The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

It’s Tuesday, June 1st 2021.

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

Part I

The Culture of Death Scores Again: Biden Administration Removes Hyde Amendment from Proposed Federal Budget

It happened and it happened just as the United States was going into the Memorial Day weekend. The president of the United States through his administration released its proposed 2022 budget. And the big news, especially for those who care about the sanctity of human life is not what is in the budget but what is not. What is not in this budget is the Hyde Amendment. And that is a very, very big story, it’s a very, very ominous story. We’re talking about one of the most significant limitations upon the coercion of American taxpayers into paying for abortion. We’re talking about one of the central goals of the pro-abortion movement being realized, and we’re talking about the man who is behind it, the president of the United States being someone who for nearly 30 years in the United States Senate was a champion of what he has just unilaterally deleted from this budget proposal.

Will this mean the absolute end of the Hyde Amendment? Will this mean that American taxpayers are going to be coerced into paying for abortion effectively with their tax money? Well, time will tell. And there are reasons to believe that this isn’t the end of the story but it is a very big story and the moral responsibility falls directly upon the president of the United States and those who put him in office knowing of this intention. Behind this are two very interesting and important stories. The first is the history of the Hyde Amendment. This takes us back to the year 1976, that’s just three years after the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its infamous Roe V. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand in all 50 states. That caught the nation by surprise, don’t forget that. And never forget the fact that it was done by judicial Fiat it was not done by legislative action. The Congress of the United States did not and has not adopted any such legislation that would be tantamount to Roe.

All the howling you hear in Washington DC and amongst the pro-abortionists about the danger as they see it to the fall of Roe V. Wade remember that they got by a court decision by just seven votes on the Supreme Court of the United States what they could not possibly get then nor now through national legislation. But let’s go back. 1976, three years after Roe V. Wade, pro-life forces in the United States Senate, but it’s not just pro-life forces in the Senate, it also included pro-life forces in the House, there was the realization, even amongst those who were not consistently pro-life, that it was wrong to use taxpayer money confiscated by taxation from citizens to pay for abortions through Medicare. A bi-partisan consensus was achieved in Congress that this ought not to happen, that there ought to be some provision whereby even if abortion were going to be available, taxpayers would not be forced to violate conscience by paying for it.

This bipartisan consensus eventuated in what is known as the Hyde Amendment. It was first enacted in 1976, it didn’t take effect until the budget year 1980. The reason for that was that pro-abortion forces went to court trying to block the Hyde Amendment. It is named for the late Republican Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois who was the original sponsor of the amendment. It’s an amendment to a spending authorization and has been renewed every time there has been an additional budget spending act on the part of Congress.

There have been those on the left who have opposed it from the beginning, but it wasn’t until the year 2016 that under the leadership of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who became the Democratic nominee for president, the Democratic party officially changed its platform to oppose the Hyde Amendment. That was a major turning point in American history and morality. For the first time you had a major political party declaring that it would intend to coerce taxpayers into paying for abortion through federal government spending. Hillary Clinton was not elected president of the United States, Donald Trump supported the Hyde Amendment.

And then this takes us to the second big story, and that’s not just about the change in the American cultural constitutional and moral landscape having to do with abortion, but having to do with Joe Biden. Go back to the fact that for about 30 years Joe Biden in the United States Senate was a staunch supporter of the Hyde Amendment, and he was so until 2019. But let’s not jump there yet, let’s go back to those years that Joe Biden was in the Senate. He actually in the Senate as a Democrat offered support for legislation that at one point would have allowed the states basically to reverse Roe V. Wade. You don’t hear today’s Joe Biden talking about that Joe Biden. And when it comes to the Hyde Amendment, that Joe Biden was not just for the Hyde Amendment, he was consistently for it and he bragged about being for it. He pointed to it as a representation of bipartisan agreement, and he argued that it would be morally wrong to coerce the American taxpayer into paying for abortion.

Even then however, you saw hints of the Joe Biden that was to come with the fact that he began making the distinction between his personal religious beliefs and what he would bring forth and support in terms of legislation and policy for the nation. That’s a fatal distinction but nonetheless it is one that is quite necessary. If you’re going to run as a representative of the Democratic party and present yourself, as this president and his administration endlessly repeats as a “devout Catholic.” Back in 2019 when Joe Biden was running quite aggressively for the Democratic nomination, he found himself having to run to the left. Of course, he did so. He eventually won the Democratic nomination, and then he won the White House.

But NBC News, looking at Joe Biden then, that’s 2019, not exactly ancient history, pointed to what it described as Biden’s long evolution on abortion rights. But the headline said it still holds surprises. But there is no justification for acting surprised by the fact that the president dropped the Hyde Amendment, deleted it from the budget proposal that came out just in recent days. That’s because back in 2019, Biden almost instantaneously did a political U-turn on the Hyde Amendment. And there’s a story behind that as well. Back as he was seeking the Democratic nomination, it became clear that the liberal direction of his party, nearly now evacuated of any kind of pro-life support, meant that any restriction on abortion was going to be intolerable. And in this case, the logic of the culture of death and the logic of the pro-abortion movement is that in order for the situation of abortion to be fair, everyone must have equal access to abortion, and that means equal ability to pay for it.

Now, just put in a footnote here, notice the absolutely vacuity in moral terms of that argument because it is not extended to anything else. There is no other right where people say, “Well, the ability to say own a gun means that everyone to have equal access must have the equal ability to own a gun.” You don’t hear that argument. And speaking of the use of the word evolution, we see that over and over again, and you’ll notice that evolution always means political movement to the left, it was discussed especially in the Obama years about then president Obama’s evolution along with many of his political colleagues on the issue of LGBTQ rights or same-sex marriage. You saw the same language about the Clinton family in the evolution of Bill and Hillary Clinton on LGBTQ issues. But now you see that language used about Joe Biden on abortion.

And what’s very interesting is the spokespersons for the Biden campaign even use the word themselves when speaking about the shifting sands of Biden’s position on an issue of moral importance like abortion. For example, you had back then press secretary, Jamal Brown during the campaign who said that Biden’s evolution on the issue is well documented. But I said the U turn on the Hyde Amendment was almost instantaneous, I guess not technically so because it didn’t happen in just an instant. But in political terms, it was faster than instantaneous. How about this for a headline, it’s from the addition June 7, 2019 of the New York Times, here’s the headline, “Joe Biden Denounces Hyde Amendment Reversing his Position.” Now again notice the difference between evolving and reversing. When it came to the Hyde Amendment, they couldn’t even with a straight face say that it was an evolution, this was an outright reversal of his previous policy.

How did it take place? And what long agonizing process are we told Joe Biden went through? Well nothing long, nothing agonizing. Here’s the opening of the story in the New York Times, “After two days of intense criticism, Joseph R. Biden Jr. reversed himself on the issue of abortion, one of the issues most important to Democratic voters, saying he no longer supports a measure that bans federal funding for most abortions.” You heard that right, after two days of intense criticism.

This is a man who’s been in politics, electoral politics now for virtually his entire adult life. He has held to a position that he said he held in principle for 30 years only to reverse it when political expediency demanded it after an agonizing two days of intense controversy. By the way, in trying to justify his U-turn on the issue, the then former vice-president said, “If I believe healthcare is a right as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s zip code.” He claimed that the situation had changed but in the terms of this issue, it actually had not changed at all. All that changed was Joe Biden’s position on the issue.

The Hyde Amendment was simply not included in the proposed budget the Biden administration released in recent days. And there had been a lot of anticipation about this budget precisely over this issue. Of course, there are other headline news dimensions of the budget, but in pro-life terms, this is absolutely massive. What we’re looking at is a presidential administration now proposing a budget which explicitly does not include the Hyde Amendment. What that means is that American taxpayers, if this budget were to go through as proposed, would be in the position of paying for abortions with money confiscated in forced taxation. The moral issues here are absolutely huge and it’s not just an issue of coercing conscience and the federal funding, it’s also an issue in terms of the number of abortions. Because the abortions rights movement is very clear about the fact that it is confident that a large number of abortions do not take place because of the Hyde Amendment. That if there were such funding, more women would obtain more abortions.

By most estimations, the Hyde Amendment entirely alone has saved something like 2 million unborn lives. You take it away and the government of the United States becomes a giant taxation funded entity a part of the abortion industry. It’s important to recognize that the president of the United States does not establish the budget nor even the budgetary authority of the United States, that responsibility is assigned by the constitution to Congress. But presidents through their administrations offer budget proposals that are then sent to Congress. Congress must then dispose with the proposal and come up with its own budget.

Now, will the Hyde Amendment survive that process? Time will tell. There are those on the Democratic left who absolutely insist that there will be no federal budget that includes a Hyde Amendment. On the other hand, even as the Democrats hold a majority in the house, a small majority, and an almost razor thin majority in the Senate, the reality is that there are enough Democrats in both the house and the Senate in critical swing districts that it’s going to be difficult for them to go back and seek votes at home if they vote for the removal of the Hyde Amendment. This is a situation where we’re going to see not only a distinction between the Democrats and the Republicans, we’re going to see some very interesting distinctions within the Democratic party. But that doesn’t mean that there’s any strong pro-life support at all within the Democratic party.

It’s worth noting that the group known as the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, which has long been bi-partisan, including both a Republican and a Democratic chairperson now doesn’t have a Democratic chairperson. There is no Democrat who wants to sit in that role. That tells you about the evolution of the Democratic Party on the issue of abortion. There is no major pro-life Democrat now existing in the national level, period.

Part II

There’s No Removing the Stigma Surrounding Abortion, No Matter How Much Abortion Activists Try. . . And President Biden Knows It (That’s Why He Hasn’t Used the Word Since Entering the White House)

Next we need to note a related story, and this has to do with the fact that so many in the pro-abortion movement are explicitly saying that their ambition is to remove the moral stigma from abortion. Now, this isn’t unrelated to the removal of the Hyde Amendment because some on the pro-abortion side argue that the fact that federal funding does not include abortion must imply that there’s something wrong with abortion. The fact that the Hyde Amendment spoke of conscience means that conscience must be uniquely invoked on the question of abortion. This is where Christians understanding the sanctity of human life understand that that is emphatically so. We are arguing that conscience is here indicating this is a major moral issue. It is the targeted intentional destruction of unborn human life in the womb.

But the pro-abortion movement doesn’t ever want to consider the identity or even the existence of the unborn child. It is all about what they want to characterize as a woman’s personal autonomy, her right to choose, and her right to reproductive health. That’s why they call it including emphatically abortion. But you’ll notice that in the calls to remove the Hyde Amendment was the suggestion that removing it, making taxpayers pay for it, treating it as routine federal spending would remove the stigma. Here’s what Christians know, nothing like that is ever going to remove the stigma. This has to do with the sinfulness of sin, what the Puritans called the intrinsic sinfulness of sin it still brings the stigma. Even using the word brings the stigma, you can’t say the word abortion without implying the stigma. Even the abortion rights industry understands that, that’s why they’re trying to rename themselves about something like reproductive choice.

But there’s another very important moral signal that has been sent by words that have not been used. And in this case, the word has not been used by the president of the United States nor by his administration. Joe Biden as president has rescinded the Mexico City Policy, that means spending taxpayer money to support abortion on the international level. It has taken every action it can to make itself the most pro-abortion administration in American history. And of course that now includes the elimination of Hyde Amendment and its proposal. But there’s one thing that the Biden administration won’t do, there is one thing that President Joe Biden will not do, he has not done it and it has frustrated the abortion rights movement and people in his party to consternation.

Here’s what the president won’t do, he will not use the word abortion. He has not uttered the word abortion since he was elected president of the United States. Certainly since he took office, he has not used the word and neither has his White House spokesperson. The word hasn’t been spoken in an official statement from the White House, it certainly has not been spoken by the president. So you have an article in the New York Times dated May the 27th with the headline, “Biden’s Silence on Abortion Rights at a Key Moment Worries Liberals.” The article in the Times states, “Despite the urgency felt by much of his party, President Biden has said little about abortion publicly while in office. In fact, he hasn’t said the word itself, an avoidance so noticeable that one advocacy group has started a website tracking his reluctance,” No, I’m not making this up. The article continues, “Many activists fear that Mr. Biden’s personal discomfort with the issue is keeping him from leading the Democratic party into a more aggressive position on abortion rights, both through more aggressive policymaking and leveraging the agenda setting power of the presidency.”

Now, notice this administration is by any measure the most pro-abortion administration in American history and it’s not nearly pro-abortion enough for the abortion rights industry and its movement. They want the president, by the way, to say the word out loud. But here’s what pro-life Americans need to recognize, there is something very significant to be sure about this story. If the president of the United States, even as pro-abortion a president as Joe Biden, even as he’s removed the Hyde Amendment from the federal budget proposal, if he will not use the word abortion, is because he knows something is inherently immoral about it. But whether he uses the word or not, his administration is the most immoral in US history in this regard by his support for abortion. And now made very clear with his proposed elimination of the Hyde Amendment.

Part III

Totalitarian Ideology Combined with Lifestyle Liberalism — What’s Behind the New “Three Child” Policy in China

But next, another big story of moral and worldview significance was announced yesterday by the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. And thus an official statement from China. As the New York Times also reported in this case, “China said on Monday that it would allow all married couples to have three children ending a two child policy that had failed to raise the country’s declining birth rates and avert a demographic crisis.” The next statement, “The announcement by the ruling Communist Party represents an acknowledgement that it’s limits on reproduction, the world’s toughest, have jeopardized the country’s future, the labor pool is shrinking, and the population is graying threatening the industrial strategy that China has used for decades to emerge from poverty to become an economic powerhouse.”

What’s the history here? The history takes us back to the 1970s. During the 1970s, China was experiencing what appeared to be an exploding population. At the same time, there were movements in the West out of great fear that there was a population explosion. Now, we should note that this came from a very secular worldview and from a very liberal fringe but it quickly gained credibility in the public, and especially when it came to the leadership of the elites. Major foundations, major universities, major nonprofit and non-governmental organizations, but it spread to government organizations very quickly. Including in the international scene organizations such as the United Nations and of course the aggressive foreign policy of the United States on this issue. Let’s cut to the quick, the United States government was among those organizations that put leverage on the government of China to do something about its exploding population.

Now, of course in the West there could be no kind of coercive measures used, but in the situation of communist China, it was the opposite. And in 1980, the Communist Party put into effect an absolute limit of one child per married couple. It was enforced by law, the sanctions were severe if there were more than one child, and furthermore the government went to the extreme of forced abortions, forced sterilizations, and an untold number, incalculable of infanticide, the killing even of children that had been born. You also had the phenomenon of children hidden from the government. There were parents, there were families who had more than one child and they had to hide the second child from public view. Many of them never allowed to come out of the house less the family be discovered and the legal sanctions invoked, which could include the lack of the ability to hold a job, forbidden access to markets and to buy goods, including food, all kinds of social impacts. And furthermore, it was considered a criminal act.

Now, as you’re looking at China, you need to recognize, and Christians understand why this is so, the great threat to a society is not having too many babies but too few. A declining birth rate now marks many countries including countries in the West. But in China, you had a decision taken just five years ago by the Chinese Communist Party in recognition of the great danger of a falling birth rate, there simply wouldn’t be enough babies, there wouldn’t be enough workers in the future, that China decided to change its one child policy to two. But that did not bring about any significant increase in birth rate. So now the Chinese Communist Party has decided the magic number is three. But it’s also unlikely to have much effect the reasons for this are many. But at least some of the reasons are that China now has put couples in the habit of not having children rather than having them.

China has now deployed its adult workforce in such a way that it will be very difficult for many couples to have any children, not to mention more than one or two or even three. But the other situation is something that’s not unique to China, but China now faces the problem in a uniquely bad way. And that is the fact that it’s far easier to tell people to have fewer babies with effect than to have more. It turns out that societies that have moved to trying to reduce population growth have been very, very frustrated trying to reverse the process. I think Christians would understand why.

But on today’s edition of The Briefing, I want to mention five issues that are behind this, especially in China, but with moral significance for the United States and for the West as well. Number one, we’re looking at the impact of Marxism. By the theory of Karl Marx, human beings we’re reduced to economic units. Now, he wouldn’t have said that, he said that his entire philosophy was to do the opposite. But in effect, it turned human beings into economic agents, the role of the family was denied. Marx said that one of his ambitions was the elimination of the family, of marriage, and especially of the family unit.

But secondly, you have the very nature of totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is a form of government whereby the regime has control of everything. Now, as I often say, that’s the total in totalitarian. But you need to recognize that this means the elimination of a private sphere. Now, in the West, it’s a very different situation, the old English common law principle that a man’s house is his castle, there’s nothing like that in a totalitarian regime. The understanding of a zone of privacy and the privacy for instance of marriage and the family, that is denied outright in totalitarian societies. In communist China under the rule of the Communist Party, the party would decide how many children you will have, the party will intrude into what should be private territory. And once the party intrudes, you will note it never reverses course. You’ll notice that the party here didn’t say, “Oh, it was a horrible thing that we ever thought that we were competent to make these decisions.” The party never said we made a mistake, the party simply said, “Our official policy was one, then two, now three. It’s our policy now go and behave.”

But the third, fourth, and fifth issues have to do with what impacts the West and the United States as well. The third is lifestyle liberalism. Lifestyle liberalism is a change in the culture whereby individuals begin to redefine their lifestyle as having moral priority over other issues, and that includes, for instance, having children and raising children, that becomes a conflict with lifestyle. You see that now on the part of many Chinese people interviewed by the media who say, “I really don’t care what the Chinese Communist Party says about having children. They’re encouraging us to have three rather than two or one, but the reality is my lifestyle is now incompatible with having children.” You actually have several people interviewed who said, “I’m too selfish to have children.” An amazingly candid statement.

The third issue is lifestyle liberalism, that infects the West as well. The fourth is a hard anti-natalism, that is a hard policy against babies. And you see this in many places. It’s not just the one child only policy or one or two or three child policy of the Chinese government, it is also the fact that many policies put in place by national governments represent an intentional effort in the past, at least, to try to limit population growth. That hard anti-natalism leaves a result. You see it in zoning laws, you see it in opposition to schools and parks, you see it in many other ways as well.

But there is also fifth, a soft anti-natalism. This is just a shift in a society from looking at babies as incredibly infinitely valuable gifts, each one of them made in God’s image given to society, to being additional costs and lifestyle encumbrances. This means that you really can’t talk even about something like Mother’s Day the way we used to because after all that would seem to privilege motherhood. You can’t really talk about parenthood as an expectation because that’s oppressive. It’s not just a hard anti-natalism that is a problem, it might actually be that a soft more cultural anti-natalism might be more effective in eliminating babies from the picture.

It’s important for Christians to understand where the worldview of anti-natalism comes from, where the worldview against babies, against families, against large families, and against having more children, where that worldview comes from. We also need to recognize that it is in direct conflict and contradiction with the Christian biblical worldview, that actually, let’s just remind ourselves, starts out with be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. How’s that for just three fronts indicating the massive worldview conflict of our age just over a single weekend? Stay tuned.

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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