October 17, 2016
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Monday, October 17, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Planned Parenthood: 100 years of searing the American conscience on abortion
The date was October 16, 1960, and it was on that date the organization was established that would later be called Planned Parenthood. Thus yesterday marked the centennial anniversary of what must be recognized as one of the deadliest dates in all of American history, a date that should not pass without very careful reflection upon not only the organization Planned Parenthood and its deadly legacy, but also the worldview that was then set loose in such an organized way and is now, if anything, far more powerful, indeed even triumphalist, as we find ourselves in the early decades of the 21st century.
The founder of Planned Parenthood, the single individual responsible for its formation, was a woman by the name of Margaret Sanger, who should be one of the most infamous figures in American history. Sanger was a very early radical thinker on the issues of birth control and abortion and sexual freedom. She was one of the earliest advocates in a public and organized way of what became known as the sexual revolution. She wanted to liberate sex in general from the old established Christian morality, and she also especially wanted to liberate women when it came to their reproductive freedom, as it would later be called, and to their sexual freedom as well. The one thing Margaret Sanger identified as the greatest enemy to the liberation of women was the likelihood of pregnancy as related to sexual behavior. Thus there was an almost manic effort at the heart of the Planned Parenthood organization to try to do anything to allow women to have sexual freedom and yet to avoid having babies. In essence, avoiding having babies was the very rationale for Planned Parenthood. As has often been recognized, the one thing that Planned Parenthood wasn’t established to plan was parenthood.Show Full Transcript
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States, it was a very odd confederation of people who were on the extreme left—they included anarchist and socialists, early communists and others, but there were also a devoted cadre of sexual libertines involved, and Margaret Sanger was at the center of that particular argument; she was involved in many of the other arguments as well. That points to the fact that by the time you get to be an advocate of the sexual revolution, trying to overthrow Christian sexual morality, even to overthrow the notion of the natural family and of sex and reproduction as inextricably linked, by the time you get there you have adopted other very liberal and radical positions as well. But the use of the word radical is intentional here, because one of the things we need to note is that virtually everyone in 1916 recognized that Margaret Sanger and the organization she would establish on October 16 of that year was a very radical person that founded a very radical organization that was committed to a very publicly recognized radical worldview.
I mention that because now in the year 2016, the argument can be made that Planned Parenthood in terms of the larger direction of American culture doesn’t appear nearly so radical anymore. When the organization came into being in 1916, virtually every major institution of American public life declared itself openly in opposition to all that the organization later known as Planned Parenthood would advocate. Even as from the year about 1960 forward, birth control would become rather commonplace in America, its radical origins simply cannot be denied, nor can it be denied that almost every major influential institution and authority in America and in Europe was not only not an advocate for birth-control, but was a devoted opponent. And what was cited by those opponents was the fact that the Creator had established a link between sexual activity and reproduction that was his plan and thus a violation of that plan would be a diminishment of human dignity.
Cracks in that edifice of opposition to the Christian worldview began to appear by the time we reach 1929 and 1930. During that period, first a Jewish group of rabbis, a very liberal group known as the Central Conference of American Rabbis, took a position advocating the use of birth control. The next year the first major Christian church in the history of Christianity to advocate for the legalization and use of birth control was the Church of England meeting in the Lambeth conference just a year after the rabbis met. Liberal Protestants in the United States, then organized in what was known as the Federal Council of Churches, adopted a similar position in 1931. I want you now to hear the response to that report from the Washington Post. The Washington Post said in response to that report by theological liberals and the Federal Council of churches in 1931,
“It is impossible to reconcile the doctrine of the divine institution of marriage with any modernistic plan for the mechanical regulation or suppression of human birth.”
The editors of the Washington Post in 1931, identified marriage as “a holy institution” and the severance of sex and reproduction was described as “degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality.”
Just again to document how far the world has gone, that same year in 1931, the President of the American Medical Association said that if birth control were to become popular,
“It would open the door to unbridled dominance of the basest passions. It would strike a death blow to self-control and the dominance of the home.”
All of this is well documented in the literature. It’s summarized in a recent article by Ann Barbeau Gardner entitled “Planned Parenthood’s 70 years of defying the law”; it appeared recently in the New Oxford Review.
The reason why Gardner points to 70 years is because she is pointing back to the period during World War II when Planned Parenthood openly defied the law, not just in terms of birth control, but abortion. Abortion was illegal in the United States during the 1940s—that is the period of time that covers World War II—but during that time legal authorities began to look the other way as Planned Parenthood began to make connections and appointments for women often working in the war engines of factories during World War II to have abortions under the rationale that it was needed during this time of national crisis. Just to make the point of how the moral revolution has so reshaped the American landscape, back in 1943 exposing Planned Parenthood’s illegal involvement in abortion, the magazine Harpers—that is one of the most liberal magazines in America today—said that,
“Of 73 plants employing 273,000 people, 64 did something about pregnancy” by bringing in Planned Parenthood to “dispense its services.”
As Gardner writes,
“30 years before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, these physicians linked to Planned Parenthood and serving the war industry were performing abortions for specious reasons.”
Those were supposedly the days of back alley and coat hanger abortions, but Harpers paints a rather different picture.
“As in our own day,” she writes, “abortions were included in the general health programs and the magistrates [that is local judges] gave a wink and a nod.”
In 1934 an official White House conference on Child Health and Protection claimed there had been upwards of 700,000 abortions committed per year during that time. Note: those were illegal abortions, and this led to a national outcry. We should also note that at the turn of the century, most of the major newspapers in America were solidly pro-life and decidedly anti-abortion and, ironies abound, this would include most especially the New York Times that built its reputation and its circulation during those years by leading a crusading mission against abortion. This historical background should help us to understand why there was no apparent lasting reversal on the issue of abortion in this country even when Planned Parenthood was demonstrated by the release of videos a year ago to be involved not only in murdering the unborn, but in strategically targeting the unborn for the removal of certain tissues and strategic organs to be transferred for financial gain.
How could this possibly be so? It is because the nation’s conscience has been progressively seared on the issue of abortion and the sanctity of human life. It is because Planned Parenthood has been so effective for so long not only in advocating for abortion and not only in performing abortions—now that organization is the largest single provider of abortion nationwide over 300,000 abortions per year—but it has also been pushing a moral agenda—we might describe that better as an immoral agenda—but it is an agenda for moral change. It’s an agenda, an ideology, for the sexual revolution. It is an ideology that distills the culture of death into the language the organization now uses, including the description of all of its programs as comprehensive women’s reproductive health.
The death toll from abortion continues to build. It is now estimated that since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 there have been 59 million American children aborted in the womb. That is hard even to say—59 million.
The ideology and worldview behind Planned Parenthood as we went into the weekend that would include the organization’s centennial was made abundantly clear at the Huffington Post in an article by Catherine Pearson, identified as the Women and Parents Senior Reporter for The Post. Her headline article was,
“On Its 100th Anniversary, A Reminder of Why Planned Parenthood Is So Vital.”
In the article she gave five reasons why she argues Planned Parenthood is vital to American women. What’s most important is number five,
“It respects women’s autonomy.”
Time and again we come back to this fact that the claim of personal autonomy is at the very heart of this ideology and worldview. She wrote,
“Lauding an organization for simply respecting women’s agency is absurd, and yet here we are.”
What she’s saying is this: a woman should be understood to have the absolute autonomy to decide whether or not she will be pregnant, whether or not she will stay pregnant, and whether or not she’s going to see the baby in her womb as a baby or as just a mass of unwanted tissue. That’s where the ideology that worships personal autonomy eventually must end up.
We also need to note that Planned Parenthood is not at all shy about its business model. It is not at all shy about its involvement in abortion. It is of all things extremely proud as an organization about the fact that it is the largest provider of abortions in the United States. Cecile Richards, the President of the Planned Parenthood Federation, in an article timed to celebrate the organization’s centennial said,
“If our first century was about securing our rights, our second century must be about ensuring everyone has full access and also full reproductive autonomy.”
Once again we see the straightforward assertion of this kind of autonomy. She also makes very clear that the organization has international aims.
“Planned Parenthood’s first century was fueled by a defiant fight to secure the right to reproductive health care. In our second century, we’re not settling for rights in name only, or for only a few. We will build a world where neither income nor zip code nor race nor gender determines whether a person can get reproductive care, where no one is shamed for making their own sexual and reproductive health choices. One hundred years in, we are proud of our legacy—and we are just getting started.”
There was a great deal of conversation in the media as we went into the weekend, mostly about the 2016 presidential race. But arguably the most important news story of this past weekend should have been what happened yesterday: the 100th anniversary of the founding of what became Planned Parenthood. That tragic day that should forever live in infamy is one that should arrest the American conscience. And we should take particular note not only of the 100th anniversary and how America has changed during that same period of years, but of the fact that Planned Parenthood and its leadership says they are only getting started.
But as we are inevitably thinking about the 2016 presidential election, we need to note a tweet that was posted yesterday by Senator Tim Kaine, the Democratic vice presidential nominee. His statement, perhaps more than anything else yesterday, distills what we’re up against in terms of the culture of death. He wrote this,
“Proud to be on the ticket that trusts women to make their own health choices and stand with Planned Parenthood.”
And then the hashtag “#100YearsStrong.”
Remember that Senator Kaine, a Roman Catholic, claims to be personally pro-life but publicly a full supporter of abortion rights. Note also that he has accepted a position as the vice presidential nominee in a party that is openly and devotedly committed to abortion as perhaps the most quintessential right that it asserts in its entire party platform. And remember that the 2016 Democratic Party platform not only supports abortion for any reason or for no reason at all, but now demands that taxpayers be coerced into paying for it by trying to eliminate the Hyde amendment. No less than the New York Times identified Hillary Clinton as the candidate from Planned Parenthood in reference to the 2016 race. Now her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, seems to be doing everything possible, at least within 140 characters, to make that same point abundantly clear. He posted the tweet, and remember his hashtag about Planned Parenthood, “100 years strong.”
If on this 100 anniversary of Planned Parenthood its leadership announces that the organization is just getting started, let that serve as a tragic but very necessary reminder of what those of us who believe in the sanctity of human life are up against. And we who believe in the sanctity and dignity of every single human life have so much work to do, made perhaps even more graphically clear on this centennial anniversary.
After decades of draconian one-child policy, China unable to convince its people to have more children
Next, we shift to China as we continue to look at the legacy of the culture of death. An article that ran yesterday at the Washington Post by Simon Denyer and Congcong Zhang had the headline,
“China drops one-child policy, but ‘exhausted’ tiger moms say one is plenty.”
This article looks at the tragedy of China’s one-child-only policy put into place in 1979 by the Chinese Communist Party, ordering that no couple in China could have more than one child. The legacy of that policy put in place by the Chinese Communist Party was death by infanticide, forced and coerced abortion, and, furthermore, the denial of human dignity by an atheistic, autocratic Communist Party that now threatened and actually fulfilled its threat to enter into the bedrooms of married couples and make their reproductive decisions for them. It was an anti-human policy. This led to an entire set of moral consequences, including the fact that there is an entire missing generation, in fact about two or two-and-a-half missing generations, of girls because of the Asian preference for sons that meant that daughters were more readily both aborted and left to die or openly killed after they were born.
The one-child policy dates back as I said to 1979 precisely because at that point China was worried about the nation’s expanding population, and it saw that expanding population as a threat. Something that is less well known is that major Western powers including the United States of America put pressure on China to do something about its expanding population. There is guilt on the part of the American government for trying to encourage the Chinese toward something like its one-child policy.
But the legacy of that policy is the fact that China now faces a disaster not from having too many babies, but far, far too few. So the Chinese Communist Party has reversed the policy and is openly trying to encourage couples in China to have a second child. Soon it’s expected, the party will be encouraging couples to have a third and a fourth, maybe a fifth. Why? Because the Chinese Communist Party’s effort to try now at this point so far after 1979 to encourage its citizens to have more babies isn’t working. And one of the things we need to note is that when a government, in this case the Communist government of China, tries to enter into the sanctity of marriage and tries to bring a message against reproduction and against babies into the center of its culture, that comes with consequences. And amongst the consequences we now see is that couples, and in particular women, in China are not motivated to try to rescue the Chinese Communist Party from its dilemma by now having more babies.
One of the reasons for this is that the Chinese Communist Party was stunningly effective in holding up the model of a one-child family to the extent that even as it was resisted in early years and there were always renegades who in one way or the other tried to have a second child, it did reshape the habits and the worldview of the Chinese nation. As the Washington Post reporter summarized,
“The problem is that many people don’t want a second child any more. Having only one has become ingrained in Chinese culture and society, and people no longer believe the party should be telling them what to do in the bedroom.”
All over China, following its traditional messaging, the Chinese Communist Party is trying to encourage a second child with signs that have messages such as,
“Train your body, build up strength, get ready for the second baby!”
Or, “Get to sleep early, stop playing cards, work hard to produce a child!”
Another sign appearing in Chinese cities and villages is,
“No fines, no arrests. Go ahead and have a second child if you want one!”
But one of the saddest legacies of the culture of death, whether we’re looking at the anniversary of Planned Parenthood or if we’re looking at this story that comes from Communist China, is that the culture of death is not easily reversed. Once the ideology of the culture of death takes hold in a civilization, whether that be the culture of the United States of America or that of the nation of China, it is not only not easily reversed, it is institutionalized, and the institutionalization of that worldview of the culture of death comes not only with a legacy of tragedy and death and murder, but also because of the fact it has become so institutionalized it has largely become a part of the culture. So what will it take to be effective in pushing back against the culture of death? It’s going to take a persistent, consistent witness to the sanctity and dignity of human life or, to put it another way, citing the President of the Planned Parenthood Federation, what those who defend the sanctity of life must recognize is that we too must see that “we are only getting started.”