The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, April 24, 2023

It’s Monday, April 24th 2023.

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

Part I

The Abortion Fight Thrown Back to Lower Courts: SCOTUS Issues Order in Fight Over Mail-in Abortion Pill

The Supreme Court of the United States handed down an order on Friday, much expected, much anticipated. The actual substance of the order means that the abortion pill known as mifepristone will continue to be distributed according to current FDA procedures, but this does not mean that the case is over. It does not mean that the Supreme Court will not eventually have to rule directly on the merits of this case. It does mean that even with an expedited process, the Supreme Court has sent the issue back to lower courts.

Let’s just remind ourselves of how we got here. First of all, a suit was filed in a Texas federal court, a district court alleging that the Food and Drug Administration in the year 2000, that’s at least the year in which the policy was handed down, approved the use of the drug mifepristone and its prescription by doctors as one of two major abortion pills that would lead to medical abortion in the United States.

The case that was made by those who were bringing the case, is that the FDA violated its own procedures and thus violated the law in this sense in pushing through the authorization for mifepristone. And the case drew a great deal of national attention from the beginning. The background to that has to do, as we shall see, with the fact that the majority of abortions that are performed right now in the United States come as a result of medication, thus they are called medical abortions as contrasted with surgical abortions.

But the end result is exactly the same, the willful termination of a human life in the womb. Now, those who are bringing this particular suit did so on behalf of women alleging that the FDA’s action put women at risk with real harms, medical harms because of the risks of this particular medicine. And with the allegation that the FDA had clearly rushed to this process, a process that it not only rushed, but made wrongly under direct political pressure from pro-abortion politicians, most importantly, the Clinton administration, the administration of President Bill Clinton.

And Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, federal district court judge there in Texas just a few weeks ago, found in favor of the plaintiffs in this case, finding that the FDA did act wrongly and thus this would put the entire issue of the legality of prescribing mifepristone very much in question. And you had a clear legal action by a federal district court, and the entire culture of death responded predictably.

The Biden administration, which is radically pro-abortion even, or you might even say especially in contrast with previous pro-abortion Democratic administrations, it has made abortion a frontline issue. It basically wants to block any restriction upon abortion whatsoever. And furthermore, it looks to medical abortions or abortion by pill as the solution to get around the Dobbs decision, reversing Roe v. Wade, at least in states that would make abortion illegal.

Predictably, the case was appealed, and the most immediate appeal would be to the Fifth Circuit. The circuits you’ll recall are regions of the United States. They are referred to as circuits, by the way, because the judges used to actually ride a circuit, a circuit on horseback or in some kind of buggy or carriage. But the circuits are now major regions. The circuit that is involved here is the Fifth Circuit, which is seated in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is generally understood to be a conservative court.

Because this has to do directly with the federal agency and with all the pressures that are very much in play, the Supreme Court gave an expedited hearing to this case largely because of the federalism issues that are directly involved. And yet the Supreme Court did not rule on the case, it just handed down a procedural order. And in this order it basically said that the drug could continue to be distributed under current FDA policies, so long as the case is being heard through the appellate process.

Now, this goes into next month, at least when the case is likely to come before the Fifth Circuit, and almost inevitably the case as a case to be directly considered by the Supreme Court is going to arrive sometime this year. And you can just imagine all the controversy, the political pressures, and all the expectation built into that case, and eventually to a decision that would come from the Supreme Court. The decision basically not to make a decision to issue this kind of pause or stay and to send the case back to the Fifth Circuit and await its decision.

Well, that particular order is something of a mystery to us, because in the process of the Supreme Court’s conference, we don’t have direct access. We don’t have a vote in this. We do know that two justices indicated that they differed with the decision of the majority of the court. But in this kind of case, it’s not at all unusual that you don’t hear directly from justices at all, you just get an order. This is not tantamount to a decision that is actually a case decided by the Supreme Court.

As I said, it is almost sure that this particular case will arrive at the Supreme Court and eventually that the Supreme Court’s going to have to rule on this case. Either way, the Fifth Circuit goes, that is almost absolutely predictable and certain. Oral arguments before the Fifth Circuit there in New Orleans are expected to begin on May the 17th. So, even though that’s a few days away, you can expect that this case is going to continue to be front page news across the United States.

But I want us to back up for a moment as Christians and ask ourselves the question, why would this particular pill under this context be so controversial in the first place? We’re talking about a pill, but of course, we’re not just talking about any pill, we’re talking about a pill that is seen in diametrically opposing ways by the two different sides in the abortion controversy.

You’re talking about the collision here, not only, and this is just a baseline issue of how the FDA should be evaluated in a decision it made back in the year 2000, but rather at an even deeper level, it is this basic contradiction, this basic conflict between those who see the basic issue as the right to life of an unborn human child in the womb and those who see this merely as an issue of a woman’s reproductive health. If nothing else, this particular case helps us to understand some of those most basic issues at stake. And it might be good for us to think about this for just a few moments. When medical abortions arrived on the scene, and this is abortion in the form of a pill or a combination of pills, I describe this basically as a human pesticide, because that’s what it is.

When you look at a chemical intended to stop life, you’re looking at something that in the Latin would end with the word “cide.” In this case, I think it is something of a human pesticide. And if that sounds horrifying, that’s exactly what it is and the horror is real. But you’re also looking at the fact that this was seen as liberation by some. How can one pill be seen by some as a form of medicalized murder, and on the other hand, by some on the other side, as representing the liberation of women so that they can be in a situation of not being pregnant.

But this gets back to something that even long before legalized abortion in the United States said, long before the arrival of medical abortion, one of the most astounding claims made by the ideological feminists in the 1960s was that in order for a woman to be equal with a man, she had to be at any moment, at least by her will equally able to be not pregnant.

And if that sounds like a lot of negatives, that’s the way they had to make the argument. Because the natural state of being a woman in especially in a context of marriage with the activity of a husband and a wife, the normal situation is that pregnancy is always at least a possibility. The argument made by the ideological feminists, they were often referred to as the second wave feminists, the first wave feminists were basically arguing for equality as in the equality of women to vote with men. That came in the late 19th century successfully. In many nations, in the 20th century, in the early decades in particular. But the second wave of feminism in a far more ideological form came with these specific demands that were tied to the sexual revolution.

And again, underlying this clearly, one of those demands was that equality required that a woman must be at any point capable of being just as unpregnant as any man. Well, as you know, the great complication here is, first of all, biology, which is why you had very prominent feminists who were deeply involved in exercising their agency in getting the birth control revolution started. And that was ideologically driven, even as it had a scientific, even let’s just remind ourselves with a pill, a medical manifestation.

But if there was a medical manifestation to the feminist demand for birth control by pill, why couldn’t the same thing come for abortion? And it eventually did, and the development of an abortion pill, which didn’t happen by the way in the United States, but in Europe. And you had the fact that once it came, there were many women who said, “Look, this is just like the birth control pill. This is an abortion pill. The birth control pill would mean that a woman would have some capacity not to become pregnant.

The abortion pill on the other side of an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy would be a pill way out, a medical way out.”

Part II

A Human Pesticide or Method of Liberation?: The Worldview Divide Over Mifepristone—and Abortion by Any Means

But to Christians, the birth control pill is itself not uncomplicated and not unproblematic. But without debating that for a moment, let’s just consider the fact that it’s in a different category altogether to talk about an abortion pill, because there you’re talking about after conception, after fertilization. You’re talking about after the process of gestation is underway. You’re talking about the fact that there is now a human in the womb, and this is an effort to terminate that life. And surgical abortion is, after all, surgery. Surgical abortion is something that has to take place in an abortion clinic or at least some kind of medical facility.

But when it comes to the abortion pill, you can understand that just like the birth control pill was packaged as sheer liberation, the abortion pill for those whose thinking goes just this way, it was another assured form of liberation, another little white pill.

But let’s go back to the 1990s and in particular the year 2000, when the Food and Drug Administration of the federal government authorized mifepristone, this particular of two major abortion pills for the use as an abortive fashion. Well, here’s the big problem. As you look at the FDA’s own guidelines and rules, it requires that a pill, if it’s going to be approved for something like this, needs to be something that produces health, not unhealth.

And in direct terms, that means there must be some positive medical function that is fulfilled by this drug in terms of establishing health. And here’s where the story gets even darker than most Christians in the United States understand. The FDA found a way, and this was during the Clinton administration, a very pro-abortion administration, and you had the FDA find that way by basically identifying pregnancy as an illness, an illness effectively to be treated and cured by the abortion pill.

Now, operating out of a biblical worldview, all the alarm bells have to be going off about as loudly as they can go, because we are talking here about defining human life as an illness in the womb that needs to be treated as something like a bacterium or an infection or a virus. We need to get rid of this thing. This is a pill that would allow us to get rid of this thing. The problem is, of course, that here you have a contradiction in medicine, because at the very same time you have medicine and even the FDA dealing with particular kinds of therapeutics, drugs and surgical techniques, all the rest that were intended to try to achieve successful pregnancy, not to try to prevent it. Let’s just put it clearly, you do not have efforts to try to continue, extend and achieve disease.

But those who were absolutely adamantly for this abortion pill, they were willing to do whatever it took. And this is the point made by the plaintiffs in this case that was filed in Texas, and that is that the FDA broke its own rules, violated medical ethics in pushing forth this particular drug and doing so in a way that basically even directly treated pregnancy as an illness. The other point made by the plaintiffs in this case was that the FDA had given very inadequate consideration to health threats to women in the use of this kind of pill. And the plaintiffs, by the way, were quite successful in pointing out that if you are talking about a so-called safe medication, well, this medication turns out to be quite unsafe for a frightening percentage of women who have to be hospitalized or seek medical treatment after taking the pill.

So, just to pull this full circle, we just need to understand that we’re looking here at a conflict of worldviews that is irresolvable. We’re talking about something that is so basic, there are people who see pregnancy as an illness, this pill as a medical treatment to try to free a woman from an illness that is an unintended or unwanted pregnancy. On the other hand, you have those who say, according to scripture, this is a human being made in God’s image in the womb, now in the process of gestation and we have no right to end that life.

But here’s something else we need to note. And I think this becomes particularly clear in this case, perhaps in a way that it has not yet before, and that’s this. When you are talking about a pro-life argument, the pro-life argument accepts that in this situation there are two very important persons involved. One is the mother and one is the child inside the mother, at some point of gestation.

So, here’s the big math on this, and this is where we need to end simply because this is the most important issue in this consideration. When you are talking about the pro-life position, it’s these two persons made in the image of God each with particular kinds of rights and interests that need to be respected. But it is not the right of the woman simply to destroy the other person in this picture, in this case, in her womb. But then we understand that when you flip the picture and you go to the pro-abortion side, there is only one person they ever recognize. They never talk about a baby. They try to avoid the word pregnancy. They do everything to try to insist that this is just a woman’s reproductive healthcare or just a woman’s healthcare. And of course, with all this gender confusion, they’re confused about women in that situation as well.

But nonetheless, if no one else in the world sees this clearly, Christians have no option but to see this clearly. And because of this, we’re going to have to follow this case very, very closely. It went from Texas to New Orleans briefly, then to Washington, now back from Washington to New Orleans. Where it goes from here, well, that’s going to be our concern in days and weeks to come.

Part III

Who are the Good Guys in Sudan?: The Country’s Civil War Sheds Light on the Complexity of Its Current Conflict

But next we’re going to shift to an international headline. And this has to do with civil war in the nation of Sudan. And here’s where a lot of people in the West and in particular, Americans might look at this and say, “Well, here you have an armed conflict, there must be a good side and a bad side. There must be something that is clearly indicating that one side should win and we have to hope the other side would lose.”

But here we’re in a situation in which from the perspective of the United States, it is unclear that either side has any legitimate claim. And this is one of those situations where you have warfare in a context of near total societal breakdown and confusion. So, we’re talking about Sudan. They’re in Northeast Africa. We’re talking about the third-largest nation in Africa. It’s a nation with a huge population, over 40 million people. It has a fascinating history that we’re going to consider in just a moment. But the big issue right now is that in recent Sudanese history, there have been two major military figures, and evidently each of them has decided to take control and to destroy the other.

So, you have what is defined in Sudan as a military and a paramilitary, that means a break off from the recognized armed forces, and they are fighting for supremacy. And at this point, thousands of people are already dead. As of late into the weekend, the United States had evacuated its diplomatic personnel from Khartoum the capital of Sudan. That too, by the way, is a very interesting tale into itself because there’s a long and very tragic history in the United States of efforts to try to remove diplomatic personnel of the United States in places of danger, sometimes successful, sometimes unsuccessful.

In this case, apparently the removal of American diplomatic personnel was successful, but it was very tenuous. And the reason for that’s also interesting, because when you look at removing people from this kind of context, and they were in the American diplomatic compound there in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, there is really one preferred technology for getting people out in that circumstance. And that technology was something that really emerged only about the middle of the 20th century, that technology is the helicopter.

But as was discovered in the Carter administration in efforts to rescue the American hostages in Iran, helicopters do not have a very long range. And they are susceptible to several terrain complexities, and one of those happens to be the desert. But that leads to another problem. Helicopters require something like forward bases unless the evacuation’s going to be very near a coast. In this case, you’re not talking about an embassy or diplomatic location very near a coast. You’re talking about one that would require some kind of forward location for the helicopters. And it took some time for the American military to put that forward standing in place to be able to use the helicopters.

But evidently, it was successful and the State Department revealed that diplomatic personnel had been evacuated. But the State Department also said that a fairly significant number of Americans without diplomatic status remain in Sudan, and they’re likely to be in danger, because ominously, the State Department also went on to say that it had no direct means of helping those Americans right now.

But just thinking about Sudan for a moment, it’s just important to remember that history’s a very long story. And there are a lot of parallels, a lot of touchpoints. There are just a lot of connections that are sometimes very helpful to be made. Most people thinking about Sudan, at least in the United States thinking about Sudan, are thinking about it as a problematic region there in Northeast Africa. And one that’s been problematic, by the way, for a very long time, including a 30-year military dictatorship that basically led to the imposition of Sharia law.

But what might be a particular interest to Christians is to understand that here we have an intersection with the Old Testament, with biblical history, and even with Noah. The history of Sudan goes back to Pharaonic Egypt and Sudan has at times been a part of Egypt. It was under the rule of the Egyptian New Kingdom in the second millennium BC, and it also was represented in the Kingdom of Kush, which basically existed from 785 BC to something like 350 AD. So, we’re talking about history there, contemporaneous with Israel and Judea. The Kingdom of Kush was so powerful that it was able basically to prevail over the Pharaohs and to extend its rule over Egypt in something of a political reversal. And the name Kush in this case goes back to a grandson of Noah.

And so, as you look at the Old Testament and the Table of Nations and the understanding of peoples, the Kingdom of Kush will come up. Now, it’s going to come up with several different references that are not always clearly referring to the same nation or the same people at every case. But nonetheless, here you are talking about a name that is associated with a grandson of Noah, and you’re looking at a fairly significant number of verses in the scripture that refer to the Kingdom of Kush or the people of Kush. And here you see it right in the headlines of today. Now, Sudan is not referred to as Kush, but inside Sudan that history is very much prized.

In intervening centuries and indeed two millennia, the Sudanese nation has been ruled by different kinds of groups, including an internal caliphate. It has been ruled by Egypt also in fairly modern times. It was at least a part of the Ottoman Empire. It was under that military dictatorship from 1989 to 2019, and it was declared a secular state in 2020. And now just, well, three years later, you can see that Sudan is in turmoil again. Like so much of this region of Northern Africa known as the Sahel, you had Muslims who came into the area in about the eighth century. But it wasn’t until about the 16th century that an Islamic kingdom was actually put in place there.

It’s also interesting to know that the Muslims there, 97% of the population it is estimated, are basically identified with two Islamic groups, the Sufi and the Salafi. Now, one of the things to note there is that the Sufi are considered heretics by most of the other mainstream Muslims, in particular, the Sunni Muslims that predominate throughout most of the Middle East. The alternative to that would, of course, be the Shiites, which predominate in Iran and in select other places.

Another important issue here just in terms of worldview, is that when you look at a country like Sudan, it is very clear that the situation of a military dictatorship and long existences, what is known as a vassal state of other empires, and of course, all kinds of internal pressures that are now very much headline news. You see that this is a very hard way to hold a nation together, to have a national identity and to forge any kind of stable government. That’s the big problem in Sudan.

But coming back to the United States, in most situations, the American people would presume, “Well, someone’s going to tell us who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.” But in this situation, you may know that the United States government has not clearly identified who might be the good guys and who might be the bad guys, because in this situation, it’s very difficult to see a good alternative either way.

Part IV

A Rapid, Unscheduled Disassembly: Space X’s Successful, Albeit Short-Lived, Mission This Weekend

But finally, another big story from the weekend was the launch of the SpaceX Starship, and it did achieve liftoff. It left the launchpad, although subsequently it appeared it may have destroyed the launchpad even as the world’s largest and most powerful rocket took off there from the base in Texas.

But the big story, of course, was not only that it was ruled a success because it did take off and clear the tower, but because just minutes later, it exploded with the entire world watching. That’s all.

Now, if you listen to The Briefing, you know that I am very much a creature of the space age. I was a boy in Florida very close to the Kennedy Space Center, even as the space age was at its height. And I got to see lots of launches, lots of space activity, and I’ve been hooked for life. And so, I was watching that launch. I was watching it successfully leave the tower, and yes, I watched it explode in the sky. But what I watched was also something that happened not to the rocket, but to the English language.

And I’m going to leave you with this for today’s edition of The Briefing. At one point, the SpaceX announcer said, “We should have had separation by now,” then with a pause, “Obviously, this does not appear to be a nominal situation.” That is space speak for saying we think something’s big time gone wrong.

But my favorite language from this entire incident is when SpaceX announced that even as the rocket had launched and left the space pad, it had subsequently undergone “A rapid unscheduled disassembly.”

That is now one of my favorite English expressions of all time, a rapid unscheduled disassembly. In other words, it blew up. But this did lead me to thinking about how this language could be used elsewhere. For example, if you have someone who promises to do something and it doesn’t happen, that could be described as delayed promise fulfillment. If you’re waiting for a package that was scheduled to be delivered and it doesn’t arrive on time, that could be described as constructive package non-delivery.

But don’t tell the kids, but it also seems to me that if rapid unscheduled disassembly make sense, so also would a kid who gets a bad grade and simply says, “Well, mom and dad, I would have to describe this as something which is obviously not a nominal situation. It might be described as unexpected, immediate grade deflation.”

But then again, you might say, this is an overly verbose podcast conclusion. Maybe so.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at You can tell me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to

Here’s hoping that none of us experiences a rapid unscheduled disassembly before I meet you tomorrow for The Briefing,

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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