Monday, January 25, 2021
It's Monday, January 25, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
62 Million Babies Have Been Aborted in the U.S. in the 48 Years Since Roe v. Wade: How Did Abortion Become Thinkable in American Culture?
Last Friday marked the 48th anniversary of one of the darkest days in the United States. That was the day, January the 22nd, 1973, that the Supreme Court of the United States handed down the decision known as Roe v. Wade, which, together with a subsequent decision, Doe v. Bolton, effectively legalized abortion on demand throughout the United States.
Looking back over the past 48 years, we can understand something of the moral accounting that has to take place. With the abortion, it is estimated of more than 62 million unborn Americans in the course of that 48 years. Two years from now, the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, those numbers will be even higher. It's hard to think in numbers of this scale, 62 million missing Americans, 62 million Americans who would have been alive from 1973 to the present if they had not been aborted in the womb. That is 62 million workers. That is 62 million people going to little league games, going to church, building houses, living in communities, just experiencing life as image-bearers of God, 62 million, missing.
But as we think about this horrifying anniversary, we have to go back and ask the question, why would abortion ever become thinkable? How did abortion become institutionalized in American culture? How did we reach the point that in the United States, we now have what can only be called an abortion industrial complex? Well, let's go back to the fact that abortion has been around throughout most of human history. But it has just about always, in every case, been understood as something that is evil and wrong and shameful. You'll notice that the current abortion rights advocates demand that abortion be relieved of its stigma, but that's not going to happen. That's not because of just some lingering moral prejudice on the part of human beings. It is because human beings have a knowledge put within them by their creator or that life is sacred and that there is something horrifyingly, unquestionably wrong about destroying life in the womb.
But as we're thinking in worldview, we have to ask the question: how could abortion become, as a matter of national policy, plausible, and what would have been the arguments for it? Well, even most conservative Christians, thinking about this issue and recognizing the evil of abortion, fail to understand the actual arguments that were made. Those arguments did not start out being legal or constitutional. They got to that, but that's not where they started. The advocates of abortion began with an ideological argument, and that ideology was rooted in two very important developments. One was the rise of the modern idea of individual autonomy. An autonomy so great that we now claim that we should be able to define our own lives. Anything that gets in the way of our self-definition is something that we should have the right to be rid of, and that would include a pregnancy and unborn child.
The second issue that became an ideological route was what is known as second-wave feminism. Now, that requires a bit of explanation. What is second-wave feminism, and if it was second wave, what was the first wave? Well, the first wave of feminism in the United States was attached to the right of women to vote. That came a hundred years ago this past year. The feminist of the first wave demanded the right to vote, the right for women to own property, certain legal reforms that, in retrospect, most Americans would never have believed wouldn't have been there in the first place.
But nonetheless, as we're thinking about first-wave feminism, what those feminists did not seek to transform was the family and marriage. But that came later. Second-wave feminism emerged after the Second World War. It emerged with a general loosening of sexual morality and with a feminist agenda that indicated that women had to be equal with men in all respects. Now, that's an interesting proposition. Equality is a category that fits in certain circumstances. Men and women, for example, are equally made in the image of God. But there are other realities that clearly imply that equality is not the most meaningful category, and in some cases, it's not a category that makes much sense at all. No matter his intentions, no matter his demands, a man cannot become pregnant, carry a baby to term and give birth to a child. That's not equal, but equality is not really the most fitting category. But you have to understand that the second wave feminists actually did argue that women had to have the right to be equally unpregnant as men.
No kidding. That was actually one of the major arguments that they presented in the case for abortion, and for the fact that abortion must be legal in all 50 states and that somehow there must be a constitutional right that would imply that a woman has an equal right with a man not to be pregnant. To put the argument in a different way, the second wave feminists argued that if a woman, who only as a woman could become pregnant, would have to carry that baby to term and could not abort it, then that would be an imposition upon her that would not be equally imposed upon a man. Now, upon reflection, that's obvious. But it's also something that is far beyond anything that could be political or constitutional, or illegal. It's biological. It is. We'll go back to that theological term we have to return to over and over again. It's ontological. Ontology means being. It is the knowledge of being, our understanding of what being means. And being is, when it comes to human beings, male and female.
Equality, yes, equally made in the image of God. Equality in other respects, well, it depends upon the circumstance. Equality when it comes to skeletal structure, no. Equality when it comes to reproductive function, no. Christians understand, armed with a biblical worldview, that equality, in other respects, when it comes to biology ontology, when it comes to theology, when it comes to the roles in the home, when it comes to the respective roles of mother and father, equality is not the appropriate term. It's not the meaningful category. But nonetheless, that was the argument that prevailed among second-wave feminists. They demanded that somehow some constitutional theory should, eventually, be determined.
Now, let's note something else. They couldn't get this argument through the legislature, not through the United States Congress. They could never then, or, by the way, now, have been able to work through legislation that would be approved by the House and the Senate and signed by a president of the United States, mandating a right to abortion on the part of women in all 50 states. That didn't happen, and it hasn't happened. But let's put a footnote there because President Biden has indicated, he's determined that it will happen.
But that's not how abortion became legal in all 50 States. No, there were some states in which abortion, to some degree, lesser or greater, was legal back in 1970 when the Roe v. Wade case began to work its way through the courts. But it was the United States Supreme Court that, 48 years ago, this past Friday, handed down the decision Roe v. Wade that effectively legalized abortion in all 50 states.
What was the constitutional argument? Well, it was a woman's right to privacy that was rooted in epic decisions of the 1960s, in which a majority of those on the Supreme Court merely invented a new constitutional right. You won't find a right to privacy in the US constitution. You won't find a right to any number of things such as, by the way, same-sex marriage, the right to marry someone of the same gender. You won't find it there, but, nonetheless, a majority of Supreme Court justices found it there because their view of the constitution was that it is living and malleable and that judges and justices shouldn't be tied to the words.
Furthermore, when it comes to the actual structure of the Roe v. Wade decision... That decision, by the way, was handed down as a 7-2 decision in 1973. The writer of the majority opinion was then Justice Harry Blackmun. Blackmun basically made up the argument after he had already made up his mind to legalize abortion one way or another. Now we know this because, in his memoirs, he tells us. He made public comments to the effect that he made the decision and that abortion should be legalized. He came up with the legal theory later. That tells you something of the enormous problem we're facing here.
As Blackmun sought to come up with a structure for the decision, he didn't even really turn to the constitution. Instead, he turned to a former client when he had been in private legal practice. That former client, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The idea of dividing a woman's pregnancy, you recall, nine months, into three month trimesters, as they were called, it was something that was basically suggested by medical doctors at the Mayo Clinic. Blackmun, who, by the way, also indicated that he was influenced by a daughter, he went ahead and decided to devise a theory whereby there would be a right to privacy. A woman would have a right to abortion at some level, varying levels in those trimesters, the first three months, the second three months, the third three months, but he made it up out of whole cloth.
When the decision was handed down, it was seen as an epic win for those second-wave feminists. It was claimed as the final word that the nation would ever need on the issue of abortion. In his majority opinion, and in his papers, Justice Blackmun went on to declare that his majority opinion should, and he believed, did effectively settle the question of abortion in American law and in the American conscience. But, as we now know, that didn't happen in either arena. It, in fact, awakened the American conscience, and the pro-life movement began to really grow and emerge and gain determination only after the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. As a matter of fact, it was a whiplash effect, you might say, morally, to the horrible reality of abortion that led to the rise of the pro-life movement that really didn't begin to gain much ground in the national scene until the 1980 presidential election, when then-candidate, former California governor, Ronald Reagan, who in earlier years had, actually, as governor, signed one of the most liberal abortion laws in the United States. He did a 180 turn on the issue.
He came to pro-life convictions and actually, even as he was running for president, wrote a book defending the sanctity of human life. Now, just think about that. We're talking about 40 years ago in American politics. Ronald Reagan actually, as a winning presidential candidate, wrote a book defending the sanctity of human life. We've come a long way since then. The Supreme Court has basically upheld the Roe v. Wade decision, but we're now looking at a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
Even during the past years, in the intervening decades, since 1973, the Supreme Court has allowed states to put in certain restrictions on abortion under certain circumstances. This has led to very real change, state by state. You're also looking at the fact that abortion, back in 1970, when the Roe v. Wade case began to work through the courts, the abortion mapped by states then, the states that had legal abortion and the states that did not. An abortion map that you might conceive now, state-by-state, of the states that would have legal abortion, and those that would not, you'll notice something very interesting. That map is basically unchanged in its major shape over the course of the last 48 years. That also tells you something.
The Roe v. Wade decision reminds us that abortion has become the central sacrament of the political left in the United States. You doubt that. I actually mean that. I assure you, I mean exactly what I said. It is basically the central sacrament of progressivism of the political left, of political liberalism in the United States.
President Biden Wants to Codify Roe v. Wade: Abortion as the Central Sacrament of Political Liberalism in the United States
Now, here's where we need to shift to understand that I mentioned that it would have been impossible in the 1960s or the 1970s, or even as recently as, let's just say, a few weeks ago, to conceive that the United States Congress might pass any kind of legislation tantamount to Roe v. Wade, or that it would be signed into law by a president.
But this draws our attention to a tweet issued by the president of the United States, Joe Biden, on the very day, the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The president of the United States, in office just a matter of a few days, on the official @POTUS Twitter feed, posted this tweet, "As we mark the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, now is the time to rededicate ourselves to the work ahead. From codifying Roe to eliminating maternal and infant health disparities, our Administration is committed to ensuring everyone has access to the health care they need."
Just to consider the historical nature of this tweet issued by president Biden within his first week in office, it begins well, "As we mark the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, now is the time to rededicate ourselves to the work ahead." That's the first sentence. With that sentence, I entirely agree. It would make moral sense if it introduced the fact that the work to which we rededicate ourselves is the defense of the unborn, but, actually, he is calling for the opposite. The next words are these, "From codifying Roe to eliminating maternal and infant health disparities." Now, any American who is shocked by that does not deserve to be shocked. Then-candidate Joe Biden made very clear that if he were to be elected president, he would move to legislate Roe v. Wade. He made that clear in the presidential debates. He made that clear in his public statements. He made that clear in his own so-called evolution on the abortion issue, including the Hyde Amendment.
President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is entirely unquestionably sold out to the abortion rights movement, without reservation. As a matter of fact, to this date, there is not one restriction on abortion all the way up until the moment of birth that president Biden has indicated that he would support politically, morally, and legislatively, or by his executive order. Note, to the contrary, he has indicated that he will use his power as president, he will use his executive orders, he already has, and he will use his ability to sign legislation into law in order to codify Roe, to take the essential findings of Roe, as abhorrent as they are, and make them lasting national legislative reality.
The day before the 48th anniversary of Roe, president Biden sent Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to the World Health Organization, in order to announce to the WHO that the United States would be rejoining the organization. But beyond that, he also said this: "President Biden will be revoking the Mexico City policy in the coming days as part of his broader commitment to protect women's health and advance gender equality at home and around the world."
Note something very carefully. Anthony Fauci has built up an enormous amount of moral respect in this nation as a medical practitioner, but notice here he is not speaking medically. There's dressed up medical language here. He is speaking morally. He is speaking immorally in announcing that the United States government, under Joe Biden, will revoke what is known as the Mexico City policy. The pro-abortion movement calls it the global gag rule. That's a policy that was put in place by President Reagan. It has been put in place by every Republican administration since then. It has been revoked by every Democratic administration since then. It's a rule that doesn't allow any NGO or non-governmental organization that receives American funds internationally to promote or to conduct abortion.
President Biden said the Mexico City policy is gone. He also pledged in the campaign the Hyde Amendment that prevents American taxpayers of being coerced to pay for abortion. He says it will also go. You can see where this administration is headed. Frankly, you can see where this administration already is. You can also see where someone like Dr. Anthony Fauci is when it comes to the moral issue of abortion disguised as a medical issue.
Over the course of the last several days, on the day of the inauguration and since then, I've spoken on the briefing to the fact that president Biden, in his inaugural address, used some form of the word unity, or unify, more than 10 times. The national media and so many in the political class have jumped on the bandwagon to declare that he is the great uniter. But when it comes to the issue of abortion, he has not, in any sense, tried to move the nation to something he might even present as the center. Instead, he has moved to a radical pro-abortion position. What he did, on his first day in office, was to reverse, by executive order, some of the pro-life policies of the Trump administration, and to do so in open fulfillment of the political promises he had made in the course of the campaign. Just to state the matter, as clearly as I know, that is not unity. That is not a demonstration of, what some editorialists have said, the center holds. There is no center here.
Liberal Catholicism in the White House? What Is the Connection Between Liberal Theology and Liberal Political Views?
Last week on The Briefing, I also discussed the fact that the Biden inauguration, the events connected with the inauguration, and President Biden, himself, have largely represented a resurgence or at least a claimed resurgence of religious liberalism. Interestingly, yesterday's edition of the New York times had two major articles to this effect, one by Elizabeth Diaz entitled, "Liberal Christianity Ascends with Biden's Faith." But as this article makes very clear, Joe Biden's religion, even though he identifies himself over and over again as a devout Catholic, it is an absolute contradiction to one of the most fundamental and enduring teachings of the Roman Catholic church, which is the sanctity of human life and the evil of abortion.
I mentioned last week on The Briefing that the president of the US Council of Catholic Bishops actually issued a statement the very day of the Catholic president's inauguration. Remember the second Catholic president of the United States. 60 years earlier, John F. Kennedy became the first. The president of the Bishop's Council actually released a statement stating that the incoming Catholic president of the United States was going to push a moral evil when it came to the question of abortion, and the Bishop's Council president didn't stop just with the issue of abortion. The Diaz article in the New York Times, by the way, points to a certain incongruity here, in that the Democratic party's new president, the second Catholic president of the United States, takes office even as, Diaz indicates, "fewer registered Democrats identify as Christian. Nearly half are religiously unaffiliated or believers of other faiths, a share that has grown significantly in recent years, according to the Pew Research Center. About 80% of registered Republicans are Christian."
There you see the fact that the religiously devout, that's his own characterization of himself, Catholic president, Joe Biden, who denies the Catholic church's teaching on abortion nearly in toto. He represents a religious liberalism that actually doesn't very well represent his party, which is increasingly liberal decreasingly religious. The other article in the New York Times is by a columnist, Ross Douthat, himself a Roman Catholic and a very insightful analyst of the Roman Catholic Church. Douthat speaks of the term "religious liberal." He says it can mean two different things: "On the one hand, a theological liberalism, which seeks an evolution in doctrine to adapt to modern needs; on the other, support for policies and parties of the center-left. In practice, though, the two tend to be conjoined: The American Catholic Church as an institution is caught between the two political coalitions, but most prominent Catholic Democrats are liberals in theology and politics alike."
Now, that's exactly what I've been talking about on The Briefing for years now. We've gone back to it just in recent days. It is not an accident that religious liberals turn out, in the main, to be political liberals, and religious conservatives turn out, in the main, to be political conservatives. In coming days, on The Briefing, I'm going to explain that the key issue there is not merely a disposition or some character or personality. It is the question of authority, a huge question to which we will return in coming days and weeks on The Briefing.
Let me also say that in coming days, on The Briefing, we're going to be looking at some of the most interesting, complex, and pressing issues on the question of justice. They're also in the headlines and also very much associated with promises or pledges of the Biden administration. They have to do with questions such as whether or not it's just to forgive student loans. If so, which loans, how many, how much, whose loans. Huge questions. Should you freeze rent in the time of the pandemic? What exactly are the moral issues connected with that? What about when the pandemic's over? What about admission to elite colleges and universities, there are suggestions that it should be done by lottery, but would that be fair? Would that be just? Would that, frankly, allow elite institutions to remain elite? You can count on the fact that if they do anything, they're going to protect that elite status.
There's a lot for us to think about, and Christians need to think about the thinking. We need to think about how we take these issues apart, how we think in biblical terms, how we look at the evidence and try to think in a way that is genuinely biblical, genuinely Christian, genuinely thoughtful. We'll be thinking through together in coming days.
But for today, thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.