The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, January 9, 2023

It’s Monday, January 9th, 2023.

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

Part I

The Insatiable Culture of Death Expands Its Reach: FDA Approves Retail Stores to Prescribe Abortion Pills

The biggest news on the abortion front over the course of the last year, of course, was the Dobbs decision handed down by the Supreme Court in June, reversing the Roe v. Wade decision. And of course, with that decision’s 50th anniversary coming up, that is really big news, but this returned for the most part the question of abortion to the 50 states. What reversing Roe did was to reverse that infamous 1973 Supreme Court decision that supposedly found a right to an abortion within a so-called right to privacy. Neither of which of course are articulated in the U.S. Constitution. That was made very clear by the court’s majority in the Dobbs decision last June. But there are some big changes that have vast moral consequence and we need to notice what they are.

First of all, we need to note that what was not imaginable back in 1973 is the rise of the abortion pill, that is abortions by taking either a medication or medications by pill. And now you need to know that more than half of all abortions in the United States happen not in an abortion clinic, but rather by means of taking a so-called abortion pill. And that’s where the politics gets really intensive because even with the Dobbs decision on the horizon, much less after it was handed down in June, you had people on the pro-abortion side who had been working for decades not only to make such a pill available, but to make it more widely available. And that’s what makes big news in recent days.

Just last week, the Food and Drug Administration handed down what it calls a permanent rule. That is to say an ongoing policy that allows the big pharmaceutical chains and also local brick-and-mortar pharmacies, as they’re often described, to dispense mifepristone. That is to say the abortion pill. The availability of those pills at the big chains and local so-called brick-and-mortar pharmacies, that is a game changer. And you add that to the availability of the pill by mail order; that turns out to be another big story in recent days. What we’re looking at is the absolute intensive drive on the part of the pro-abortion movement to maintain the accessibility of abortion to Americans. And thus to go around the states when it comes to a mail order abortion pill availability, and furthermore, to try to make abortion by medication more and more readily available. Even the dream is on the part of abortion advocates to make it just an over-the-counter medication.

Now, the big box chains, most importantly Walgreens and CVS announced after the release of this permanent rule that where it would be locally legal, and that’s mostly a state issue, CVS and Walgreens will train pharmacists to be ready to dispense mifepristone and to do so in accordance with the new FDA ruling.

As the New York Times reported, “The chains, CVS and Walgreens, said they planned to seek certification to sell the pill, mifepristone, the first pill used in the two-drug medication abortion regimen. Patients,” according to the Times, “will still need a prescription from a certified health care provider, but the new federal action could significantly expand access to medication abortion because it allows any pharmacy that agrees to accept those prescriptions and abide by certain other criteria to dispense the pills in its stores and by mail order.”

Now, I mentioned the Los Angeles Times because almost immediately after this new policy or permanent rule was released by the FDA, the Los Angeles Times ran a commentary piece saying, well, that’s good so far as it goes, but it’s not nearly far enough. It doesn’t go far enough in making abortion even more widely available.

Now, just from a Christian perspective, we need to note that the culture of death is insatiable. It has an insatiable desire to expand its reach. Death pressed further and further, made easier and easier. Death by pill, by the way, is one of the saddest and most tragic developments of our time, in this case, the death of an unborn child. Of course, they’re going to say that this is basically an early pregnancy abortion, but we as Christians understand that doesn’t change the moral equation whatsoever. The complicity of the big firms here, CVS and Walgreens, is politically predictable also in commercial terms and the fact that at least at present, they’re saying they are going to participate in accordance with this new rule in the states where it is legally possible. But we understand that the legal activism is going to press further and further, more aggressively and aggressively. And of course, there is no coincidence that this rule was handed down in the midst of the Biden Administration’s announced intention to try to defend abortion rights and to make abortion available wherever possible.

Pam Belluck writing for the Times understands the point when she writes, “Abortion pills already used in more than half of pregnancy terminations in the United States, are becoming even more sought after in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision last year overturning the federal right to abortion. With conservative states banning or sharply restricting abortion, the pills have increasingly become central to political and legal battles, and the decision to sell them could make the big chains another focus of the country’s divisive abortion debate.”

Now, I’ll just say that we should make it a part of the nation’s or the country’s divisive abortion debate, and that is because we are talking about life and death here. It doesn’t change the moral equation that the agent of death is now a chemical or a pill. Now, by the way, we certainly learned that lesson in World War II. Why is it that all of a sudden we act as if medication abortion or abortion by pill, I’m saying this as a society, this makes abortion a far less significant moral matter?

But then in recent days, there’s been another development and understand it comes naturally just on the heels of the FDA announcement. USA Today reported just days ago, “Justice Department clears postal service to deliver abortion pills even in restrictive states.” So this means that your local postman is now also being put in the position of distributing abortion pills even in states where abortion and the use of the abortion pill, and in another situation, the use of the abortion pill without a medical provider, a physical doctor in the room. Well, it turns out that now the postal service is going to be complicit in this. And understand from a Christian perspective, when you talk about the USPS or the United States Postal Service, you’re talking about something that belongs to the entire American nation. The moral complicity and the culture of death just spreads further and further.

The USA Today report tells us this, “The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel found that federal law allows the mailing of the pills because senders cannot typically know if the recipient will use them illegally, according to a 21-page opinion published this week.” And as the lead tells us, “The US Postal Service may deliver abortion pills even in states that have banned or restricted abortion access, that announced by the Department of Justice.”

Just understand what we’re looking at here. Notice the technicality. Notice the logic behind this ruling by the Justice Department about the USPS. We’re told that the Office of Legal Counsel found the federal law “allows the mailing of the pills because senders typically cannot know if the recipient will use them illegally.” Now, just consider the moral confusion that is embedded in that. It’s a deliberate confusion. No, they’re saying they can’t know if the person receiving the pills is going to use them illegally. Well, let me just state they can know, at least in general and in moral terms by the address to which the pills are being delivered. You’ll notice that the Biden administration is absolutely determined. And make no mistake, this is the Biden Administration’s Department of Justice to defend access to abortion and even to make abortion more widely accessible. How do we know that? It’s because as a candidate, Joe Biden told us that that would be his approach. And day by day, the unfolding developments in his administration have sustained that.

The pro-abortion movement and defenders in the media as represented by that commentary that appeared in the Los Angeles Times make their point clear. I read from that commentary again. “With Roe v. Wade overturned, anti-abortion activists are now coming after abortion pills. They know these are increasingly popular. More than half of all US abortions are done with medications.” But in the next paragraph, the LA Times piece says this, “Since the Dobbs decision, healthcare advocates have been looking to the federal government to take stronger action to protect people’s rights to bodily autonomy. President Biden directed Healthy human Services ‘to identify all ways to ensure that mifepristone’, that’s the abortion pill or one of the two, ‘is as widely accessible as possible.'” The next statement, “That promise is still far from being fulfilled.”

So here you have the writer for the LA time saying this decision made by the FDA, it’s good so far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. The culture of death is never satisfied. It will never be satisfied. But I think you probably noted one other issue in that statement I read from this article, and that is the fact that it says the main issue here is for the government “to protect people’s rights to bodily autonomy.”

This is the same logic that leads with all the gender confusion of our age to pregnant people or people who may be pregnant. So as we see, the culture of death and the culture of gender confusion are now acting at least in part, quite commonly in collusion.

Big surprise there, huh?

Part II

A Defeat for Unborn Life and Sign of Challenges to Come: South Carolina’s Supreme Court Rules State’s Constitution Provision for Right to Privacy Includes Abortion

Other big news on the abortion front came from the state of South Carolina. Now in recent years, South Carolina has taken a decidedly pro-life turn. That’s been a great encouragement. But just last week, South Carolina’s Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution provides a so-called right to privacy that extends to abortion. As Kate Zernike reported for the New York Times, “The South Carolina Constitution provides a right to privacy that includes the right to abortion, the state’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, saying ‘the decision to terminate a pregnancy rests upon the utmost personal and private considerations imaginable.'”

Now, what we need to note at this point is that the state of South Carolina’s constitution does mention a right to privacy, but no one can actually plausibly or honestly make the argument that when that constitutional language was adopted, anything like abortion was envisioned at all. Of course it wasn’t. But in this case, the South Carolina Constitution does contain at least language that shouldn’t apply to abortion even though the state Supreme Court said last week that it should. But that language does appear… We need to note that when the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down by the US Supreme Court, it declared the extension of a right to privacy that isn’t mentioned at all. No such word appears in this sense in the US Constitution. Doesn’t appear now, never has appeared.

You won’t be surprised to know that Planned Parenthood is ecstatic about the South Carolina Supreme Court decision. One Planned Parenthood spokesperson said, “This is a monumental victory in the movement to protect legal abortion in the South.” Now of the five Supreme Court justices in South Carolina, three of them ruled about this right to privacy that extends to abortion, but they were specifically striking down a state law that had prohibited abortion in South Carolina after about six weeks of pregnancy. The majority, remember three, two majority, went on to say that the South Carolina Constitution states that, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures and unreasonable invasions of privacy shall not be violated.” But you hear that language and you understand that it did not envision abortion at all. And that’s just an honest statement. But nonetheless, you see how legal progressivism has pressed the language found in constitutional texts and in the case of Roe v. Wade, invented language that was never even there and now tries to establish that language or their interpretation of that language as the Constitution itself and the law of the land.

The fact that the Supreme Court of the United States did that in 1973 and basically got away with it for almost 50 years, tells you a great deal about the extent to which the legal left has been in the driver’s seat for most of the recent decades of American legal history. That began to change with the rise of a conservative legal movement in the United States. And that of course, eventually resulted in a Supreme Court conservative majority. It took conservative Republican presidents making those nominations in order to make that happen. But what we’re looking at is the fact that sadly enough, the Supreme Court of the United States can reverse Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs decision of last June, only in the state of South Carolina of all places, to have the state Supreme Court come back and say that a woman has a right to abortion in that state because of the South Carolina Constitution.

But what we also need to understand is that there is now a concerted effort, state by state, to put either explicit language stating a woman’s right to an abortion, or again, to use the gender non-binary language of the modern confusion. A person’s right to abortion, or at least a person who might be pregnant rights to an abortion. To put that in the state constitution or to get the Supreme Court to rule that even if the language isn’t there according to their own progressivist logic, a right to abortion exists within the state constitution. Or at the very least to prevent, this took place in Kansas last year, an explicitly pro-life measure from being included in the language of the State’s constitution. So you’ll notice that this is an absolute determination by the culture of death with the Dobbs decision having been handed down last year to take the battle to every single state.

Let’s just mention three of the states of our most recent conversation here, Kentucky, Kansas, South Carolina. Those three states represent much of the pro-life progress of the last several decades. But you’ll notice that the culture of death is coming for their progress, seeking to reverse it and even to advance the culture of death by every opportunity.

We need to note something else of importance that arose in the argumentation concerning this case before the South Carolina Supreme Court, as even the New York Times concedes, the justices asked whether agreeing with the abortion providers “would oblige them to set a new gestational limit on abortions or would result in no limits on abortion. They’re worried about how far the right to privacy would have to extend. Would it protect bigamy, polygamy, assisted suicide?” Well, let’s just state the obvious. They were at least asking the right questions even if the majority got to the wrong, and that in a deadly sense got to the wrong decision. The fact is that if there is an unbridled right to privacy, it would extend to all those things that were mentioned as the fears of the justices. It would extend to those things and beyond.

If indeed abortion, which isn’t mentioned, let’s be clear about that, isn’t mentioned, wasn’t imagined, wasn’t envisioned in that language in the South Carolina Constitution. If abortion can nonetheless be read into it, then anything can be read into it. And here’s another ironclad law of moral regress. If anything can be read into it, eventually there will be an effort to make certain that whatever the claim is, it is read into that so-called right to privacy.

Pro-life forces in the state of South Carolina, and that includes a good number of the legislators there and the governor in South Carolina, they are going to be investigating just how far they can press the pro-life cause within the bounds of the South Carolina Supreme Court decision. And of course, we have to also at least put on the table the fact that legislators and political leaders there in South Carolina may need to press for an amendment, a revision to the South Carolina Constitution in order to protect the dignity and sanctity of unborn human life. But note that in South Carolina, just as in Kansas, the pro-abortion movement, especially the national level, will throw everything it has into that battle. And we saw that worked out not only last November in Kansas, but also in Kentucky.

And by the way, in Kentucky, pro-life forces are bracing for a decision that is expected by the Supreme Court of the state of Kentucky, which is expected to rule before long as to whether or not the Kentucky Constitution supposedly includes a guarantee of abortion. Now, you’ll notice, of course, there is no such word in the Kentucky Constitution. There was no intention or even imagination that abortion would be included in that language found within the Kentucky Constitution.

But what we see is that the culture of death comes with a method of constitutional interpretation and argument. And that is, you don’t have to worry about finding the word. All you have to do is get enough justices to find a so-called right to privacy that extends to a right to abortion within the State’s constitution and you’re in business.

Of course, what we know is that business is the business of death.

Part III

A Strategy for the Abortion Announced in and by the Media? New York Times Publishes Editorial Board’s Abortion Manifesto

But that then takes us to the biggest editorial development of recent days, and that is the editorial board statement that appeared in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times. This is a manifesto and it takes about two thirds of the print page and yesterday’s edition. The headline of the editorial from the New York Times editorial board is this, “We must place access to abortion on the ballot.”

Now, there is something very interesting just in the way the editorial board is identified in this case, and this is not particularly new at the New York Times, but it is particularly important. This is a statement by the editorial board and that board is described in these words. “A group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate, and certain long-standing values.” It is separate from the newsroom. Now, in some sense it is separate from the newsroom, but it isn’t separate in the sense of the general culture of the New York Times and of the liberal media. And yet as you’re looking at this, the editorial board that isn’t named in this context is described again in a very self-congratulatory way as made up of opinion journalists, don’t miss this, whose views are informed by what? Expertise, research, debate, and certain longstanding values. Wouldn’t you like to know what those certain longstanding values are?

It would seem that if the New York Times is going to identify its editorial board by holding to these certain longstanding values, that it might serve their readership to be told exactly what those certain longstanding values are. But evidently one of them is a longstanding support for abortion.

Now, let me just drop in an historical footnote here. The New York Times largely built its early circulation and its reputation as a muck-raking, investigative, headline-making newspaper in the movement to oppose abortion. The New York Times was decidedly anti-abortion, but all that changed in the modern era and the New York Times is now one of the crusading editorial boards in this country, or crusading newspapers for that matter, for the culture of death in terms of the issue of abortion. But this enormous statement, a manifesto, I will call it, that appeared in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times, calls for the issue of abortion to be put on the ballot everywhere it might be possible, but in particular in the states.

The editorial board statement includes these words, “The fight over abortion has taken on new resonance in post Row America. It is no longer just a front in the culture wars, but rather a fundamental matter of health and wellbeing for millions of women. And the difference between life and death for many. While views on abortion remain nuanced and complex, a majority of the American public stands firmly on the side of preserving a woman’s right to control her own body.” The editorial board statement continues, “The most rational, equitable way forward would be for Congress to enshrine abortion rights in federal law. That is not going to happen anytime soon. Leading Republicans in the House will thwart any legislative moves to ensure these rights. That’s why the most promising avenues for action will be at the state level through ballot initiatives.”

So there’s the plan. It’s not as if we have to wonder what the culture of death is planning in terms of a strategy. They’ve told us the plan, ballot initiatives at the state level everywhere, but in particular in the states where the pro-abortion movement decides that pro-abortion protections are not adequate or pro-life momentum might threaten. And again, this is a very big article. It’s a pretty massive editorial statement. And the main point of this statement is the battle has to be taken to the states, but the end game is also inside here.

 Let me get to the end of the piece where it says this: “Allowing individual states to regulate women’s reproductive rights does have practical and philosophical flaws. It establishes a patchwork system that risks sowing confusion and uncertainty, potentially undermining the care women receive or fail to receive. It also makes a mockery of the concept of inalienable rights. The right to control one’s body should not depend upon whether one lives in Alaska or Maine as opposed to Tennessee or Texas. As the dissenting justices in the Supreme Court Dobbs decision pointed out, the court does not act neutrally when it leaves everything up to the states. Rather, the court acts neutrally when it protects the right against all comers.”

But of course, that isn’t a right. It isn’t in the Constitution. The court was wrong to declare it in the Constitution, and it certainly is not an inalienable right. But you’ll notice the editorial board of the New York Times representing the cultural mainstream in this country says, full speed ahead nonetheless. The editorial statement ends with calling for the federal government and the Biden administration to pass federal legislation that would enshrine a woman’s so-called right to abortion and federal law. And understand, that is the ambition, that is the plan. We have been told it right up front. We do not have to try to discern whether or not there’s some kind of conspiracy afoot because in this case, it’s a conspiracy right out in public. So much so that the editorial board of the New York Times publishes it in full as a manifesto just yesterday.

I want to end by indicating an interesting tell, so to speak, in that New York Times editorial board piece. I mentioned the paragraph where they tried to set the moral case, but a part of that case was where they said that the abortion laws in a state or at the federal level can make the difference “between life and death for many”. Now, of course, they mean many women… No, wait just a minute. I guess they mean many pregnant people. But nonetheless, we need to note that for the unborn baby, abortion is intended as a matter of death. Period. That’s what makes abortion abortion. It is an intentional effort to terminate, to kill the life of the unborn child in the womb or in the process of gestation after fertilization. Its intention is death.

So at that point, tragically, and ironically enough, I find myself in a single point agreement with this editorial board statement from the New York Times. It is a matter of life and death. I just wish they extended that understanding of what is at stake to the unborn. But then again, the entire point of this article is to extend abortion and abortion rights, which means make no mistake about it, especially Christians must understand this.

It’s not just a matter of life and death. In this case, it is simply, manifestly, unquestionably the ambition to create death.

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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