The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

It’s Wednesday, September 28th, 2022.

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

Part I

Can California Become Even More Pro-Abortion? Governor Newsom Signs 13 New Bills to Increase Access to Abortion

We’ve been looking at the deep moral cleavages now very much apparent on the American political, moral, and cultural landscape, and we’ve also seen the fact that this moral change is not evenly distributed across the country. Even as these deep worldview divides, divide Americans over ideas, over voting patterns, basic worldviews, they also increasingly divide Americans into states. And so we have states that by individual perspective and by contrast really do tell us about the great moral divide, the great worldview divide in the United States. I often say that if you want to see this divide, just compare a state like say Massachusetts with a state like Mississippi. But right now, perhaps the most interesting of these contrasts is seen by looking on both coasts. Looking at the contrast between Florida with Governor Ron DeSantis and California with Governor Gavin Newsom.

You can take an issue like abortion. There it is front and center. It’s not just like we have two different states on two different coasts, it’s like we have two different moral worlds. Then of course, that raises basic political questions about how long our constitutional system can last if indeed two American states become more like two separate countries. It raises questions about our entire system of federalism. But right now, it is really interesting to look at those two states. It’s also interesting to look to the 2024 presidential election, and I’ve been asked by people like reporters, what I expect, and I simply say, “I don’t know what to expect, but I do know what would be most interesting, and that would be a race in which the Democratic nominee is California Governor Gavin Newsom and the Republican nominee is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.” That would be a race for the ages, and both of them seem to sense that it just might be a possibility.

You have Gavin Newsom sending political messages to Florida. You have the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis sending messages to California citizens that if they want to escape California, well they could come to Florida. Although clearly the Florida governor doesn’t want too many citizens to immigrate from California to Florida.

There are significant differences as you look to the two states. Florida’s often considered a red state, but that’s a fairly new development. It has gone back and forth in terms of presidential elections and statewide elections in recent decades, but increasingly it has been trending Republican, but there are very real electoral races going on there in the state of Florida is likely that Governor DeSantis will win reelection to a second term. It is likely that Republican Senator Marco Rubio will be elected to another term in the United States Senate, but those are real races. But if you want to see real races between say a Republican and a Democrat, you’re not going to find many of them in any genuine sense in the state of California.

California is a one party state and that one party is Democratic. The only major partisan energy in the state of California is within the Democratic Party, the left wing and the further left wing. But that also means that California can press ahead with the governor and the legislature both on a United Progressivist platform. And so yesterday it’s just important for us to recognize that governor of California signed 13 pro-abortion bills, 13. Now, that would be remarkable under any circumstances, but this tells you just how much the left treasures abortion. Just how much it idolizes and emphasizes abortion, just how much abortion they see as a winning issue right now in America’s political culture. Gavin Newsom signed 13 abortion protection and reproductive health bills according to the Los Angeles Times, “codifying the final pieces of California’s campaign to counter the effects of the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe versus Wade.”

Okay, let’s just look at this for a moment. Is there any sense in which California law would liberalize abortion more? Well, in terms of the words, yes, the abortion law there in California could be more liberal, explicitly legalizing abortion all the way up until the moment of birth. Basically, on the ground that’s pretty much the way it operates, anyway. But yes, you could see some change in the law. But 13 changes in the law, what does this mean? Even for the most avidly pro-abortion, what could 13 different pieces of legislation actually mean? Well, it turns out that this includes funding for abortion programs, It includes efforts to try to increase the number of abortion providers in California. Yes, the state of California is now taking it as a matter of taxpayer money and as a matter of state policy to try officially to increase the capacity for abortion in the state.

The background to this is not only what is claimed to be the so-called need or demand for abortion in California, but the fact that Gavin Newsom and his fellow Democrats want to make California a destination state for people in other states seeking abortion. And by the way, this means women in other states seeking an abortion. Melody Gutierrez of the Los Angeles Times tells us, “California officials began preparing a year ago for the potential effects of Roe v. Wade being overturned with Governor Newsom asking Planned Parenthood affiliates of California and dozens of other supporters to develop a plan for the state to become a sanctuary for anyone denied abortion services in other parts of the country.”

Now, I speak of this as a matter of our moral interest and our moral urgency. I speak to this, I have to say, with just a tremendous sense of moral weight. We are talking about the governor of the most populous state in this country turning to an organization as deadly and murderous as Planned Parenthood and saying, “Let me ask you to suggest what changes need to be made in our law to make this state even more pro-abortion.” I think the moral weight of that simply ought to sink in among us.

Now, it turns out the Governor Newsom has actually signed 15 pro-abortion bills in this term of the California legislature. Two of them had already been signed, but he signed 13 of them yesterday. Among them are measures that would add $200 million in new spending for what’s described as reproductive healthcare services and outreach. You know what that means. We’re also told that one of the bills known as Senate Bill 1142 require the state to create a website for abortion services. But hey, it was already launched earlier this month. We also have the fact that you have another Senate Bill 1245, which sets aside, get this, $20 million for the Los Angeles County Abortion Access Safe Haven Pilot program, which would “expand reproductive care programs in the county.” Again, we’re talking real money here, $200 million first, $20 million now.

I have to say that I think the most ominous of the 13 bills signed into law by California’s governor yesterday is one that’s described this way by the Los Angeles Times, “Assembly Bill 2223, which was particularly targeted by anti-abortion groups, would prohibit a coroner from holding an inquest after a fetal death, including in cases in which drugs are suspected as causing a stillbirth.” Now, this is one of those radical and I think anti-human life issues of legislation I’ve seen in a long time. Now, coroners in the state of California are to be legally legislatively prohibited from investigating whether or not the death of an unborn baby was because of an underlying crime. Now, just how radically pro-abortion do you have to be in order to believe that this is appropriate legislation for a state?

The Los Angeles Times then tells us, “The bill’s author, assembly member, Buffy Wicks, Democrat of Oakland said, AB2223 ensures pregnancy loss is not considered a crime regardless of the circumstances.” Regardless of the circumstances, there are no circumstances that might involve a crime? Well, that’s not even being denied here. What’s being denied here is that there are no circumstances that might involve a crime that should allow a coroner to investigate whether that crime has taken place.

You can look at all kinds of developments on the moral landscape of the United States. That one, I simply have to say and sadly say stands out to me as particularly egregious and indicative of the crisis of our age.

Part II

‘I Don’t Want Your God in Charge of My Health Care’: The Secular Left Hates Catholic Hospital Systems — A Warning to Us All

But all that was yesterday, 13 bills in the state of California. There are other developments that also demand our attention, and this one comes as an argument found in the Washington Post. Kate Cohen, contributing columnists for the newspaper, offered an opinion piece with this title, “I don’t want Your God in charge of my healthcare.” Now, we saw a very similar argument from the West coast just in recent weeks as we have seen people complaining about either religious exemptions for medical personnel or for that matter, the fact that religious organizations often control, even own and operate certain hospitals or hospital systems. And in particular, you won’t be surprised, the largest of those organizations will be related to the Roman Catholic Church, and that is particularly the issue at stake in Kate Cohen’s argument here.

And she raises the fact that because you have ethical directives to Catholic hospitals from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, there are certain procedures forbidden by the Roman Catholic Church that are not available to women in those medical centers. And that includes such things as tubal ligations, but also of course abortions, other kinds of surgical operations or medical procedures that are considered unethical and immoral by the Roman Catholic Church.

Now, this is an argument that we are going to see over and over and over again. The argument is that religious organizations shouldn’t be able to control hospitals in such a way that religious beliefs have anything to do with what’s classified as medical practice within those facilities. Now, let’s just back up for a moment and remind ourselves of a little history. Now, it’s not an accident that in this case, Catholic healthcare systems own a good many hospitals and for that matter systems of hospitals. You have Seventh Day Adventist and states like Florida that own entire hospital systems. You have other groups. In many communities, you’ll have a Methodist hospital or at least one that’s called Methodist or a Baptist hospital, or at least one that historically had the name Baptist.

But what is underlying in all those cases is that it was religious organizations, denominations and churches that established these hospitals. Why? Because there was a need for a hospital, and the Christian imperative of love of neighbor and the Christian moral principle in terms of the goodness of medical care and the appropriateness of fighting illness and helping persons who are injured. All that comes together in the Christian worldview that validates medical care and explains why. Going all the way back to the early church, you had Christians involved in providing the best level of healthcare available at the time. By the time you get to the medieval period, what became known as hospitals or sick houses or infirmaries, many of these were sponsored by Christian churches in particular in much of Europe, by the Roman Catholic Church, by orders of monks or of nuns or for that matter, local bishops and other Catholic leaders. And then you had Protestant hospitals in Protestant areas formed also by Protestant churches in the United States.

We didn’t begin with some kind of national socialized healthcare system. We began with healthcare under local control, with hospitals being established by local citizens and by nonprofit associations. And honestly, in many areas of the country, the vast majority were religious or religiously identified, affiliated in one way or another.

Kate Cohen doesn’t seem to mind really that Christians have poured so much money into these hospitals, but she does mind if they operate on any kind of Christian basis. She is incredibly offended that a Catholic hospital would turn out, now, wait for it, to be actually Catholic, operating on Catholic principles, and she is outraged. And you’ll notice the kind of outrage that is expressed in her language. I don’t want your God in charge of my healthcare. You’re going to be seeing this argument over and over again. And she says the problem’s going to grow, “That number is likely to grow as Catholic health systems expand by merging with or acquiring secular hospitals and networks.” You’re supposed to hear some kind of ominous music or some kind of soundtrack in the background warning you that danger is coming. Think of the theme of Jaws in the background, Who’s coming? Catholics taking over secular hospitals. And if it’s not Catholics, it’s going to be some other Christian organization that’s so ominous.

And we’re told that the Catholic health system that operates near Albany, New York where this writer lives has begun to merge with “the secular Ellis medicine, which will ultimately put God’s will ‘in charge’ of Ellis Hospital and the Bellevue Women’s Center, which provides pregnancy and maternity care.” She then goes on, as you hear the ominous music playing, “that would mean no tubal ligations for contraceptive purposes. It would also mean no abortions, vasectomies, IUDs, or in vitro fertilization. It would most likely constrain choices in end of life care and end gender affirming care.” In other words, as Catholic hospital, which evidently the secular hospital has decided it’s in its interest to merge with is going to operate as a Catholic hospital, and that’s the offense.

Now, we should notice something else. In so many of these cases, you have supposedly public or secular systems that are merging with Catholic systems or other religious systems or religiously founded systems. Why would that be so? Well, for one reason, evidently those religiously identified healthcare systems are run more efficiently and effectively than so many of the other systems. But again, I just had to point to the historical fact that if you look across this country, many communities would be totally without healthcare and totally without a good deal of their hospital capacity if you were to take away religiously founded and identified hospital systems.

Now, I want to say something else here. I want to say it is to the credit of the Roman Catholic Church that it actually intends for its Catholic hospitals to operate within Catholic moral principles. I want to say hats off to the Catholics for that and shame upon the Baptist, the Methodist, and the Presbyterians who do not have equal conviction to do so.

Now, when it comes to many of the hospitals identified as Presbyterian or Methodist or Baptist, the fact is they broke from those denominations a long time ago. So in one sense, many of those churches don’t have the legal opportunity to gain control. But the fact is much of that control was seated when it should have been retained. And it is to the shame of many denominations that they start organizations and ministries and institutions that they do not have adequate doctrinal will to maintain.

Kate Cohen goes on to illustrate the problem as she sees it when she says, “That’s exactly what happens when the church has ultimate say in medical decisions.” And she says it’s not just in hospitals either, “Urgent care centers and physicians practices that are part of a Catholic network might well refuse to prescribe birth control or to provide abortion services or counseling.” Again, abortion just shows up as the big issue here. But then she goes on to say that she lives and what she describes, remember this is a state of New York, which is almost like California, so actively and eagerly pro-abortion, indeed in its basic abortion law arguably New York is more liberal, more pro-abortion than California. But she refers to New York nonetheless as “the commonwealth of religious difference where rules can be broken and citizens can be denied basic services as long as someone has decided that’s the way God wills it.”

Now, what she’s advocating for here and what some legislators in New York are working for is to basically deny the right of religious hospitals to be religious, of Catholic hospitals, in this case, specifically to be Catholic. She then goes on to complain that religious organizations should not have the right to abide by secular standards. And she says that’s especially true when they receive public funding. But that just gets to another issue. It is virtually, indeed, when I say virtually, I mean truly impossible for hospital systems to operate these days without some degree of federal funding. And that is because the federal government has been increasingly involving itself in the system of healthcare. You just think of Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act, and then you think of all the regulations and things that go with that kind of funding and Medicaid and Medicare.

And so the fact is these religious hospitals didn’t just decide to accept public funding. The entire universe of the medical healthcare system in the United States moved in that direction. So does that necessarily mean that religious hospitals have to cease being religious or no, they have to keep on giving money to create and to sustain these hospitals, but they have to leave their convictions at home? That’s exactly what she’s arguing for. And she complains again that religious organizations, despite their public funding, do not have to abide by secular standards.

Well, here’s the point, and this should be obvious. If a religious institution has to abide by secular standards, guess what? You just turned a religious institution into a secular institution. So on this issue, it’s also interesting to note that Kate Cohen, contributing columnists for the Washington Post, who entitled this piece, “I Don’t Want Your God in Charge of My Healthcare,” is also the author we are told with the forthcoming title, We of Little Faith: How Non-believers can Live Full Lives, be true to Themselves and Save America.

But maybe she needs to amend that title to put at the end: “But we still have to go to a Catholic hospital.”

Part III

‘A Woman Should Have the Same Right as a Man to Not Be Pregnant’: The Argument of Roe v. Wade Makes It to the Front Page of the Sports Section of USA Today

But next is so many of these life issues are exploding all over the American landscape, and yes, they really do demand our attention. A signal incident came with a front page news story, the sports section of USA Today. This article appeared on Monday’s print edition. And once again, one of the most morally liberal newspapers in America, again, USA Today runs a very liberal piece, a very progressivist piece, as a part of the agenda of its sports coverage. And we’ve seen how this paper is now doing this routinely.

And on the issue of America post-Dobbs, the paper is using the sports section in order to complain right out loud in a massive article that begins on the front page of the section, to complain that women athletes are now being unreasonably imposed upon by the fact that there are some states in which abortion access is restricted.

And so we are told that that is unfair, and it is a huge impediment to women in sports, both at the collegiate in particular, at the professional level. And so the trio of reporters or USA Today tells us, “Following the Supreme Court’s decision about one third of state’s banned or severely restricted abortion impacting roughly 30 million women, ages 15 through 49.” “USA Today sports spoke to more than 30 current and retired professional female athletes, coaches, agents, and sports executives to gauge how they’re weighing the new reality of a country where women’s rights are being challenged or stripped away.” Now, just note that language and remind yourselves that sometimes you hear from the liberal media, “Hey, we’re not liberal. We seek to be objective.” or “We express opinion on our opinion page.” But the news is just hard news. Just listen to that language. A country where women’s rights are being challenged or stripped away.

Oh yeah, that’s neutral, but you also have the emotivist kind of coverage that is also part of our moral landscape. “The athlete spoke candidly and passionately about their fear and the uncertainty of a future without abortion access, particularly if they get traded to or drafted by a team in a red state.” Brianna Stewart identified as a perennial all-star who plays for the WNBA Seattle Storm said, “If people have to choose, I’m sure they’re not going to want to choose to go to places where they don’t have rights to their own bodies.” You see this kind of logic driven through this entire article. Another athlete cited in the story, Kara Goucher identified as a two time Olympian who now works as a distance running analyst for NBC, she said, “When I went to call these races, I was struck by all these amazing performances.” She said to USA Today sports, “I was thinking, fast forward 10 years, and some of these women won’t be here because they’ll be in a red state and they will get pregnant. They’ll never get to find out who they can be.”

Now, I just want to point to how ridiculous that language is. I like to say it’s just pathetic, but it’s also important to look at that and recognize who’s missing. Who’s missing is the baby who would otherwise be aborted. Talk about they’ll never get to find out who they can be. How can you say that with a straight face when the issue is about abortion law and you’re not talking about the unborn child? Another two time Olympian, Gwen Berry said, “My body is my job. My body is how I’m able to feed my family and provide for others. If I cannot decide what to do with my body, how am I going to compete? How am I going to pay my bills?”

The paper said that Goucher went on to express frustration “That while it takes two people to get pregnant, typically only the woman suffers the consequences when it’s unplanned, even if she’s in a committed relationship.” It’s just very interesting to note that the article ends on the same note, speaking of the fact that women are discriminated against because only they after all can and do get pregnant. Chicago Sky All Star Candace Parker said, “I don’t want our generation to be the generation that screws it up.” Speaking of her 13-year-old daughter, she said, “I want to be able to say that my daughter has the same rights over her body that my son does. I don’t know today that I can say that.” The article ends on the same note citing Kara Goucher who said, “I grew up believing girls could do anything, and I’m glad I grew up that way, but it was all just a big lie.”

Now again, notice what’s at stake here. It’s not any suggestion that women shouldn’t be involved in these sports leagues. It’s not any suggestion that any particular option in sports or sporting events should be closed to women. The argument here is that abortion has to be made available for female athletes, otherwise they are discriminated against in an unconstitutional and unacceptable way because they should have the right to be unpregnant at any time in order to continue their sports career and not have that sports career impeded by a pregnancy, not to mention a baby.

Now, I just want to underline again, this was the moral argument made in 1973 in the Roe v. Wade oral arguments. The argument came down to the fact that a woman, in order to be equal with a man, must be equally able to be unpregnant. Now, there’s a whole lot involved in this as Christians understand, and much of it is quite frankly biological. But the fact is that you can’t do the inverse.

Just notice this. A man is not able to be equally pregnant as a female. So when you’re looking at these moral principles, you recognize a part of this is simply biology. And guess what? Men and women have different challenges and no law, no constitution can make men and women the same, even as it does strive to make opportunities for men and women equal. Equal is not same. And when it comes to pregnancy, well, same is nonexistent. But as we bring this to an end, I just want to point to a remarkable moral clarity that does appear in this article. I guarantee you it’s not intended, but it is inevitable. The moral clarity, which accidentally is in this article, is about who actually gets pregnant. Guess who, for the purposes of this political article, disappears.

Pregnant people disappear. Who are you left with? Pregnant women. Oh, and who is the difference here to which those pregnant women are compared? Well, they’re identified in the article too. They don’t appear this much anymore when you’re looking at pregnant people and the transgender revolution and the gender non-binary and all the rest, who shows up here as the other side of the equation? Oh, let’s look at it, men.

So USA Today argues on one page in one section that we shouldn’t talk about pregnant women, but pregnant people. All of a sudden, when it comes to this question in which you have a claim of discrimination based upon access to abortion, well, here, all of sudden pregnant women show up again. Oh, and at the same time, non-pregnant men show up too.

Go figure.

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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