Other women seeking abortions said they could not afford to travel out of state and were looking for ways to end their pregnancy on their own." But we're also told about those who at least considered driving hours to Wichita, Kansas, in order to obtain an abortion, or one woman who actually flew from Texas to Louisville, Kentucky, my town, in order to obtain an abortion.
Again, elections matter. They matter in Ohio where Gov. DeWine was willing to put his reputation on the line defining abortion as non-essential. They matter in Texas where Gov. Abbott and others have made very clear their determination to make clear that abortion is medically non-essential. But elections also matter in Kentucky where Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear ran as an openly pro-abortion candidate. He would say pro-choice, I'm sure, but he actually held a fundraiser inside the location, a home of a man who owns the abortion clinic here in Louisville, and he was elected in Kentucky even as voters had every reason to know his position on abortion. Elections have consequences. Thus, we understand why in this article the woman who could not obtain an abortion in her own state flew to Louisville, Kentucky, where Gov. Beshear and Mayor Greg Fischer here in Louisville have made very clear that, in their judgment, abortion continues to be an essential service. Consider the irony of what we've had to discuss in the case of Mayor Fischer and to some extent also Gov. Beshear on the issue of religious liberty and the fact that we have had political figures who have tried to declare church and religious institutions to be non-essential.
But speaking of abortion in the United States and particularly about the biggest abortion provider in the United States, Planned Parenthood, I want to point to an article published in recent days in the Washington Examiner in which we read this: "The abortion giant chose to close many of its health centers due to concerns about the coronavirus last week and instead focus its resources on abortion clinics, which have reportedly experienced an uptick in business over the past few weeks."
Notice what this is telling us. This is telling us that Planned Parenthood, that speaks so often about being a health services provider and speaks of its locations being about reproductive health and other health services, here we are told that out of concerns about the coronavirus, Planned Parenthood has actually cut down in some locations on its other medical services in order to concentrate on abortion, which according to this article has been in an uptick over the last few weeks.
The editorial in the Washington Examiner concluded with these words: "Planned Parenthood is not an essential organization. It never has been. Indeed, when the organization was given the chance to aid the essential fight against a threat to public health with resources or assistance to overworked doctors and nurses, it chose instead to close its health centers and focus on aborting babies." The final sentence: "It shouldn't come as a surprise that Planned Parenthood cares little about preserving human life."
The Astounding Pace of Moral Change in Northern Ireland: Abortions Begin After “Setback”
But next, as we are considering what we must see and what we must learn about this basic divide over abortion, not only in the United States but elsewhere, we need to go across the Atlantic for headline news also found in The New York Times, but other major media around the world in which the dateline is not Texas or Louisville or Ohio, but rather Northern Ireland.
Ceylan Yeginsu reported last week on Friday: "A week after abortion was supposed to become freely available in Northern Ireland, women continue to be denied access to services and are instead enduring an eight-hour ferry ride to Liverpool, England, despite the coronavirus lockdown."
The next sentence: "The collapse of Northern Ireland's devolved government in 2017 allowed the British Parliament to step in last year and overturn the region's highly restrictive, 158-year-old abortion laws, ruling that they are incompatible with the United Kingdom's human rights commitments." But then The New York Times says, "But even though the new laws went into effect on March 31, the regional power-sharing government, restored in January, is locked in a debate about how to roll out the new services. Many people suspect that the health minister is slow-walking the process, hoping to stymie it altogether."
Now, one of the big stories about moral change in the world is the change that has happened in the Republic of Ireland where that nation, so dominated by Catholicism, has become increasingly liberal on the issue of abortion in a horrifyingly short amount of time, also on issues such as homosexuality, the whole LGBTQ agenda, same-sex marriage. But here we're not about the Republic of Ireland, we're talking about Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom.
Northern Ireland has a considerable Catholic population, but it has been best known for having a very conservative Protestant citizenry, and even as there's been conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants over any number of issues going back centuries, the reality is that on the issue of the sanctity of human life, there had been a good deal of agreement in Northern Ireland, but not so much anymore.
But as The New York Times reminded us in that article published last Friday, the legalization of abortion in Northern Ireland did not take place because the government there in a democratic process approved it, reversing that 158-year-old set of criminal statutes that outlawed abortion. No, it didn't take place that way. It couldn't take place that way. Instead, when there was a breakdown of that government given internal political strife, the British parliament in London stepped in and seized the opportunity to bring Northern Ireland's laws into line with the pro-abortion stance of the British government.
But in worldview analysis, the biggest thing for us to consider here is the pace of this kind of moral change, not only in Ireland, the nation, but in Northern Ireland, and we also consider the headline in The New York Times, "In Northern Ireland, Abortions Are Legal Now, But Still Impossible to Obtain."
But that was Friday of last week. The very next day, on April the 11th, Saturday, the same reporter, Ceylan Yeginsu, wrote an article with a new headline, "After Setback, Abortions Begin in Northern Ireland.” The story here is: "After a week of mounting legal pressure, Northern Ireland's Department of Health authorized abortion services in the region, putting into force legislation that overturns one of the world's most restrictive abortion laws."
Later in the article, by the way, we are told, "Abortion is one of the most contentious issues in Northern Irish politics. The legislation legalizing abortion was passed by the British Parliament after the collapse of the region's power-sharing government. The regional government was restored in January, and has been torn by the abortion issue ever since."
But as we saw in the very first story of our consideration today, one huge worldview issue is not just what happened but how it is reported. The use of the headline on that first article, “Women Suffer As Shutdowns Curb Abortion,” and now the other two headlines coming in successive days: "In Northern Ireland, Abortions Are Legal But Still Impossible to Obtain." The next day, "After Setback, Abortions Begin in Northern Ireland."
What's the big worldview insight here? Consider the words “suffer” and “setback.” Just think about that for a moment. Both of them indicate that there is a morally normative position that has been set back, in which case someone is going to suffer. Just consider that. That is a moral judgment. That's not just a headline screaming for your attention, that is a very clear moral judgment. It is coming from a worldview that says the normal state of affairs is that abortion must always be available to anyone for any reason at any time. There must be no impediment whatsoever and the unborn human life within the woman doesn't count for anything. Not only will that concern not appear in the headline, it won't appear in the news story, it won't appear in the deliberations, it won't appear in the worldview.
If It’s Human Life, You Have to Defend: Rep. Dan Lipinski Told the Truth, and Paid the Cost
But next, also on what we are learning, even especially on the issue of abortion in the midst of a pandemic, we leave Northern Ireland and come back to the United States specifically to Illinois. You'll recall that back in the Illinois Primary on the Democratic side on the 17th of March, Dan Lipinski, who had been a member of Congress for a number of years, whose father before him had held the very same seat, he lost his race largely because of a pro-abortion agenda from within his own party in which a pro-abortion challenger emerged, and even as she came very close to defeating him in the Democratic primary two years ago, she was successful in doing so just a few days ago in the middle of March.
Now one of the things we saw back when those election results came in is that Congressman Lipinski is very Democratic in almost every way, but he is one of those very few individuals still remaining on the national scene who is a Democrat who is very much pro-life. He held those pro-life convictions, his father had held those pro-life convictions, and together they held that seat for years, but no more. This challenge that came from the newly assertive left in the Democratic party has successfully removed Dan Lipinski. There is supposed to be a huge moral lesson here and a political warning to Democrats who might be tempted to be, even to the slightest degree, pro-life anywhere. That warning is you're going to be defeated by your own party if you dare to get out of line with the abortion agenda.
So come election day in November, Dan Lipinski is not going to be on the ballot. For the first time in a very long time, no Lipinski is going to be on the ballot for that seat, but it is also very important to recognize that after his defeat, Congressman Lipinski made a very brave statement that deserves our attention.
Congressman Lipinski said this: "The morning after I narrowly lost my congressional seat in the Illinois Democratic primary, I decided to make a public statement and answer questions from the press. With the current wretched state of political discourse," said the Congressman, "I felt it important to be gracious in defeat. One adviser," as he tells us, "said that I should focus on what our team accomplished from my constituents on transportation, the environment, jobs, and the quality of life. That was tempting," said the Congressman. "I'm proud of our legacy, but a friend told me to be prepared for the question: 'Looking back, would you have done anything different?'"
Lipinski then writes, "Abortion advocacy groups poured millions into my opponent's campaign. If I had simply changed my position on abortion, there probably wouldn't have been a contest. Abortion proponents wanted to hear me express regret about sticking with my pro-life beliefs."
Now just notice that. That's incredibly important. It tells us that even after they defeated him, they put pressure on him to say that he regretted that he had held any kind of pro-life position and credit that with the fact that having held to that error, he lost his seat. That's almost like what we saw back in the 20th century in the Soviet Union's show trials or in something like the POW videos that were made by the North Vietnamese.
Congressman Lipinski then wrote this: "So rather than wait for the question, I faced it head on in my statement. I defended my pro-life position, which is rooted in both my Catholic faith and science." He recalled having said the day after he lost the primary, "I could never give up protecting the most vulnerable human beings in the world simply to win an election. My faith teaches and the Democratic party preaches that we should serve everyone, especially the most vulnerable. To stand in solidarity with the vulnerable is to become vulnerable, but there is no higher calling for anyone."
But looking back at the exchange that took place with the press that day after he lost the primary and made that statement, Congressman Lipinski tells us, "Politico's Shia Kapos posed this question: 'There are some pro-life Democrats, like Tim Kaine, who found a way to come to terms with the fact that they do not believe in abortion, but they also support a woman's right to choose, so they have been kind of able to maneuver. There isn't just black and white, there's some flexibility. Did Tim Kaine ever talk to you about that?'" That was the question that the political reporter asked Congressman Lipinski, but this was Congressman Lipinski's reply: "I replied that if you believe life exists in the womb, you have to support policies that protect that life."
That is stunningly important. Here you have a Congressman, who the day before he had lost his primary and when a reporter says, "Couldn't you have found some kind of position on abortion that wasn't so black and white? Couldn't you be like Senator Tim Kaine?" Let's remind ourselves, he was the vice presidential nominee chosen by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race for the White House? The reporter said, "Couldn't you have found some kind of middle ground? Why didn't you talk to Senator Kaine and get some advice from him?" But this is where Representative Lipinski turned back to the reporter and said it is Senator Tim Kaine and others like him who are being inconsistent, who say they do not believe in abortion, but they clearly do believe in abortion rights. That makes no sense. It is not only morally inconsistent, it is morally insane.
But it's also important to note that that is the position that is currently taken by the now inevitable nominee for the Democratic presidential nomination, former vice president Joe Biden. But former Vice President Biden has gone further even saying in the midst of this campaign, again, almost like a Soviet show trial, that he has changed his position on taxpayer funding of abortion, that he would now support or even demand withdrawing, canceling the Hyde Amendment because, after all, if you're going to gain the nomination of the Democratic party under these conditions, you can't be against abortion even in theory in any way that might matter at all.
Congressman Lipinski went on in his statement to make very clear that it doesn't even make political sense of the Democratic party to exclude all pro-life voices since, in his words, almost 6 out of 10 Democratic voters support some abortion restrictions. That just tells you who is in control of the Democratic party. Sadly, politics is not where you get to see a demonstration of this kind of conviction and courage very often, but when you do see it, you need to note it for what it is. In a moment of rare political courage, there was an even more remarkable display of rare moral clarity. The clarity that comes down to precisely what Congressman Lipinski said: "If you believe life exists in the womb, you have to support policies that protect that life." Again, either it is human life or it isn't. If it isn't human life, it doesn't matter. If it is human life, you must protect it and respect it. You cannot destroy it.
The biblical worldview makes this fact emphatically clear. The inhabitant of the womb is a human being, is a human person, is human from the beginning, never was anything other than human, never could be anything else.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
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