The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, November 3, 2022

It’s Thursday, November 3rd, 2022.

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

Part I

Is it Even Possible for California to Be More Pro-Abortion? A Proposed Constitutional Amendment and it’s Meaning

We always need to keep in mind what is and is not on the ballot with the midterm elections coming up in the United States. And of course, election day is next Tuesday. Even as millions have already voted and are right now voting, elections have consequences and it is important for us to understand what is and is not at stake and what the consequences of these elections might be. And what I want us to think about today would be the consequences when it comes to unborn life and the defense of unborn life in the 2022 midterm elections.

First of all, let’s consider the fact that the power invested in the United States Congress means that every single congressional seat and every single senatorial election matters massively when it comes to determining whether this nation, in terms of its federal laws, will preserve and protect the life of the unborn, or instead make it increasingly vulnerable, or even to take the admonition of the current president of the United States go so far as in his words to codify Roe v. Wade in legislation. We’ve already seen, by the way, that is even more extreme than Roe v. Wade.

The great political divide in this country, the great worldview divide is most apparent right now on the issue of abortion. And that is because in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision handed down in June that reversed the Roe v. Wade decision, the issue of abortion now arrives at every single election, especially at the state and federal level.

Every single congressional seat, every single senatorial seat, every single governor’s office, all of these matter greatly. And not only that, so do state and legislatures. And increasingly, we’ll be talking about this over the course of the next several days. Increasingly, state supreme courts really matter. And this has been an area in which conservatives have been a little late to the game in understanding just how important those elections are.

But what I want to focus on today is the fact that voters in five states will be voting not only for those who will represent them in congress, in the senate, or in the governor’s office, but voters in those states are and will be voting directly on the question of abortion. Five states, five big decisions to be made, five big issues for us to watch.

I want us to track through state by state what we’re looking at. First of all, the state of California, the nation’s most populous state is also one of the nation’s most liberal states when it comes to abortion. Just over the course of the last year, the general assembly has passed and the governor has signed into law something like a dozen pro-abortion statutes and laws. And not only that, when you’re looking at the state of California, that’s a state where in 1969, the state constitution was interpreted as to require the recognition of a woman’s right to privacy, including a right to abortion. So that’s 1969. And so from that point forward, California has been one of the most aggressively pro-abortion states.

But frankly, the history of California pales in significance to the present era in California where under the dominance of one party and that the Democratic Party, California has been moving left and even further left. And furthermore, when it comes to abortion, it’s actually hard to imagine how California could be even more abortion. But what’s at stake now is what is known as Proposition 1. It’s a proposition that would amend the California State Constitution to include what is defined as a right to reproductive freedom and explicitly abortion without restriction as identified is central to this right of reproductive freedom.

So remember going all the way back to 1969, the California Supreme Court is held that there is a right to privacy that includes abortion in the California Constitution, but the governor and other democratic leaders are pushing probably basically for political reasons what is known as Proposition 1, which will change the California Constitution in order that the state constitution would require that the state cannot deny or interfere with a person’s reproductive freedom and that people have the fundamental right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, whether or not to use contraceptives.

Now, you’ll notice the phrase there about a person’s reproductive freedom, a way of trying to avoid saying a woman’s reproductive freedom. That’s how fast this moral revolution is moving. Just a matter of a couple of years ago, maybe even just a year ago, it would’ve unquestionably stated a woman’s reproductive freedom, but now it is merely a person’s.

Now it’s also interesting that in an official statement instructing voters in California, the voters are told this, “A yes vote on this measure means the California Constitution will be changed to expressly include existing rights to reproductive freedom, such as the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion and use contraceptives.”

But listen carefully to the even more interesting explanation of what a no vote on Proposition 1 would mean. “A no vote on this measure means the California Constitution would not be changed to expressly include existing rights to reproductive freedom. These rights, however, would continue to exist under other state law.” It’s a fascinating statement revealing political intent because the yes and the no explanations mean that there will actually be no change on the ground in California. Whether the voters say yes or the voters say no, overwhelmingly say yes, overwhelmingly say no, it won’t matter because the issue of a woman’s so-called right to abortion as codified in California, it’s going to exist, it’s going to stand regardless of how voters vote on this issue.

But California is making a political statement here by putting Proposition 1 on the ballot because it is basically saying we want the whole country to know just how pro-abortion we are. And remember, the governor of California has discussed using state funds even to allow for transportation costs to be covered for women from other states to come to California for an abortion. I

t’s a more radical proposal in one sense than we have ever seen before, but California is doing its best to try to make very clear if it can figure out how to be more pro-abortion, it is going to do it.

Part II

Abortion, Autonomy, and Moral Insanity Come Together in Vermont’s Abortion Vote — And a Liberal Denomination Tries to Rewrite Christian Theology

A second state that we need to watch is the state of Vermont. And in this case, the New England state is actually threatening to adopt the most radically pro-abortion language that I believe will ever have been adopted by a state or by the United States federal government. Vermont is actually proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would enshrine what is simply defined as a right to personal reproductive autonomy.

In the very first line of the purpose statement of this amendment, we read, “This proposal would amend the constitution of the state of Vermont to ensure that every Vermonter is afforded personal reproductive liberty.”

Now, yesterday on The Briefing, we talked about this idea driving the sexual revolution of integrity and personal self-expression, but now we see that translated into law and if adopted, even into the constitution of the state of Vermont, which would actually declare that every single Vermont citizen or Vermonter as defined in the state constitution is to be recognized as having personal reproductive liberty.

Now, the thing we need to note is that there is no limitation. There is no boundary whatsoever upon that so-called argument. Because when it comes down to something defined as personal reproductive liberty, well, in one sense you even have some people saying that this should mean the right of anyone at any point anywhere in Vermont to be equally pregnant or unpregnant depending upon that person’s own wish, own personal preference, own personal sense of identity, own sense of reproductive liberty.

Now, I’ll simply point out the obvious, which comes down to biology. No matter how much equality when it comes to reproductive liberty you may declare, you can’t deliver on that promise because the government can’t promise babies. No, it only works the other way around. The government can promise a right to kill unborn life in the womb. It can make absolutely no promises about the fact that there will be the gift of life in the womb.

It’s also interesting to see how the state of Vermont, a very, very liberal state in this sense, how it tries to ground this so-called right. In Chapter 1, Article 1 of the Vermont State Constitution, we read this, “That all persons are born equally free and independent and have certain natural, inherent and unalienable rights.”

Now, something we need to note and we’ll have to look at this at greater depth in the future on The Briefing is the claim that rights come down to natural, inherent and unalienable rights. You hear the refrain there from the Declaration of Independence and from the U.S. Constitution. But what we need to recognize is that what we see is a claim that this so-called personal reproductive liberty is a natural right.

But of course, it isn’t. It is in no sense a natural right if what is claimed about that right is that it is a right to terminate unborn human life in the womb. This exalted sense of personal autonomy supposedly grounded in some kind of notion of rights, it is defined this way in the text of the proposed amendment, “That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”

Once again, you’ll notice that what could well be at stake here is not just a woman’s so-called right to abortion, but the fact that this particular claim of unbounded personal reproductive liberty could cancel all kinds of laws including parental notification laws, any kind of restriction on abortion that might restrict anyone under any condition whatsoever.

This may well turn out to be the most radical proposal when it comes to abortion rights in the history of the United States of America, and it will be a matter of our urgent concern to see how this goes in Vermont. But given the fact that Vermont is such a liberal state, after all, Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders represents the state of Vermont. The fact is we have to expect that this measure will pass. Then frighteningly enough, we’re all going to find out what this measure actually means.

But it’s also very interesting to note that the group known as the United Church of Christ in Vermont has adopted a statement it released in July, and that includes more than 100 members of the clergy and laypeople of the United Church of Christ in Vermont. They signed a letter in response to the Dobbs decision handed down by the Supreme Court. The letter includes this language, “We believe that God is the creator of all living beings and things, and that all human beings are created with the gift of free will and are of equal value.”

Now, notice how that starts out almost representing orthodox Christianity until just where you think. And you’d be right, the orthodox Christian response would be to ground human rights in the imago Dei, in the image of God. Instead, they say that every single human being is created with a gift of free will and equal value. That’s very different.

The statement also goes on to state, “We believe that all people have a right to determine what one does with one’s own body.” Now, let me just suggest to you that if you read the entire Bible in the Old and New Testaments, you’re not going to find a verse that’s going to suggest such an unbounded right simply to do what one might want to do with one’s own body.

I’ll also point out that’s absolutely unrestricted. Would that include prostitution? Well, at least in terms of this statement by the United Church of Christ in Vermont, there would be no reason to say no. That also by the way would relate to the use and abuse of drugs. I mean, if you’re going to say that God has given human beings an absolute right “to determine what one does with one’s own body,” well, that would include everything in terms of the human experience range from birth, all the way to claiming something like a right to assisted suicide.

The statement then dares to conclude, “This is a statement rooted in our Christian faith which opposes any policy, precedent or statement, or law that limits a human being’s right to bodily autonomy, determination, dignity and respect.” Now, The United Church of Christ just may be the most liberal Protestant denomination in the nation, at least in terms of any kind of major denominational presence and tradition.

The United Church of Christ is an amalgam of congregational churches and some others including the old E&R or so-called Evangelical and Reform denomination of German-speaking Protestants. They have come together in an amalgam that is just incredibly liberal, and liberal across the board. It just reminds us of the statement made very early in the 20th century by the Great Presbyterian theologian, J. Gresham Machen, that what we see when we look at liberal Protestantism and evangelical Protestantism is not only a distinction between liberal Christianity and orthodox Christianity, that is to say biblically grounded Christianity.

It is as Machen made very clear, two different religions. One of them continuous with biblical Christianity, the other absolutely discontinuous. It may call itself Christian, but it’s actually another religion, and that’s exactly what we see in this statement from the clergy and laypeople of the United Church of Christ in Vermont.

The statement that somehow the Christian faith opposes, “Any policy, precedent, statement, or law that limits a human being’s right to bodily autonomy, determination, dignity, and respect.”

I’ll just give you an open dare, I dare you to find that in any historic creed or confession of the Christian faith or to find that grounded anywhere in the explicit text of the Old or New Testament.

I’ll just give you a shortcut here, you will not find it.

Part III

Another Vote to Establish a Radical Right to Abortion: Michigan’s Proposal 3

The other major state that is looking at a constitutional amendment that would codify abortion rights is the state of Michigan. And it’s even more complicated there because Michigan is one of the states that has a trigger law. That’s a law going back before the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that either outlaws or severely restricts abortion.

Now, the state supreme court there has put its trigger law into abeyance, and now you see where Governor Gretchen Whitmer and others in the state of Michigan are calling for an outright amendment to the Michigan Constitution to guarantee a woman’s right to abortion.

What is known in Michigan is Proposal 22-3 reads and I quote, “A proposal to amend the state constitution to establish a new individual right to reproductive freedom, including a right to make all decisions about pregnancy and abortion, allow the state to regulate abortion in some cases and forbid prosecution of individuals exercising established right.”

Now, you’ll notice this one’s a little longer because it’s a little more complex, as is the situation there in Michigan. But the bottom line is just exactly what we see in the proposals coming before voters in California and Vermont. This is an extreme radical pro-abortion policy that is proposed to be ensconced within the state’s constitution.

So as we’re thinking about the situation in the United States post-Dobbs, that is after the June decision by the Supreme Court, we really are looking at the situation that pro-abortion America is absolutely determined to be even more pro-abortion. That is not surprising, but it is very disappointing. And we’re also looking at the fact that as you look at the proposals in Vermont and in California and in Michigan, there appears to be pretty significant voter support. I think most people will be surprised if this amendment goes down in any one of these three states.

Now, there’s something we really do need to note in the Michigan language, and I bet you heard it, and that is the statement that this amendment would amend the state constitution to establish what’s described as a new individual right to reproductive freedom. At least there is the honesty perhaps required by the constitutional provision there in Michigan. There’s the honesty that this is supposedly a new right to be read into and explicitly stated in the Michigan Constitution, and at least there is a bit of honesty in the use of the word new.

One explicit part of the measure in Michigan is that the constitutional amendment would “invalidate existing state laws that conflict with the constitutional amendment.” So there you see it. It’s a way of basically going around all restrictions on abortion. And just recall once again that there’s no boundary on this. There’s no reason to believe this will not be extended, at least in argument to parental notification laws, any number of other restrictions on abortion.

We are looking not only here at something like the return of Roe v. Wade, we are looking at something even more radical in all three of these states, California, Vermont, Michigan.

Part IV

An Amendment for Moral Sanity and Constitutional Clarity: A Vote for Amendment 2 in Kentucky is a Vote for Life

There are two other states where citizens will be confronted by the abortion question, and in both of these states, there is the opportunity for the pro-life movement and for pro-life voters to take a stand that will matter.

First of all, the state of Kentucky. Voters in the Commonwealth of Kentucky will face the opportunity to approve what is known as Amendment 2, and this is an amendment again to the Kentucky Constitution. But this one is not to enshrine some new right to a woman’s so-called reproductive freedom or a pregnant person’s reproductive freedom, but rather to state that nothing in the constitution of Kentucky “shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

Now, why would this be needed? Why would this be necessary? Well, the simple answer is to prevent a state court in Kentucky from inventing some right to abortion or discovering, in the language of some courts, a right to abortion and some right to privacy that isn’t in the language, it’s not in the text, it’s not in the words of the Kentucky Constitution, but is the Roe v. Wade decision and so many others by the Supreme Court have demonstrated judges are apt to try to find the language they want and for that matter to construe a right they want even when the language isn’t there. And knowing the original intent of those who framed the language, it was not there in any sense.

That is to say that when you look at the U.S. Constitution and when you look at the constitution of the states, I’m thinking here particularly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which is my own home. When you look at that language and when you look at the circumstances and the context of the framing and the ratification of that language, abortion is not only not there, it was explicitly not in mind.

It’s also important to recognize that the Kentucky General Assembly passed a trigger law that would prevent and restrict abortion, and that law went into effect after the reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court in June of this year. So right now, Kentucky is under a very clear set of laws that prohibit and restrict abortion. It is among the most pro-life states in the union right now. But we’re about to find out if the citizens of Kentucky are ready to summon the courage to put that conviction into law, and most importantly, to put it into the language of the Kentucky Constitution.

It is extremely interesting and very troubling, but nonetheless urgently important that we recognize that pro-abortion money has been flooding into the Commonwealth of Kentucky, trying to scare Kentucky voters into voting against this constitutional amendment with all kinds of scare language, with all kinds of generalities and with all kinds of sophistication when it comes to political messaging. There’s also been a particular technique used, and that’s the technique of trying to use so-called hard cases in order to say, if you adopt this constitutional language or this restriction on abortion, bad things will happen to some people.

Now, let me just point out that that’s true of every single law. Every single law comes with unintended consequences, and every single law, no matter what that law is, is going to state that this is legal or that is illegal, and that definition is not going to be exactly what you might want under any particular circumstance of urgency or emergency. That’s just to say the law has to state in a limited number of words what is required or what is not required, what is forbidden or what is not forbidden. And if you are looking for legislation that will never have a hard case, then you’re never going to pass anything so simple as a speed limit.

Arguably, the state of Mississippi is, if not the most pro-life state in the union or anti-abortion state in the union, at least it’s close. But some years ago, voters even in Mississippi were dissuaded by this kind of public relations avalanche, this kind of advertising campaign from abortion activists. They were persuaded to turn down a so-called human life amendment to the Mississippi Constitution because the advertisements kept warning about so-called hard cases.

Those hard cases didn’t go away because the amendment wasn’t passed, but every single human life in the womb was made more vulnerable because that amendment wasn’t passed.

Part V

Montana Proposes ‘Born Alive Infants Protection Act’ to Establish that Born-Alive Infants are Legal Persons — Who Could Possibly Vote Against That?

Finally, we need to turn to the state of Montana where voters there will be considering a legislative referendum, that is a law coming before the citizens as a referendum that is as a vote about the law up or down. This referendum is number 131, and the ballot language is this, “An act adopting the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, providing that infants born alive, including infants born alive after an abortion, are legal persons requiring healthcare providers to take necessary actions to preserve the life of a born alive infant, providing a penalty, providing that the proposed act be submitted to the qualified electors of Montana and providing an effective date.”

As the official language makes clear, “This act legally protects born alive infants by imposing criminal penalties on healthcare providers who do not act to preserve the life of such infants, including infants born during an attempted abortion. A born alive infant is entitled to medically appropriate care and treatment. A health provider shall take medically appropriate and reasonable actions to preserve the life and health of a born alive infant.” A born alive infant means an infant who breathes, has a beating heart, or has a definite movement of voluntary muscles after the complete expulsion or extraction from the mother.

Now, you listen to that language and you ask yourself a serious moral question, who could possibly oppose this? And you have to answer, well, someone’s opposing this including the abortion rights movement. Why would an abortion rights supporter even go so far as to argue against required medical treatment for an infant born alive? It is because as the abortion industry makes clear, that could well complicate their work.

The state of Montana, by the way, has been moving, and I’m thankful to say this in a more pro-life position, but it currently allows abortions to be performed all the way up until the moment of fetal viability. The state legislature in Montana actually adopted a limit on abortion, including a 20-week abortion ban, as well as some other restrictions. But the Montana Supreme Court upheld another court and has at least on temporary terms, blocked the restrictions while appeals continue.

It’s also interesting to note that in its coverage of this issue, CBS News cites what’s identified as a 2016 analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were told that the CDC had examined infant deaths for a 12-year period from 2003 to 2014, where the death certificate mentions the code for termination of pregnancy, found that 143, again, “could be definitely classified as involving an induced termination.”

Now, why exactly did CBS put it in that way? Do they mean to imply that 143 is a large number or a small one? In this context, it’s basically troubling because it seems to imply that this is no big deal, that this is unnecessary legislation and perhaps pro-life signaling. But I simply want to come back and ask even if the right number is 143, even if that is the accurate number, and even if just some small number of that 143 would be within the state of Montana, I simply point out that from a Christian consistently pro-life position, every single one of those lives is of infinite worth and is to be protected in every way possible, and especially in terms of legislation like this, which it would seem moral sanity would require citizens to vote yes.

But we see where we are in this nation right now that even in a state like Montana, even with an issue this clear, even with language so simple, there is at least the possibility that a significant or sufficient number of voters might vote it down. We’re going to find out day by day and week by week just where we stand on the issue of the defense of life in this country. We’re going to find out a very great deal next Tuesday, and in the aftermath of America’s midterm elections.

So much is at stake. Abortion is on the ballot in virtually every single electoral choice but when it comes to the voters in these five states, just imagine how direct, how unavoidable this choice really is. When it comes to California, Vermont, and Michigan, we have to hope that some kind of pro-life sanity will break through in order to prevent those state constitutions from taking such a radical shape.

And in states like Kentucky and Montana, we have to hope that a sufficient number of voters will show up to defend unborn human life, because if pro-life voters won’t show up to support and defend unborn human life in these terms and at the ballot box, then where exactly do we think we’re going to show up?

As you pray for election day, these decisions in these five states are a good place to start.

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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