The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, April 19, 2021

It’s Monday, April 19, 2021.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Abortion Rights Means Abortion for Any Reason: A Horrifyingly Honest Argument from the Editorial Board of The Los Angeles Times

One of the truths we need to confront is the fact that sometimes we’re not actually looking at an honest argument. Now, what we are looking for in making the decision about whether an argument is honest or dishonest is whether or not the people who are making the case for, say, position A or policy B are telling us the truth about what they actually believe and what they are actually intending by that argument or that policy.

We’re talking about abortion here. And we’re talking about finally getting a very honest argument. In this case, an honest argument from the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times. So, let me warn you. It is honest, and it is horrifying. The headline of the editorial that ran in the paper, it was released on April the 16th, is this: “The right to an abortion means the right to have it for any reason.” Again, there we have it, the quintessential argument. Finally, we have a straightforward argument in which those who are supporting abortion rights in this country as they define them are telling us exactly what they intend.

They intend for abortion to be available for any reason, or for no reason. They also intend–it’s not what’s covered in this editorial, but it is in others–they also intend to coerce the American taxpayer to pay for it. They also intend, and this is also fully evident in other statements, they fully intend for the American government to be so much an advocate for abortion or what’s often phrased reproductive choice or reproductive health, that we will make such an issue a national and international priority wherever the United States engages anyone around the world.

But before turning to the body of the editorial itself, let’s just remind ourselves that this is an official statement by the editorial board of one of the nation’s most significant newspapers, the Los Angeles Times, and the paper has itself put the headline on its own editorial board statement. This is not something that was imposed on the outside. This is not something that is running at a news site apart from the Los Angeles Times. The Times has headlined this itself. The right to an abortion means the right to have it for any reason. This is what the editorial board said. “A constitutional right to an abortion means a right to have one for any reason. That should also mean a woman can elect to tell her doctor or not why she wants an abortion.”

Now, the focus of this particular editorial is a law that was passed in 2017 by the legislature in the state of Ohio. That law, again, dated back to 2017, said that when a woman tells a doctor that she is seeking an abortion because of a diagnosis of Down Syndrome, the abortion is not to be performed. Now, you’re looking at the fact that a court put a preliminary injunction on that bill that was adopted by the state of Ohio. The judge said there can be no application, there can be no enforcement of that law until the courts have had an opportunity to decide it on its merits of constitutionality.

The reason why this has landed as an editorial at the Los Angeles Times in recent days is because a federal circuit court judge, in this case, Judge Alice M. Batchelder had relieved that stay, that preliminary injunction, and allowed the law that had been adopted in Ohio concerning the protection of Down syndrome babies to continue in force.

Now, remember that the editorial board of the Times tells us that the right to an abortion means the right to have an abortion for any reason, but the editorial board continued. “But that’s not what’s happening in Ohio where the state legislature in 2017 passed a ban on doctors performing abortions when they know the woman is seeking one because her fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or is suspected of having it. The law also made it a felony for doctors to defy the law.” The next sentence, “That measure is just one of hundreds of unjustified restrictions that state legislatures have passed in the last decade to curtail a woman’s right to an abortion right up to the point when a fetus is viable outside a woman’s body, roughly 24 weeks into a pregnancy. The Supreme Court guaranteed that right nearly 50 years ago in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade and has upheld it multiple times since then.”

The editorial board continues, “Any restriction that makes it overly difficult to get an abortion or conflicts with the right to obtain one such as limiting abortion to the first eight to 10 weeks of pregnancy is typically blocked by the courts. And,” said the editorial board, “the recent passel of laws that bar women from having an abortion for certain reasons, for example, to select the child’s gender or to avoid a genetic anomaly like Down syndrome have often been blocked by courts as well.”

Well, the editorial board goes on from there to tell the story about the federal judge lifting the preliminary injunction and the law now going into effect, and thus you have this complaint by the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times that this must be undone, that it is profoundly unjust, that it is profoundly unjust, that it is absolutely wrong to ban abortion for any reason. Now, let’s just understand something here as we’re thinking about this issue. We have to understand that when you are looking at the absolute demand for abortion rights and that’s the way it’s presented, it is as an absolute demand, it has to be a demand for an unconditional right to an abortion.

Now, the Christian worldview tells us that there’s something really important going on here in the structure of the argument. Obviously, there’s something even more fundamental going on here in the threat to human life. Human life in this case, in the womb. We’re talking about a matter of life and death, and we’re talking about the wanton, willful destruction of human beings by the millions in American wombs. But what we see here in this argument is something that should constitute an alarm that goes off in Christian thinking. How does this argument get made in this way, and why is it made in this way?

Well, you might say that, at first glance, this unconditional right to an abortion is important because pro-abortion advocates are demanding a right to abortion for any reason or no reason. Yes, that’s actually a big part of this. But what alarm bells should go off? It would be this. We have to understand that the moment that the society at large or a court ruling on constitutional grounds or just the public comes to the conclusion that there is any reason for an abortion that is not legitimate, then that makes every so-called reason for abortion unstable. That’s what we’re looking at here. You have abortion rights activists who understand that the moment the American people understand that abortion is wrong for any reason, it just might be wrong under all reasons.

This is where Christians have to understand that when we are looking at the issue here, we’re talking about every single human being equally made in the image of God, that that image of God means that human dignity is extended from the moment of fertilization until the moment of natural death. We understand that abortion is never right for any reason. Now, sometimes you will hear for the life of the mother. But when we’re looking at actual cases, that almost never happens. And even then, according to the Christian worldview, any medical procedure that is undertaken even to save the life of a mother, in extremely rare cases must be motivated by, even when it comes to the actual surgical procedure, must be motivated by an effort to save the life of the mother, not to terminate the life of the infant. In other words, that has nothing to do with the issue of abortion as it is currently discussed and controverted, and debated today.

When you are looking at abortion, the moral issue that we confront in this country, you’re looking at the fact that we are facing an unconditional demand for abortion. Now, even as you go back to the 1973, the infamous Supreme Court decision known as Roe v. Wade, it’s cited right here by this editorial board, well, you’re looking at the fact that going back to 1973, even as pro-abortion advocates were making their case for the legalization of abortion, they didn’t go so far as to say that abortion should be available for any reason or for no reason. But we have to understand that was the practical effect of the Roe v. Wade decision.

But there’s something else that’s extremely interesting here, and at least by my observation, no one has noticed it yet. When you look at the language of the Roe v. Wade decision from 1973, and you look at the logic of the cases that were made for abortion then, it’s very interesting that the language that was often used is that the decision for a woman to have an abortion should be a matter of private conversation between the woman and her doctor. In other words, it should be a decision in which the only two significant deciding people are the woman and her doctor. But the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times goes on to say that actually, the doctor should not be a moral agent here other than one that simply fulfills the demand or the wish or the expectation of the woman, period. The only important issue here is that you have a citizen demanding an abortion.

Now, I use the word citizen there because given the realities of what we’re facing now, we are told that it’s not just women that might be seeking an abortion. This is because of the transgender ideology and all of its corruptions and confusions. We are told that it might be a person with a womb seeking an abortion. But the interesting thing at that point is to look at the Roe v. Wade decision and see that it actually refers to a woman, as in female biology. But there’s something else that’s just of deadly consequences we have to face here. The editorial board of Los Angeles Times is saying that it is wrong to try to protect unborn babies that are diagnosed with Down syndrome, by such a law. Why? Because it interferes with what is a greater good than human dignity in the womb, according to this editorial board, which is a woman’s absolute autonomy and what they claim is her constitutional right to destroy the life within her.

But the editorial board doesn’t stop at that. No, the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times goes on to condemn any kind of law restricting abortion that might be a law that seeks to prevent abortion for the cause of gender selection. Now, it’s not as if those issues aren’t confronted by the editorial board. They confront both of them. They directly cite the fact that there are laws seeking to protect the lives of those who would otherwise be targeted by abortion, simply because of their biological sex or because of a diagnosis of Down syndrome. They know exactly what we’re talking about here. That’s what’s so chilling. And yet the editorial board of the LA Times goes on to say that unless you allow abortion even in those circumstances, you really don’t understand the reality of a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

Of lesser importance, but still genuinely important, it’s urgent that we recognize that in this editorial, there is a new normal that is simply assumed. That new normal is that a woman ought to have a right to an abortion at any time under any circumstance for any reason, according to the dictates of Roe v. Wade as if that is the way that society has been ordered from the beginning, or as if the founders of this country intended any such right in the framing of the constitution by the time you look at the late 18th century.

The reality is, of course, the founders had no such notion. The reality is that when you’re looking at legal abortion, you are looking at no nationwide access to legal abortion until the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. But you’ll notice how moral liberalization works. It works because once there is a new position that is declared to be the law of the land or the majority’s reading of the constitution, then at that point, it’s as if nothing ever existed prior to that in all of human history, in all of human wisdom.

In yet another section of the editorial, we read this, that this law in Ohio “certainly doesn’t help people living with Down syndrome who rightly need to be protected against discrimination at school and work.” What in the world is that kind of moral posturing, posturing as if you care about the dignity and rights of people with Down syndrome, but only after they are born and after no woman had her autonomy circumscribed in any way by a law that would have actually protected the life of a baby diagnosed with Down syndrome?

Getting back to their fundamental obsession with choice, the editors cite a dissent from the case concerning the Ohio law. In this case, they approve of the comments made by Judge Bernice Bouie Donald. She said this, “A ban on any particular abortion, it’s just that, a ban. It does not matter that not every abortion is banned, rather it matters that the law bans any woman from choosing an abortion.” Once again, you see the absolutism. It’s an absolutism that says, “There can be no legitimate argument against any abortion, or there is no woman’s right to an abortion.” But here you have something very interesting. At this point, true, authentic, consistent pro-life advocates, and in this case, the advocates of unrestricted right to abortion, agree on one thing. And that is this, that if you are looking at abortion, if it is a categorical right, then it does cover every abortion. But that means, of course, that every single human life in the womb, every single life, regardless of circumstance, is now a tentative life. Every pregnancy is now a tentative pregnancy.

Taken their essence, these two arguments both boil down to absolutes. In the case of the pro-abortion argument, it is the absolute insistence upon a woman’s absolute right to an abortion under absolutely any circumstances because the unborn baby has absolutely no rights and no dignity to be respected at all, absolutely none. Meanwhile, the consistent pro-life position says that every life in the womb bears that dignity. Every life is sacred. And thus, when you are looking at elective abortion, that is a choosing of abortion, an abortion that is represented by the millions of abortions in America that are demanded by a woman who is exercising a choice to choose an abortion, every single one of them is wrong. Every single one of them.

But to bring this segment to a conclusion, we have to understand that what we are looking at here is the undiluted argument staring us right in the face, and it’s not coming from some source that can be simply dismissed as being on the cultural fringe. This isn’t in some mimeographed newspaper by some pro-abortion group that is simply spouting off an argument. No, this is coming from the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times. And that means that again, we understand where we stand, horrifyingly enough, but that’s the reality. It’s a good thing that we know it.

Part II

“Faith Leaders” Join Planned Parenthood’s Clergy Advocacy Board: What Could “Faith” Even Mean When Advocating for the Killing of the Unborn?

But next, another very interesting and related headline. In this case, it comes from Religion News Service. The reporter is Jack Jenkins. The headline is this, “Planned Parenthood announces new clergy advisory board members, many from red states.” Interesting. So, Planned Parenthood, it turns out, has a clergy advisory board. On its own website, it seems to call the group a Clergy Advocacy Board. But again, you pretty much figured that if they are working with Planned Parenthood, they are advocates for Planned Parenthood and advocates for abortion. Jenkins tells us “The Planned Parenthood Federation of America is announcing a new slate of faith leaders for its clergy advisory board who mostly hail from states controlled by Republicans or in the South, a move officials say follows a wave of lawmakers, such as Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock who have worked to ‘proudly champion reproductive rights as a matter of faith.'”

Now, let me just speak as a convictional Christian for a moment. When you see the phrase, people of faith, or when you see something that is labeled as a list of faith leaders, understand that the use of faith as an innocuous statement there should be a pretty clear indication that we’re not talking about conservative, evangelical Christians. The word faith here is intended to be theologically inclusive, and it is in this case for certain. The article tells us that Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America “celebrated the announcement.” She said, “Access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare, including abortion, is supported by people of all faiths. The Clergy Advocacy Board is a crucial part of our mission at Planned Parenthood to promote, protect, and expand access to healthcare for all.”

Again, I’ll simply pause here. Notice abortion. That’s really the issue at stake here, redefined euphemistically as healthcare for all. She went on to say, “Planned Parenthood is proud to have religious leaders of all faiths standing with us in this fight.” Well, here’s something to consider from a Christian worldview perspective. When we see an issue like this emerge, and when you see the language of faith groups or faith leaders, understand that that is a theologically inclusive term, and thus it’s coming generally from a pretty liberal direction.

But also understand that what’s going on there is that when people say, “Look, we have representatives of Judaism and Christianity, of Protestantism and of Catholicism,” understand that there is a great, conservative, liberal, orthodox, heterodox, or heretical divide in every single one of those groups. When you’re talking about Judaism, you’re talking about a faith belief system that spans all the way from Orthodox Judaism to Reform Judaism that doesn’t even require theism or belief in God. And then when you’re looking at Catholicism, similarly, you are looking at a spectrum that goes all the way from very conservative Catholics to extremely liberal Catholics. When you’re looking at Protestants, the very same thing.

But what we’re also looking at here is something that we need to understand historically. The abortion rights movement in America gained a great deal of its initial traction because of the support of liberal religious leaders, Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, pro-abortion leaders that actually gathered together in a group that was later known as the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights or the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. This particular news telling us that there is a new clergy advocacy board tells us that once again, they have found enablers. They have found abortion supporters in liberal religious groups that they are now going to cite as theological and religious cover for their pro-abortion argument.

But it’s also interesting, if predictable, that one of the Clergy Advocacy Board members that’s identified here is Katey Zeh, identified as the leader of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Well, there it is. She made the amazing statement to Religion News Service, “As a clergy person who discovered my call to ministry within a Planned Parenthood, it was a no-brainer.” In another interview, she had said, “I really felt my call to ministry while volunteering at a reproductive health clinic that performed abortion services.”

Well, there’s a lot to deal with here, but it is all of a picture. You’re talking here about a woman who is identified as a Baptist minister. And in this case, you’re looking at the fact that that should tell you, we’re talking about a liberal denomination or at least a liberal Baptist church, in this case, we shall see, extremely liberal. But when she tells us she received what she defines as her call to ministry in a Planned Parenthood when she was actually counseling women seeking an abortion, and she was pro-abortion, that tells you more. But later you begin to find out that not only is Katey Zeh the CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, that’s the current name of that organization that have been made up of liberal religious leaders who contended for abortion rights even before Roe v. Wade, well, you’re looking here at the fact that she is otherwise identified as a member of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, the church that also ordained her.

What does that tell us? Well, Pullen Memorial Church there in Raleigh is indeed, by its own identification, a Baptist church. But it is not a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. It hasn’t been for almost 30 years because, in 1992, the Southern Baptist Convention expelled Pullen Memorial Baptist Church for conducting a same-sex union.

Now, just think about it. That was almost 30 years ago. That church was so liberal that it was notorious throughout virtually most of its history as being on the left-wing of American Protestantism, far outside the fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention. And we need to note, set over against the pro-life consensus of the Christian church that has marked virtually every representation of institutional Christianity throughout the centuries.

The early church was extremely clear about the horrible sin of abortion and abortion as a conflict of the Christian conscience. It turns out all to be of a piece. The woman who’s identified as the pastor of Pullen Memorial is on the church’s website identified as being married to another woman. The church is avidly LGBTQ and avidly pro-choice. It ordained, in this case, a woman who said that her call to ministry originated in a Planned Parenthood. If you were trying to write a fictional satirical account of left-wing religion, you really couldn’t do better than this. I mentioned that divide that runs through so much of world religion, between liberals and conservatives, between those who are heterodox who reject even the theological claims historically made by their own religion, and those who are orthodox, those who hold to those teachings.

Part III

Planned Parenthood Is Distancing Itself from Its Founder in 2021 — Why Has It Taken So Long?

But finally, I want to turn to another headline. This one appeared just over the weekend in The New York Times. In this case, the article’s by Alexis McGill Johnson, the CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. We’re back to Planned Parenthood. What does Alexis McGill Johnson write about this time in The New York Times? The headline is this: “I’m the Head of Planned Parenthood. We’re Done Making Excuses for Our Founder.” We’ve talked often on The Briefing about Margaret Sanger, the infamous founder of the group that became known as Planned Parenthood. And we have mentioned the fact that Margaret Sanger actually promoted something known as eugenics. “Eugenics,” taken back to the Greek roots means “good genes.” It means seeking reproduction from those who are considered to be genetically superior and fewer offspring from those who are deemed to be genetically inferior. You can see exactly why Planned Parenthood is running from Margaret Sanger in 2021.

But the question is, why did it take them this long to separate themselves from Margaret Sanger? Because Planned Parenthood’s connection to eugenics isn’t accidental. It is itself genetic. But as we bring this addition to The Briefing to a close, just consider the fact that this article that appeared just over the weekend in The New York Times is supposed to be telling us that Planned Parenthood is trying now to put moral space between itself and its founder because eugenics is a genuinely horrifying idea in moral terms. Is eugenics genuinely horrifying? Should it be to all biblically-minded Christians horrifying? The answer is yes. It should be.

But here’s where we part company with Planned Parenthood. They evidently think that eugenics is something that belongs under moral censure and is to be a matter of organizational humiliation for Planned Parenthood. But they are apparently not, abundantly not embarrassed about the moral horror of abortion, which is their own obsession. And that’s where you have to understand that you cannot sever the abortion rights movement from the eugenicist roots in which it was born. You are talking about a movement that seeks to limit human reproduction and seeks to target unborn babies. And yes, it has a disproportionate impact when you look at racial and ethnic groups in the United States and elsewhere. And by the way, yes, it has a disproportionate impact when you look at the distinction between unborn boys and unborn girls and the specific strategic targeting of unborn girls.

But that takes us back to where we began in that morally abysmal editorial from the Los Angeles Times that actually opposes any limitation upon acceptable reasons for abortion and explicitly mentions abortion for gender selection as one of the reasons that they reject. And that’s why any culture that finds this acceptable, not to say celebrated, is a culture that deserves rightly to be considered a culture of death.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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