Tuesday, September 7, 2021
It's Tuesday, September 7th, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
One of the Major Moral Decision Points in US History as Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Forces War Over Constitutionality and Public Policy of Laws on Abortion
For the better part of the last half century and more, abortion has been in this country, not just an issue, but in so many contexts, the issue. And we are right now at one of the major decision points, perhaps even one of the major turning points in this country on the issue of the sanctity of human life. But as we shall see today, and we're looking at a number of issues that simply have to be confronted, some of them as fresh as just going into the weekend, we have to understand that conservative Americans and conservative Christians are going to have to face the reality that we are going to have to make hard decisions, stand by very clear convictions, and pay whatever social cost is necessary in order to stand up for the unborn, to defend the defenseless, and to actually hold to a consistent understanding of the sanctity of human life. We'll be talking about why that is so.
But just in order to remind ourselves of where we stand, just over the last week, a Texas law that effectively bans most abortions went into effect. And the Supreme Court of the United States allowed that Texas law to go into effect.
Before going further, let's just understand the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, legalizing abortion nationwide, did not all of the sudden in all 50 states declare that abortion is now legal, where it had been illegal. No, there were some states where abortion was already legal. What Roe v. Wade did was to federalize the issue with the Supreme Court usurping an authority that certainly it should never have presumed to have. And it ordered the legalization of abortion basically on demand in all 50 states. But the United States has been riven on this issue, divided on this issue. And it's not just citizen versus citizen, it really is state versus state. Just to consider two states, for the sake of time, consider New York state and the state of Texas.
In New York State, in recent years, the state has gone so far as to legalize abortion right up until the moment of birth. They're not going to put it in those words, but that's exactly what it has done. Passing a radical abortion rights law that basically denies any personhood whatsoever to the unborn child until the very moment of birth. And as we shall see, that logic won't even hold at birth or beyond.
But in a state like Texas, and Texas isn't alone, there are other states that would certainly be classified with it. The state of Texas has been moving in a more pro-life direction and has been experimenting with what laws will be allowed to stand by the Supreme Court. Now, behind that is an entire argument over constitutionality, how to read the Constitution. The people who represent the state of Texas say, when you look at the Constitution, there is no reference to abortion, of course. Therefore, the Constitution does not grant any such right to abortion.
In the state of New York, it is as if the first and most fundamental right is the right to abortion. And when it comes to the divide between not only say the states of New York and Texas, but between America's two major political parties, you are looking at a divide that is so deep, it is hard to imagine how the United States will be able to move forward without something that amounts to unconditional victory for one side and unconditional defeat for the other. That is just where we stand and honesty demands that we can see the fact.
When I put it that way, I mean that the pro-abortion forces are absolutely adamant that every single state in the union, all 50 states must have basically the same pro-abortion, they would often express it as pro-choice policy and position. That's what is now required by the Roe v. Wade decision. Except for the fact that over the course of the last, say 20 years, but in particular, over the last 10 years, some of the most pro-life states have been moving to adopt legislation that, for example, in a fetal heartbeat bill, makes very clear that even under Roe there are limitations upon a woman's so-called right to an abortion.
And this is the big point. The states have been standing in, again and again, for limitations on abortion in the name of the sanctity of human life and for the defense of that unborn life. And of course, something like a fetal heartbeat bill was just one way of underlining the fact that the fetus is there, the unborn child is there, a human person made in God's image is there and is worthy of our defense, indeed demands our defense. But the pro-abortion forces are an absolute breakdown over the Texas law going into effect. And the president of the United States, Joe Biden, who is now basically the pro-abortion rights champion in chief, on Thursday and Friday, made statements in which he indicated what would be his administration's absolute opposition to the Texas law. On Thursday, he spoke through a White House spokesperson. On Friday, he spoke to the issue himself. The president described the Texas legislation as almost un-American and he went on to call for what he described as a whole of government effort to try to oppose the Texas legislation.
Over the Labor Day weekend, Attorney General Merrick Garland went on to say that the Justice Department would defend what he construed as a woman's right to abortion in the state of Texas, though he did not go on to explain exactly how the Justice Department would accomplish opposition on the ground in Texas to this legislatively adopted and governor-signed law.
But the big point I want to make on The Briefing today is that this is not just another abortion story. This is not just another abortion law in the state of Texas. As a matter of fact, this law in Texas and the public responds to it, and our current cultural moment, indicate we really are at a decision point. We may be at a turning point, way or the other. And you can follow that with the reality that the Supreme Court in the term that will begin just this fall is going to be hearing and considering a basic frontal assault upon the Roe v. Wade decision that comes in the form of a law adopted in the state of Mississippi, defending unborn human life and restricting abortion. All that's to come, but where do we stand right now?
Where we stand right now is that we have to understand something else the president of the United States said in his comments on Friday. The president of the United States, having for decades said that he believes based upon his Roman Catholic convictions. He describes himself and is routinely described as a devout Roman Catholic. The president has stated over and over again throughout his political career, that he personally believes that life begins at conception. And yet on Friday, speaking to the nation, the president of the United States contradicted himself, speaking of his respect for those who believe that life begins at conception, but saying that he does not agree. Now, this is not just a change in position. We're looking at the kind of moment that simply demands our attention. And in order to understand where we stand as a nation, and in order to understand the president of the United States, Joe Biden, we need to take a closer look at something of a timetable of his public position on the issue of abortion since 1972, when he was elected to the United States Senate.
In this specific case of Joe Biden, as president of the United States, we need to understand that there has been a development in his argument and in his positions that tells us a great deal of where we are as a nation. And it's also the case that Joe Biden has been speaking to these issues for almost a half century. He entered the United States Senate after being elected in 1972. This is 2021. You can do the math, but we all need to do the math concerning the question of abortion and Joe Biden. And in order to do that, I have constructed many pages of a timeline. I'm going to summarize some crucial developments in order that we can understand where the president is and what that tells us, not only about Joe Biden, but what it tells us about the country, what it tells us about the Democratic Party, what it tells us about the great worldview divide in the United States.
“I Do Not Want to Impose My Religious Beliefs Upon Others” to Pro-Abortion Rights Champion in Chief: History of Joe Biden’s Abortion Views Tells a Tragic Story — And Here is a Timeline
Let's just follow the timeline.
1972, Joe Biden, identifying himself as a devout Roman Catholic runs for the United States Senate from Delaware. He is elected and he indicates during the campaign that he holds what is basically an anti-abortion or pro-life position. That was 1972.
In 1976, Joe Biden, as a United States senator, votes for the Hyde Amendment. That was the legislation adopted on a bipartisan basis in both the House and the Senate that would prevent the American taxpayer from being compelled to pay for abortion against conscience. Joe Biden would later support the Hyde Amendment for almost 45 years. At so many points, during those four decades and more, bragging about the fact that he had supported the Hyde Amendment from the beginning and indicating his absolute resolve in principle that American taxpayers should not be compelled to pay for abortion when they believe that abortion is a grave moral wrong, he supported the Hyde Amendment in 1976, even when that amendment did not have an exception for rape or incest. And by the way, those exceptions were not put into place until 1983 under the presidency of Bill Clinton.
Now we need to know, jump from 1976 to 2016. You're looking there at the span of 40 years. And those 40 years, what happened?
Well, the Democratic Party in the year 2016 with its national nominee being Hillary Clinton, running for president, changed its platform to call for the elimination of the Hyde Amendment. That's 2016. As we shall see, just three years later, Joe Biden would announce he had done a U-turn on the Hyde Amendment himself, but here's the point. In 1976, he supported the Hyde Amendment even in its original form. And he would do so for 45 years.
In 1977, Joe Biden, the senator, voted against allowing Medicaid to fund abortions in the event of rape or incest.
In 1981, Joe Biden went so far as to vote for a constitutional amendment process that would have allowed the states to overturn Roe v. Wade. That's 1981. He would describe that vote as, "The single most difficult vote I've cast as a US senator." In that very same year, 1981, he reaffirmed opposition to federal funding in the case, even of rape or incest. NPR News reported that Biden "was one of just two Democratic senators from the Northeast, the other being George Mitchell of Maine, to vote to end federal funding for abortion for victims of rape and incest." That was 1981.
In 1982, Joe Biden cast a vote against the very constitutional amendment he had voted for the previous year. So that's a span of just one year, a crucial change. He was for the constitutional amendment that would've allowed states to overturn Roe v. Wade in 1981, he was against it in 1982.
In 1983, as senator, Joe Biden voted against allowing federal employees to use health insurance to pay for abortions.
In 1986, he told the Catholic Diocese Newspaper, "Abortion is wrong from the moment of conception." NBC news also reported that he had "seemed to offer the National Conference of Catholic Bishops moral support in pushing for limits, noting that the most effective pro-life groups are those who keep trying to push back the frontier". Speaking of that frontier, then Senator Biden in 1986 said, "I think medical science is moving the frontier back so that by the year 2000, we're going to have more and more pressure. And rightfully so in my view, of moving back further and further the circumstances under which an abortion can be had." Again, he seems to be saying to the National Council of Bishops, that's the Roman Catholic bishops, that he is all for them and with them in the defense of unborn human life, even basically offering them advice.
In 1994, Biden wrote a letter to his own constituents, and this came in the context of debate over the Clinton administration's healthcare proposals. He bragged that on no fewer than 50 occasions, those are his words, he had voted against federal funding of abortion. On no less than 50 occasions, he said in 1994. He went on to say, as a matter of principle, "Those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them." Now, again, that's us language. "Those of us who are opposed to abortions should not be compelled to pay for them." That was 1994.
In the year 2006, Joe Biden was still in the United States Senate, and he had said to CNN that he was the odd man out among Democrats on the issue of abortion. He explained that he did support bans on abortion later in pregnancy, and he did support a ban on federal funding of abortion. "I do not vote for federal funding for abortion." He went on to describe his predicament. "I voted against partial birth abortion to limit it, and I vote for no restrictions on a woman's right to be able to have an abortion under Roe v. Wade. Great. And so I am, I made everybody angry. I made the right to make people angry because I won't support a constitutional amendment or limitations on a woman's right to exercise their constitutional right as defined by Roe v. Wade. And I've made the women's groups and others very angry because I won't support public funding and I won't support partial birth." Again, a rather significant rather long, if rather confused statement, but that was 2006.
In 2007, he published what became a New York Times bestselling book. It was in preparation for his anticipated run for the Democratic nomination in 2008. The book was entitled Promises to Keep. In that book, he described himself as personally opposed to abortion. He described his position as middle of the road. He also stated, "I refuse to impose my beliefs on other people." Now, there's background to that statement, and it's a particularly Catholic background. It is because liberal Catholic politicians have been negotiating with liberal Catholic theologians to come up with an answer as to how they might hold personally to the Catholic church's teaching on the issue of the sanctity of life, while at the same time supporting abortion in public policy. This was the line they came up with, you'll hear it over and over again. I will not impose, or I do not want to impose my religious beliefs upon others. In this case, he identifies his religious belief very clearly as the sanctity of life going so far as we have seen as to describe life and its sacredness beginning at the moment of conception.
In a way that should have been embarrassing, Biden presents himself in this autobiography as a profile in courage, claiming that he stands for intellectual consistency above political expediency. That's a hard argument for him to keep given his own changing positions on this issue, but more on that in a moment.
Back in that 2007 book, Promises to Keep, Biden said that he had responded to Abraham Ribicoff, another United States senator, on the question of abortion. "Well, my position is that I personally am opposed to abortion, but I don't think I have the right to impose my view on something I accept as a matter of faith on the rest of society. I've thought a lot about it," said Biden, "and my position probably doesn't please anyone. I think the government should stay out completely."
Now, Senator Ribicoff responded to that statement by basically indicating that it was nonsensical. Biden picks up on it and says, "Well, I will not vote to overturn the court's decision." That means Roe v. Wade. "I will not vote to curtail a woman's right to choose abortion, but I will also not vote to use federal funds to fund abortion." Well, the senior senator supposedly said to Biden, "That's a tough position kid." And Biden supposedly said on the Senate escalator, "Yeah, everybody will be upset with me. I told him 'except me', but I'm intellectually and morally comfortable with my position." Again, later in the same paragraph, he describes it as a middle of the road position and Biden also said this: "I've made life difficult for myself by putting intellectual consistency and personal principles above expediency. I'm perfectly able to take the politically expedient way on issues that don't seem fundamental, especially when a colleague I trust needs help, but by and large, I follow my own nose and I make no apologies for being difficult to pigeonhole."
Now, again, he claims to be a paragon of intellectual consistency rather than political expediency. Well, just hold onto that for a moment.
In 2008, this is so crucial. That is just a matter of say, 13 years ago, Joe Biden said, "I'm prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception." Now let's just pause for a moment and understand how important that question is. As evangelical Christians, let's consider for a moment how central that question is. You're going to have to answer the question one way or the other as to when human life begins or when it begins to be sacred or when something that is prehuman begins to become human. You're going to have to answer that question. The only right question, the only consistent question given the revelation of God in Scripture and in creation is the moment of fertilization, often referred to as the moment of conception.
The thing we need to understand is that in 2008, Joe Biden indicated his absolute agreement with that, "I'm prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception." But here's where evangelical Christians need to look at that sentence and understand if we use those words, those words well means something different then when Joe Biden as a Roman Catholic uses those words. Now, how can that be so? Well, it has to do with what he says: "I'm prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception." In other words, he says, "I'm not stating that as a matter of objective truth or of ontological truth in being. I'm not saying that I'm going to stick my life on the fact that it's true. I'm saying that I accept the fact that the Roman Catholic church teaches that to be true. So I accept it as a matter of faith."
“When Does Human Life Begin?”: Our Answer to That Fundamental and Unavoidable Question Will Determine Our Policy, Our Politics, and Most Importantly, Our Moral Principles
A key issue we need to confront is that in the year 2015.... So here, we're just looking at say six years ago, just six years ago, Joe Biden, who was then vice president of the United States, gave an interview to America magazine. That's a prominent American Catholic periodical. The interview took place September 17, 2015, at the vice president's office in Washington, D.C. The interviewer was Matt Malone, a Jesuit, president and editor-in-chief of American Media.
In that interview, Malone raised the issue of abortion, and he spoke about specific public policies, "Where you've had to take positions that were at odds with the bishops of this country on contentious questions like abortion." Malone asks, "Has that been hard for you?"
Joe Biden responded, "It has been, it's been hard in one sense because I'm prepared to accept de fide doctrine on a whole range of issues as a Catholic, even though, as you know, Aquinas argued about in his Summa Theologica, about human life and being when it occurs. I'm prepared to accept as a matter of faith, my wife and I, my family, the issue of abortion, but what I'm not prepared to do is to impose a precise view that is born out of my faith on other people who are equally God-fearing, equally as committed to life, equally as committed to the sanctity of life. I'm prepared," said Biden, in this 2015 interview. "I'm prepared to accept that at the moment of conception there's human life and being, but I'm not prepared to say that to other God-fearing, non-God-fearing people that have a different view." Now that's quintessential Joe Biden, say, "I'm not going to argue with other God-fearing people. For that matter, non-God-fearing people." As if they're Americans who would just come out and say, "Put me in the non-God-fearing category." Well come to think of it. There probably are some.
But the point is that even if we take Joe Biden at his word in 2015, he says that he accepts de fide doctrine of his church. And by the way, that's, again, a technical definition. Is a de fide teaching? It is a point on which disagreement with the church is not just disagreement. It is heresy. It is heresy tantamount to excommunication. By the illogic, of course, in all this is saying, "No, I believe based upon theological reasoning." Or for Joe Biden, the Catholic to say, "I believe in the de fide teaching of my church that life begins at conception, that the unborn human life is indeed a human person, and that that's a human person with sacredness of life, but I'm not going to use public policy to defend that sacred human person." Things move very quickly at this point. That was 2015.
In 2019 on June 6, just a day after the previous day, affirming his support for the Hyde Amendment, Joe Biden as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, all of a sudden announced he had changed his position, that he now opposes Hyde. Candidate Biden then 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." In other words, even as Joe Biden talks about how he resists political expediency and stands for intellectual consistency, in this case, he did a 180-degree turn in a matter of 24 hours for no reason other than blatant political expediency, because he wasn't going to be allowed within a hundred yards of the Democratic presidential nomination, unless he avidly, aggressively, assertively opposed the Hyde Amendment, which he had been supporting for 45 years and had bragged about voting for Hyde in similar measures no less than 50 times. And he said that almost 20 years ago, but he made that turn in 24 hours.
On June 5, 2019, he was proudly for the Hyde Amendment. On June 6, 2019, he acted as if it had never happened, but he also said that he wasn't going to apologize for his former position. Just move on. And the way political expediency works, his party was ready to just move on. For the sake of politics, his party understood it needed to, it needed to move on. And it moved on in 2020 to Joe Biden being elected president of the United States on an aggressively pro-abortion platform. And then in 2021 upon taking office, he has issued a series of executive orders and a pro-abortion position striking down the Mexico City policy that limited American funds to be used for abortion or abortion advocacy overseas, reinstating Title X funding to planned parenthood, seeking to repeal the Hyde Amendment, announcing support for federal legislation to replace Roe, and siding with those who affirm abortion at taxpayer expense, all the way to birth. That's not the way he would put it, but in functional terms, that's where he stands. His presidential appointments at the cabinet, to the judiciary, and throughout have been avidly pro-abortion.
And then on September 3rd, just days ago, after the Texas law went into effect, the president said, and this is a change not only in his policy, but it is a rejection of what he had claimed as his personal religious conviction. "I respect those who believe life begins at the moment of conception. I respect that. Don't agree, but I respect that." Well, he had said that he did believe that life begins at conception, over and over again, and it was not just a series of anecdotal statements. It was a series of statements in which he agreed with, stated his agreement with the de fide declarations of his own church concerning the sanctity of human life and the fact that human life begins at conception. But that was then, this is now.
I spent this much time with something of meticulous attention going through the timeline of Joe Biden on the issue of abortion, not just because of the importance of Joe Biden in our political system as president of the United States, not just because of what this tells us about the Democratic Party, not just about what this tells us about the state of the division in this country over the issue of abortion, but because of what this last turn tells us about the central issue of conscience on this question. And that is when does human life begin?
Our answer to that question will determine if we are consistent, if we are faithful, everything else that follows in terms of policy and principles and positions on the question of the sanctity of human life and the issue of abortion. If we fail to answer that question faithfully, as the president of the United States failed so spectacularly last Friday, then we will fail at every point in our defense of the sanctity of human life. If we lose hold of this, what other moral issues actually matter? This is a moment of testing, not only for the president of the United States and not only for politicians, but for evangelical Christians, where we're going to have to make very clear one way or the other that we actually do believe that human life begins at conception. And then we actually do premise everything we understand about policy and principles about laws and legislation, about courts and those who sit on them, upon that basis in order to defend unborn human life that demands our defense.
There is going to be so much more for us to attend to even on this issue this week because of the fast unfolding of these events, but do not mistake the central issue. That's where we spend our time today. And do not mistake that you too will have to answer this question: when does human life begin? And once you answer that question, now what?
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 spts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.