Wednesday, September 22, 2021
It's Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Prominent Women Athletes Argue That Abortion is Essential for Autonomy of Women—And Future of Women in Sport
As culture changes, eventually it changes at every level. Just about every dimension of the culture is transformed. And this takes place in a very, very clear way in the midst of what is rightly called a moral revolution. A revolution in morality, let's just remind ourselves, is not just a change in morality. It's such a fundamental shift that it requires three different movements. What was condemned must be celebrated, what was celebrated must be condemned, and those who will not now celebrate must themselves be condemned. Now we see that happening in the LGBTQ revolution, perhaps most clearly we see what was condemned now celebrated. What was celebrated, that would be historic biblical understandings of sexuality that shaped Western civilization, they are now condemned. And of course, it's easy to understand the principle that those who will not join the celebration of the new morality are themselves to be condemned.
But you also see other realities revealed in this kind of revolution. And my purpose today on the Briefing is not so much to focus on the LGBTQ issues, but the life issue, the sanctity of human life issue, the dignity of human life issue. And of course that means the issue of abortion. And what we're looking at right now is that we have reached a crucial turning point in our society. Now similarly, we see that in every moral revolution. There appears to be one moment when everything before that is the past and everything after that is changed. And when it comes to abortion for so many people in our culture, especially on the pro-abortion side, the dividing line in history between the paths that have to be overcome and the brave new future that is liberation, that was the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. That was, at least in terms of this massive court usurpation of the political system, this nationwide declaration by the court, not a legislature, not by any kind of legislative action, but rather a court simply deciding, inventing this newly found right to abortion.
Everything before that was the past, everything after that is the new moral present. Now the new moral present is exactly what's threatened if Roe v. Wade is threatened, and we need to understand that as we're watching so much of the cultural conversation right now on abortion, that's what people are believing and seeing and realizing is so much at stake. It is the reversal of history in the eyes of so many pro abortionists. It is the unthinkable realization that perhaps what they thought they had accomplished in the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 is indeed slipping away. Now let's look at one of the dimensions of life in which that is becoming more and more apparent, and you might be wondering what that would be. Well, it may be that at least some of you would understand that in recent days, this frontline arena is actually women's sports. Women's sports has all of a sudden become a very clear revelation of where we stand on the abortion issue.
USA Today's Tom Schad reported just days ago, "More than 500 current and former female athletes urged the US Supreme Court on Monday to reject a Mississippi law that would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy." There's the headline, there's the opening of the story. More than 500 current and former female athletes joining in an Amicus brief. That's an official friend of the court brief before the United States Supreme Court, with the Mississippi abortion case coming and coming just in a matter of months before the United States Supreme Court, indeed you could say weeks. Now you have these 500 current and former female athletes saying that if there is any threat to Roe v. Wade, it is going to be a reversal of all positive history when it comes to women's rights. And the article in USA Today, and in an accompanying opinion piece, make that point graphically clear.
And what we need to understand as Christians trying to perceive this at a worldview level, is that what we are seeing here is an entire worldview laid bare that was there at least, if not all the time, then at least over the course of the last several decades. It was there in the very logic of Roe v. Wade. It was there in the oral arguments back in the early 1970s, nearly 50 years ago, when it came to Roe v. Wade. And now all of a sudden, perhaps to the shock of many Americans, it comes to today's headlines.
This article in USA Today, again, tells us of this brief filed before the Supreme Court, in order to try to save the Roe v. Wade decision, a brief that includes, we are told, "26 Olympians, 73 professional athletes, 276 college athletes, and some of the biggest names in women's sports, from US soccer star Megan Rapinoe to WNBA veterans Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and Diana Taurasi." Players unions for the Women's National Basketball Association, WNBA and NWSL, which means the National Women's Soccer League, we're told they also signed the brief. One of the women, that is Megan Rapinoe said, "I am honored to stand with the hundreds of athletes who have signed onto the Supreme Court brief to help champion not only our constitutional rights, but also those of future generations of athletes."
She went on to say, and this is so interesting. She said, "Physically, we push ourselves to the absolute limit. So to have forces within this country, trying to deny us control over our own bodies is infuriating and un-American and will be met with fierce resistance." Now, there are so many issues that are revealed here, but at least a part of what is revealed here is the modern cult of the athletic body. You may say, I didn't know about that cult. Well, in this sense, cult means an organized form of thought that now has real influence and very real devotees. The cult of the athletic body says that control over the body is actually a fundamental human right, to the extent that it trumps just about everything else. And what you see here is the elevation of athletics and this idea of bodily autonomy to the point at which it now becomes public support for abortion, even demand for abortion, even the declaration that a world without legal abortion is going to be a world without female sports and female athletic bodies.
And you say, that sounds extreme. Well, it's right in their argument. Again, you just have to note who is absolutely missing from the picture and that's the unborn child. There's no unborn child acknowledged here at all. Instead when Rapinoe makes her statement, she says, again, "Physically we push ourselves to the absolute limit, so to have forces within this country trying to deny us control over our own bodies is infuriating and un-American." Later in the article, we are told about Team USA swimmer and Olympic gold medalist, Crissy Perham and she, according to USA Today, revealed that she had an abortion after accidentally becoming pregnant in college despite being on birth control, all that is evidently necessary to the story. The story continues, "She went on to win a national title that summer. Qualify for the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona and win three Olympic medals, including two gold."
So in other words, here you have the elevation of athletic success, even Olympic gold medals, above everything, particularly above the very issue of human life and human dignity when it comes to the unborn. The unborn are absolutely absent, not only from this article, but from the opinion piece that we will cite in just a few moments. And this particular athlete went on to explain, listen to these words, "My life would be drastically different if I had been pregnant and forced to sit that," and this means national championship race, "out because that race changed the course of my life." Now just think for a moment about what's happening here, just in that statement. What we have is the assumption that this athletic success, of course, is massively more important than the issue that's not even mentioned here, which is the morality of abortion. Abortion is just now the means to the end, but a necessary means to an end when it comes to female sports, according to these female athletes.
And this athlete went on to say, listen to the personal autonomy here, the absolute centrality of the self, "I made the choice that was right for me and my future. And I stand by my decision." The next sentence, "That choice ultimately led me to being an Olympian, a college graduate and being a proud mother today." Now you see the irony there, but you will notice this is about decision that she made for herself in the interest of her own future. She stands by her decision. The personal pronouns here are absolutely thick and they're incredibly revealing. The USA Today article tells us, "The athletes also argue that infringements on abortion care have broader Title IX implications. That is the federal law. It's actually an amendment to the Higher Education Act that prohibits discrimination on the basis of, in this case, gender or sex. But you'll notice that that is now extended to an automatic right to abortion because otherwise there can be no equality between women and men if women can't get an abortion.
Now just follow the logic. That means the claim, and this was made in the Roe v. Wade oral arguments almost 50 years ago, that women can never be equal with men unless they are capable of being equally not pregnant. That comes right out in the brief that was released by these female athletes, "Such a fundamental restriction on bodily integrity and human autonomy would never be imposed on a male athlete, though he would be equally responsible for a pregnancy." There's that argument again. It is exactly the same argument that was framed in the early 1970s, though most Americans were blissfully unaware of it. The argument that a woman, to be equal with a man, must be able to be equally unpregnant. Now you will notice that there is again an irony here, and indeed it's a bigger problem than just an irony.
It's an irony because if you're thinking about equality, here's an issue of inequality, even as here it is claimed that a woman must be equally able to be as non-pregnant as a man. Notice you can't flip that equation on equality because a man can never be equally able to be pregnant. Oh, notice something else in this article. You notice what's missing in this article, even though there are prominent lesbians mentioned in this article, when it comes to pregnancy, you notice that the argument is made on the basis of female sex, that is to say the sex that allows a female to actually function in a female way, which is to say when it's inconvenient, the "T" in LGBTQ has to go underground or at least silent.
Modern Cults of the Athletic Body and Personal Autonomy Combine—But Who Is Missing From View (The Unborn Child)
Now that article appeared in yesterday's print edition of USA Today and in the very same print edition, but on the front page of the sports section, columnist Nancy Armour, you're probably not surprised about that if you read USA Today, has jumped right into the controversy with a headline, "Threat to Roe"--that means Roe v. Wade--"is a threat to women's sports." The subhead, "Mississippi Abortion Law Could Take Control from Female Athletes." Now listen to how she begins the article, because here you have basically undiluted pro-abortion argument, "The battle over Roe v. Wade is about more than abortion rights. Women's opportunities to play sports, and the gains in equality that have resulted are also at stake." Listen to the next sentence: "Nearly 50 years later, it is impossible to separate the rights protected by Roe from the opportunities afforded by Title IX, if not for the 1973 Supreme Court ruling, recognizing a woman's right to decide when or if to have children. The law implemented the previous summer requiring gender equity in athletics and education would be hollow."
So Nancy Armour is saying, look, these two developments happened just about the same time, the legal enactment of Title IX and the arrival through the Supreme Court of abortion on demand. Those two things have to go together. Otherwise you can't have women's sports as we know women's sports today. Nancy Armour writes, "A college athletic scholarship is meaningless if a woman can't accept it because of an unplanned pregnancy, or one resulting from rape." Notice how this is just thrown in here. "The decisions a female professional athlete makes about how and when to train," notice the argument here, how and when to train athletically, "are irrelevant if she knows she can't make other decisions about her own body." She continues, "The small window an Olympian has can be slammed shut if healthcare decisions are taken out of her hands." And notice the language, all of a sudden abortion becomes a healthcare decision. But notice what's being elevated here above everything else, athletic accomplishment, or even the shot at athletic accomplishment, it is absolute personal autonomy.
Nancy Armour goes on to cite all the athletes who have signed the brief or given their support, including the professional sports organizations. She cites Joanna Wright, identified as lead attorney for the women submitting the brief, who told USA Today Sports, "If Roe is weakened or overturned, that's a dire situation for all women, and with respect to the brave amici," that means those who filed the brief, these women, "They are attesting to the equally grave impact that would have on women's sports and young women's ability to compete at the top of their game." According to the article, she said, "Continued protection of this fundamental right is crucial to the continued success of women in sports, but also in all areas of life." So there you have it. The ability of women to succeed, it is now argued, is based on a woman's ability to obtain a legal abortion.
Now notice how the logic of that movement outside of this brief, but inside of contemporary American politics, just notice where that argument is going. It's going that women cannot be equal and they cannot have equality of status in our society unless they can gain a legal abortion that the taxpayer will pay for. The brief includes this language. "Denying an athlete control over her body could jeopardize her competitive career and violates Roe and Casey's," those are two Supreme Court decisions, "basic guarantee that the destiny of the woman must be shaped to a large extent on her own conception of her spiritual imperatives and her place in society." Now that's limitable language, but yes, that is in those pro-abortion decisions. Nancy Armour goes on to conclude her article by saying the access to abortion makes women's sports, as we know them today, possible. "Whether we, meaning women, find ourselves in need of the procedure or not, we have known it is there."
She writes, "And that knowledge has given us the security to live boldly in a way that women 50 years ago could not." So women can live boldly now precisely because, she argues, they have access to legal abortion. Without legal abortion, no such bold lives. She concludes her article simply by saying "Title IX opened endless possibilities for women, but those possibilities would not, and will not be realized without abortion rights."
So let's bring this to a close on this issue. What we're being told here is no abortion, no future women's sports, no women's equality if a woman cannot be equally unpregnant as a man. Now you'll notice again, the biggest obstacle to the success of that argument is actually biology, not anything that can be decided by the United States Supreme Court. But let's just take biology out of the equation for just a moment. Here you have a transparent demand about the centrality of abortion to basically all of life, or in this case, all of life for those who aspire to be women's athletes at the collegiate or the professional level, or for that matter for the Olympics, and you have the argument that without legal abortion, that future can now not be so bold.
But as you're thinking about just how horrible that argument truly is, and just how deadly it is, just consider it is an argument that has a great deal of traction with millions upon millions upon millions of Americans, who just assume that access to legal abortion and eventually taxpayer-funded abortion is what is absolutely necessary for us to live in a modern enlightened age in which human autonomy can finally be realized. But by the way, human autonomy as an absolute is never going to be achievable. The biblical worldview makes that abundantly clear. We don't decide by autonomous choice that we exist, that we are born, to whom we are born, how we are born. The most important issues in our life are not actually traceable to our human autonomy, but you're not going to discover that among the adherence of this modern worldview on the other side of the modern moral revolution.
To them, autonomy is everything, and abortion is the central sacrament.
What is Depopulation? And Why Is It Happening in Industrialized Nations?
But next, and you will instantly understand the link between these issues, Ian Lovett, writing for the Wall Street Journal gives us an article, the headline, "Depopulation Hits Latvia Economy Hard." Now, Latvia is one of the Baltic states. They're in the north of Europe and it was abused during the 20th century, both by the Nazis and most importantly, by the Soviet Union. It won its independence along with the other Baltic states effectively with the collapse of the Soviet Union, but nevertheless, Latvia, along with many other industrialized nations, is now as Ian Lovett tells us bluntly, running out of people. The word here is "depopulation." Now what would depopulation mean? Well, it means not enough people and not only not enough people, but rather, fewer people than had lived there before.
And looking to the future, even fewer people in that future that is depopulated. The subhead in the article, "Industrialized Nations Struggle as Birth Rates Decline, Workers Leave." Riga, that is the capital of Latvia, Seeks a Reversal. Reporting from Latvia, Ian Lovett reports, "Latvia is on the frontline of what could become one of the defining challenges for the industrialized world. It is running out of people." He continues, "From Portugal to Singapore and across most of the Americas, birth rates are falling and population growth in the industrialized world has stalled or reversed." He goes on, "That prospect brings with it the specter of a shrinking labor force, an aging population and stagnant economic growth." The next sentence, "In Latvia, that future is here." Now he goes on to tell us that this is a confluence of several issues, most importantly, a falling birth rate.
Now we've noticed this across so many nations in the world. It is a direct demographic threat to the future of many nations, including perhaps more slowly than some other nations, the United States of America. Latvia is indeed on the front lines of this loss and of this emergency. He writes, "Latvia's low birth rates have been exacerbated by a decades-long exodus of young people for higher paying jobs in the West and a reluctance to accept immigrants from outside Europe. The result," he writes, "is a nation whose population is falling even faster than those of other countries like Japan and Italy, where birth rates are lower." So this is a confluence of issues. It is, first of all, that falling birth rate. But as he says Italy and Japan, and by the way, both of those nations have a depopulation crisis, they have lower birth rates. The problem in Latvia is that the nation has not only a falling birth rate, but also many young people simply leaving the country.
They're going to other places in Western European nations that have better paying jobs, according to the article. Lovett tells us, and this is very interesting, "Last year, Latvia recorded its lowest number of births in a century, and the sharpest population drop in the European Union at 0.8%. The first half of 2021 was worse, with twice as many deaths as births." Now let's just ponder for a moment what that means. Let's just assume this is not just Latvia. It could be any country on planet Earth. It could be any country on planet Earth through the entirety of human history. If indeed, at any point in any culture anywhere, you have deaths exceeding births, you have, ladies and gentlemen, an emergency. Now I talked about the fact that in moral change there often appears to be something of a moment in time when everything appears to change. There's a before and an after.
Well, the same thing takes place in demographic change as well. You look back and say oh, that's when it happened. That's when all of a sudden there were more deaths than births in our society. Oh, that's when it happened. That's when there were twice as many deaths as births in our society. You don't have much of a future as a society if you're going to go on counting that way and the numbers are going in the direction of death, rather than the direction of birth. Imants Parādnieks, identified as an advisor to the Latvian prime minister on demographic issues said, "It's a very, very serious problem. Latvia is the country of the Latvian people. We want it to remain the country of the Latvian people 100 years from now." Well, behind that is a simple fact that is true not only for Latvia, but for any country. If you want Latvians to live in Latvia, you've got to have Latvians in the future.
In Latvia there's an almost immediate problem of a shortage of people in certain professional categories, including in medicine, doctors and nurses. The article tells us, "Latvia has among the lowest per capita numbers of doctors and nurses in the European union. By 2027, it will lose nearly 90,000 more working aged people, according to the Central Statistics Office, which," Lovett tells us, "projects the country will need thousands more medical workers, engineers, and craftsmen." Now here's the thing. If indeed you have a falling birth rate to this catastrophic level and if people are living longer, but you still have twice as many deaths than births, by definition, you're going to need a lot more doctors and nurses. But you can see how the problem comes as something like a pair of scissors. It's two blades and the blades cut together. That's the really damaging aspect to this.
When the leading blade is a falling birth rate to this proportion, the other blade will inevitably come as well. And after that, blade after blade after blade. The demographic challenge in Latvia also comes down to the fact that there are more people trying to move from Latvia somewhere else than to move from somewhere else to Latvia. There's some historic patterns there that of course play a role, but the point is, there is no future for any nation. There is certainly no sustainable future for any culture in which you have twice as many deaths as births. But the issue again in this article is that this is not just about Latvia, it's not just about Japan, it's not just about Italy. It is about virtually all modern industrialized nations.
And here's the huge question. There are answers that we may contemplate to this question, but today we simply have to end with the question, why do we have so much technological progress and at the same time, such a rapidly falling birth rate? Why do we have rising consumer status, rising standards of living, and falling numbers of babies? What does that tell us about ourselves? What does it tell us about our culture?
We'll be talking more about that in days to come, but for now, thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can find 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.