Monday, April 10, 2023
It's Monday, April 10th, 2023.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Federal Judge Takes a Stand for Unborn Life and Women’s Health: Case Over Mifepristone Sparks Abortion Pill Debate
Rarely, is a weekend so consequential as the days just pass when it comes to major news stories. Of course, as Christians around the world, were celebrating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. The world was not standing still. That's certainly the case in the United States.
Huge news stories, every one of them important and most of them coming with very significant worldview dimensionality. So let's just look first of all at what might be most urgent. Most urgent in terms of the headlines is probably what took place on Friday evening when Federal Judge Matthew Kascsmryk handed down a decision saying that the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration had acted hastily in approving a specific abortion drug. It happens to be the most popular drug used in pharmaceutical abortion.
Judge Kascsmryk ruling says that mifepristone was approved wrongly by the FDA and basically if allowed to stand this federal judge's ruling would have a nationwide effect in terms of at least putting on hold the sale and distribution of this abortion medication. Very, very interestingly, and we'll have to look at this more closely in days ahead.
This federal judge went back to 1873 and what was known as the Comstock Act, and that act prohibits mailing anything that is "obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, filthy or vile." But the bill also states explicitly that this federal law prohibits "every article or thing designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion."
There are going to be some really huge considerations in this story and it is coming fast and furiously because here in Texas you had this conservative federal judge who handed down this decision that stays the Food and Drug Administration's approval of mifepristone for use in abortion. It doesn't totally forbid the use of the drug, but it puts a stay on the drug in terms of its prescription for the use in bringing about an abortion. And two things are important there.
Number one, that's the main use of the drug. Number two, that is now the main mechanism for abortion in the United States. But then you had another federal judge, in this case on the West Coast, hand down a decision that basically amounts to the opposite, at least in terms of the states covered by that federal district.
A lot to consider here and today is likely to include some new developments on this story. The bottom line is that Christians have to understand that this drug is basically a human pesticide. We also have to understand that there's a story behind this drug, and as you might expect, it's not a good wholesome, happy story.
It's a story about the deliberate intentional devising of a pill that would terminate unborn human life. So we'll be talking more about that in days to come. That is just the first of the big news stories, as I said, likely to continue unfolding today and the Biden administration has already appealed Judge Kascsmryk's decision going to the Fifth Circuit.
Now, that Fifth Circuit is a basically conservative circuit, and so it's going to be very interesting to see what happens not only in the next several days, but perhaps even over the next several hours.
Abortion is Reshaping the Political Landscape, and It Poses a Huge Challenge to the Pro-Life Movement — We Are About to Find Out What Pro-Lifers Are Made Of
But as important as the abortion pill issue is, it's also important to understand that the abortion issue writ large, is right now before our eyes in real time, transforming American politics. And here's where Christians particularly pro-life Christians, are going to have to pay some very close attention and do some very hard fast thinking.
So it comes down to this. Last Tuesday, Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal Wisconsin judge was elected. You'll recall, we talked about this extensively. She was elected to a 10-year term as a justice on Wisconsin Supreme Court, that effectively gave liberals a majority on that court and Judge Protasiewicz ran on the issue of abortion.
Now, I believe that was contrary to any basic understanding of judicial ethics, but nonetheless, she did so and she did so very successfully. What we did not know when we discussed this issue on The Briefing is that the margin of victory was actually 11%, and this was a record turnout for a judicial election, Supreme Court election in this case, in the state of Wisconsin. And so you immediately have people drawing some very big political conclusions, and these are conclusions directly at odds with the pro-life agenda. And pro-life hopes to preserve unborn human life in the United States.
And so what we're looking at now is the fact that the Wall Street Journal, runs a column by Kimberley Strassel with the headline, "The GOP's," that means the Republican Party's, "Abortion Flop." The subhead in the article, "A Wisconsin Supreme Court drubbing is the latest indication of the need to find the sensible middle." This is the kind of article, I just want to alert you that we're going to see over and over and over again.
The argument's going to be coming with increasing force that if Republicans hold to a consistent understanding of the dignity and the humanity of every single unborn life and thus the defense of that life, that it will mean political and electoral disaster for the Republican Party.
Now, if you just go back to early last summer when the Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court reversed the Roe v. Wade decision, you had pro-lifers immediately jumping to the conclusion that the battle was over. Now, we warned about that at the time. It really means, the battle has only entered a new and more intensive phase, because what we're looking at now is the necessity of fighting these issues state by state, and that is where we have discovered that there are really at least three or four different kinds of states.
They're the solid blue states, they're so pro-abortion, they basically couldn't be more pro-abortion. Then there are solidly red states, they are pretty much pro-life and if they can figure out how to be more pro-life, they want to figure that out and they want to adopt those policies and that legislation if necessary. But then you have other states in the middle, and those states in the middle certainly include classic swing states such as the state of Wisconsin. But here's where pro-lifers need to have a new sober understanding of where we stand.
We actually lost big statewide elections since the Dobbs decision in states like Kansas and Kentucky. You're talking about red states. In Kentucky, you're talking about one of the reddest of red states. Now, I believe the main reason for the defeat of that pro-life proposal here at the hands of Kentucky voters, had to do with the influx of outside money. And we're talking about something so outsized and imbalanced, that the reality is, that outside money had a huge effect and it had a huge effect, particularly buying media time in order to scare voters about what was presented as extreme legislation.
Now, as you look at this, you recognize you have two big problems here, and conservative Christians need to understand both of them, and we better be taking these into account with strategy.
Number one. We are going to face this vast infusion of money. According to the left, the pro-abortion argument is worth just about any investment they can make. And so in the wake of the reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court, what you see are vast amounts of money being raised.
Now, just in terms of the way politics works, you just need to understand that was at least partly foreseeable, because if you take something like abortion, that after all has the vast support of America's newspapers, of the press, of the academic world, you go down all the cultural elites, there is so much money there. That money is going to flow and predictably did flow to the defense of abortion or you might say to the opposition of any restriction on abortion. And of course, that includes the questions that actually arrive before voters. And the big effort here, secondly, the second thing we need to understand, is that messaging really matters.
And so you have the pro-abortion movement being very, very effective in messaging about what they will say is the predicament of women who in their rationale need an abortion and can't get an abortion. It's a very, very strong narrative when it comes to reaching voters. I say that with regret, I say that with heartbreak, but we need to recognize that it's true.
The situation has changed so much since last June with the Dobbs decision after the Kansas vote, after the Kentucky vote, and now after the Wisconsin vote. And by the way, that Wisconsin vote has more national political attention than either of the questions presented to citizens in Kentucky or Kansas. The assumption on the part of the political class is that the Republican Party's just out of step on the abortion issue.
Now, is the pro-life movement out of step with the American people? Well, to some degree, yes. And I say that simply to underscore the challenge that we face. The reality is that the pro-life movement, pro-life Christians in the United States, we need to recognize that we have not yet convinced most of our neighbors that the unborn child is actually a human being absolutely deserving of our protection, from the moment of conception until natural death. We have a lot of ground to gain here. We have an awful lot of argument to make here.
Now, the truth is on our side, but the point is that in an electoral system of government, we have to convince enough of our citizens of the truth, if the truth is going to prevail. The big political games right now have not come for the pro-life movement and our political allies. It has gone to the other side. The New York Times front page article last Thursday, "Post-Roe Lift In Wisconsin Fuels the Left." The subhead, "Liberal Win Points to a National Strategy."
Now, that headline and subhead just makes the point. Here you have the left celebrating the fact, that the reversal of Roe actually has led to a momentum for the left, in American politics that is fueled by outrage at the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe, and furthermore, an actual panic on the part of so many Americans, that abortion might be restricted in some way.
Now, I want to insert a footnote here for our consideration. If you go back to the early 1970s, the Roe v. Wade decision handed down in 1973, most evangelicals did not know how to think through, how to think about the abortion issue. We had to learn fast. And one of the lessons that conservative Christian pro-life defenders learned during the 1970s and the 1980s, was that pointing to the baby was extremely effective.
Pointing to the unborn child. That is the point. Pointing to the humanity, the dignity, the sanctity of life of that unborn child. That was very, very effective. The pro-life movement went from very little public support to a great deal of public support. And you also had the fact that the anti-Roe movement was accelerated by the fact that many Americans just didn't believe the Supreme Court had any business handing down that kind of decision. Legislating, as the language went from the bench.
But what we now come to understand, and I think this is something we're going to have to think through at great length. What we now seem to understand is that many Americans who actually turned into something of a pro-life position, didn't turn to anything like an authentic pro-life position. They were morally repulsed by abortion, but they don't yet see the issue clearly enough or they don't have sufficient pro-life conviction to move to any actual courage or for that matter, just a calculation of a political vote, to vote to defend unborn life.
And so I think it's fair to say, that a lot of pro-life Americans, and that means a lot of conservative Christians are quite confused on the other side of Dobbs, because there were many who believed that this would lead to an immediate step. All across the country, but particularly in swing states towards further restrictions on abortion. That basically has not happened.
Now, a couple of things we need to recognize and to how this works as a political calculation. Now, for one thing, you need to recognize that politicians move where they see political advantage. And that's where you have many people in the Democratic Party saying, "You know, this abortion issue not only is not a loser issue for us, it's a winner issue for us." You have Michelle Goldberg, very liberal columnists for the New York Times over the weekend writing a piece with a headline, "The Abortion Ban Backlash Is Starting to Freak Out Republicans." And here's something else we need to note. Yes, of course, it's going to freak out the Republicans who are susceptible to being freaked out.
On some of the Sunday morning news programs, you had Republican consultants going on, lamenting the fact that pro-life voters were pushing the Republican Party into what was described as an extreme position and thus scaring off voters, particularly in swing states. A quick mathematical calculus just indicates that in a state like Wisconsin, something demonstrable has happened between 2016 and 2023.
In 2016, Donald Trump won that state in terms of its electoral vote. Now, it was a very narrow vote, but this Supreme Court race was actually won by the liberal by 11 points. Now, 11 points in a swing state is a massive margin of victory. So much so that you can bet that those who earned their money by being political consultants, they're busy consulting real fast, saying, "You better watch where the American people are going."
Here's where conservative Christians need to understand. That's not an irrelevant fact, but the most relevant issue is our challenge to try to reach the consciences and persuade a majority of the American people, about the unassailable dignity and sanctity of unborn human life.
It turns out that being anti-Roe does not mean being comprehensively pro-life, and many of us knew that at the time, but this just underlines the scale of the challenge we now face. We're about to find out what pro-life Americans are made of. If they're made of very thin, fragile political stuff, then they're going to be scared off by these setbacks. On the other hand, if you go back to 1973, those early leaders in the pro-life movement couldn't imagine actually the reversal of Roe and many of them did not live to see it. Those of us who did live to see it, now bear the responsibility to see this argument through.
And pro-lifers in the United States are going to have to recognize that we must hold political feet to the fire on this issue, because there is going to be an enormous argument that's going to settle into people who after all, only stay in office if they win elections, that they're going to have to trim their sails on abortion in order to maintain their office.
Now, as you look at deep red states, far less danger there. As you look at deep blue states, we don't have pro-lifers in office there, but as you look in the middle, that's where many of these battles are going to be fought. And here's another bottom line for our consideration. We're about to find out where those politicians really are on this issue.
You can be guaranteed, this is going to play into every major Republican electoral battle, and that includes the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. All other issues aside, this issue is going to separate the candidates, and I think it's going to do so pretty early.
Will Title IX Mean Boys on Girls’ Teams? Biden Administration Undermines Fairness in Support of LGBTQ Revolution
But next, another issue of extreme worldview urgency that was handed down just as the nation was going into a major holiday weekend.
This had to do with the Biden administration's release of proposed changes to Title IX regulations and policies administered through the Department of Education, that would set policies for sports in an array of institutions all the way from K–12 to colleges and universities that participate in federal funding programs, which means the vast majority of them.
The bottom line is the Title IX, is the national legislation that authorizes that kind of funding, but also indicates what schools and institutions do and do not comply. And this compliance is a huge issue. And the Biden administration has been pushing an LGBTQ agenda like no other administration in American history and of no surprise to any of us, the T in LGBTQ is the frontline issue.
The draft policies handed down by the Biden administration on Thursday would forbid blanket policies saying, for instance, that only biological males could play on boys and men's teams, and only biological females could play on girls and women's teams.
Instead, the Biden administration's policy basically is that of non-discrimination, you could as a student just say which team you're going to play on, unless and until the institution can prove in a specific way that there would be an imbalance at the expense of one gender over the other. And in this case, it really is a one-way street. We understand that. There really are not many who claim transgender identity, who are biological females trying to play on male teams. That's just really not an issue or to compete with males.
What you have is the opposite. You have those who are biological males claiming transgender identity, trying to join teams and compete individually at the level of K–12 and collegiate athletics on women's teams or to compete as females. This imbalance is something that just about every American recognizes is unfair, but this just shows us that Biden administration is just no plowing through all of that in order to push the LGBTQ agenda.
And yet, even as this now moves into a listening phase on the part of the government, before this becomes official policy, the reality is that this is not acceptable to the LGBTQ movement, because that movement wants a blanket ban on any restrictions that would limit someone with transgender identity playing wherever he or she would choose to play or to compete. The only exceptions to this policy, in other words, the only way you could say only biological females can compete in this female arena or vice versa, it would be to meet certain requirements.
Collin Binkley for the Associated Press summarizes it this way, "Any limits would have to consider the sport, the level of competition and the age of students." The statement goes on to say, "Elementary school students would generally be allowed to participate on any teams consistent with their gender identity, for example." That means, if a biological male in this elementary context insists upon competing or participating in female sports, the student would be allowed to do so.
The AP report goes on, "More competitive teams at high schools and colleges could add limits, but those would be discouraged in teams that don't have tryouts or cuts." Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education in the Biden administration said, "Every student should be able to have the full experience of attending school in America, including participating in athletics free from discrimination."
This is where we need to turn the equation and just point to reality. This policy means more biological males competing as females and on female teams, and that means not only being where they don't belong, it means also displacing women from those teams and girls from those teams. And as we saw in the University of Pennsylvania situation, most graphically standing in the winner's place, having defeated biological females while competing in, what is still undeniably a male body.
The AP story also summarizes this well, "Under the education department's proposed rule, no school or college that receives federal funding would be allowed to impose a one-size-fits-all policy that categorically bans trans students from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. Such policies," says the Associated Press, "would be considered a violation of Title IX." And here's what you need to recognize. This is going to apply to tax supported institutions at every level. All the way from K–12 to colleges and universities.
You'll notice something else in the Biden administration's proposal, exceptions to the trans student gets to choose what team, that student wants to play on their sport to compete in, as male or female. The exception is going to be allowed only if it serves, "important educational objectives," the AP says, "such as fairness and competition and reduction of injury risks."
Here's just something related to how policy works that Christians should keep in mind here. Exceptions to policies are very fragile. That means the policy establishes the norm, and the norm, it norms. Which is to say, if you have a norm, it actually works inexorably, inevitably towards full compliance. The exceptions have to be justified. The exceptions have to be legally defended. The exceptions become after all exceptional.
What you see in this Biden administration policy is pretty much a comprehensive win for the LGBTQ movement, and they know it. Any protests of the contrary are only a matter of strategy and tactics. There's going to be a lot of debate on this issue, and we'll be tracking it with you and for you.
The Shifting Tides of Politics in Arizona and North Carolina — What to Watch to Prepare for the 2024 Election Cycle
But finally for today, some very interesting developments in the American political scene that might not have been expected, and they can only be explained in terms of the contemporary and rather urgent political context.
First of all, in North Carolina, a very important Democratic state representative, switched parties, giving the Republicans in the legislature there in North Carolina, a veto-proof majority. So that's a big game changer. And in this case, this formerly Democratic lawmaker has to know that she is making history.
Tricia Cotham is the name of the now Republican state representative, or at least the state representative who is caucusing with the Republicans there in North Carolina. On Wednesday of last week, she announced at a news conference that she was actively becoming a Republican, and she blamed Democrats for having bullied her on so many issues.
So there you have a Democrat to Republican switch making a big difference in the legislature there in North Carolina. And remember, if you have just given a state with the Democratic governor and a Republican legislature, a veto-proof legislature with the Republican dominance, you just changed the political equation.
But speaking of the political equation, big development's likely to come in Arizona, because in Arizona we have the bizarre situation where one of the two US senators from Arizona is Kyrsten Sinema. She's a Democrat, one of the first openly LGBTQ politicians to be elected to that kind of office to the United States Senate by some counts.
Number two, Kyrsten Sinema has now changed her political identification. You may recall this from several months ago, from Democrat to independent. And even as it was almost certain that she would lose the race to regain the Democratic nomination for her current Senate seat in Arizona, it looks like she is planning a third party candidacy as an independent.
So that's likely to set up a contest with a very conservative Republican, a very, very liberal Democrat, after all running far to the left of Kyrsten Sinema, and then Kyrsten Sinema somewhere in the middle running as an independent. Is there any possibility of an independent candidate being elected in a state like Arizona? Well, at least mathematically the answer has to be yes, although the political odds are very, very long.
But what makes this very interesting is that the entry of a third party candidate into the race, well, it sits off an endless political calculation for which there is no basic answer now, and that is, would the Republican or the Democrat benefit?
Well, in one sense, it's a long way until 2024, but in another sense, as you well know, it's not too far away at all. We'll be tracking it with you.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.