October 5, 2017
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Thursday, October 5, 2017. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
After House passes 20-week abortion ban, sanctity of human life could hang by a Senate rule
For some people the sanctity of human life isn’t much of an issue at all. For others it’s a matter of contentious political debate. For those who are operating out of a consistent biblical Christian worldview, the sanctity of human life is one of the paramount issues of our concern because we believe that the gift of human life is one of the most important gifts that God is given and that it is a precious gift and every single human being is the recipient of that gift, and thus every single human life deserves our protection.
Just a single generation ago, the issue of abortion was not entirely partisan. There were as a matter of fact at least a handful of pro-abortion rights Republicans, but more significantly, there was a fairly large number of pro-life Democrats. But the Democrats and the Republicans as national political parties have now staked out completely opposing positions on this question. For Republicans at virtually every level the expectation is opposition to abortion and support for the dignity and sanctity of human life. On the other side of the partisan divide, the Democrats apply an even more strictly enforced litmus test. Democratic candidates and officeholders at virtually every single level are expected not only to support abortion under any or all conceivable circumstances, but they are expected to support abortion even for no reason at all. And furthermore, they are now expected to toe the line in opposing any restrictions on taxpayers being forced to pay for abortions.Show Full Transcript
On this moral front, there had been huge developments just in the last several days. First of all in the United States House of Representatives on Tuesday, the House by a vote of 237 to 189 approved what is known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. It was authored and sponsored by Representative Trent Franks, Republican of Arizona, and the law calls for the criminalization of abortion after the unborn child has reached 20 weeks of gestation. And it is believed can now experience pain.
This is a very significant development. That’s why you see such howls particularly amongst the pro-choice and pro-abortion camps. This particular bill is one that was suggested by constitutional scholars back in the 1980s, who understood that what many Americans, even pro-abortion Americans, had never done was to read the actual text of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion handed down by the Supreme Court in 1973. That majority opinion authored by Justice Harry Blackmun divided a woman’s pregnancy into three trimesters. It was medically arbitrary. Justice Blackmun as he later admitted basically came up with the legal justification for abortion after he had decided to lead the charge to make it recognized as a constitutional rights, to invent a new constitutional right out of air and certainly not out of the text of the Constitution.
But pro-life legal scholars noted that the Supreme Court’s decision in 1973 established a very clear demarcation at what is known as viability, the point at which it is expected that the unborn child could live outside of the mother’s womb. The big medical fact is this: since 1973 viability has been pushed back earlier and earlier into the pregnancy. Back in 1973 when Roe v. Wade was handed down, the point of viability was assumed to be about 35 weeks. Now it is generally recognized to be as early as 24 weeks. That is a huge success in terms of medicine being able to save more premature babies. But it also points to the fact that if viability is that demarcation it clearly isn’t where it was in 1973.
Furthermore, the legislation adopted by the House on Tuesday recognizes what no one could’ve known back in 1973, and that is the fact that many medical authorities now believe that the unborn child by the time of about 20 weeks experiences pain, including pain associated with the process of an abortion. And so the legal and constitutional argument has been that at that point the unborn child becomes a moral and a legal agent worthy of representation and a life worthy of protection. Now what we need to note is that the Christian worldview does not draw that line. The Christian worldview establishes that point all the way back at conception, but the important thing to recognize is that the legal strategy of noticing that viability has changed and that fetal pain is indeed a moral and legal issues can change the entire landscape of abortion and save a good many unborn babies. And that’s exactly why the issue is now so politicized.
I want to draw attention to the liberal response to the legislation that was adopted on Tuesday. Ed Kilgore writing at New York Magazine said this, the legislation,
“plainly contradicted existing constitutional law and the consensus of scientists about ‘fetal pain,’” he put that in quotation marks as if there’s really no such thing as fetal pain.
And he said it was,
“aimed at mobilizing concerns over rare late-term abortions to undermine the legality of early-term abortions.”
The partisan nature was reflected in his analysis. He said,
“only two — that’s right, two — House Republicans voted against it .”
Meanwhile, only three Democrats voted for it. He says,
“This polarization is not new, but it is, if possible, intensifying.”
In that paragraph Kilgore argues that the bill adopted Tuesday is unconstitutional. He said it plainly contradicts existing constitutional law. But that’s only if that law is not actually tied to the text of the Roe v. Wade decision. That opens an entirely new avenue for defending unborn human life.
There are two other articles I want to draw to our attention, both of them from liberal magazines, one of them Rolling Stone magazine. And in this particular article there is no question where the magazine stands. This report is by Rolling Stone reporter Emily Crockett. She asked the question,
“Why 20 weeks, specifically?”
“Anti-abortion activists make a scientifically far-fetched, unproven claim that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.”
She goes on,
“Yet they undermine their already dubious argument when they seem unable to decide when 20 weeks is, exactly. They write bills using unscientific, inconsistent language to describe gestational age – which means that in practice, some proposed ‘20-week bans’ could apply to pregnancies as early as 18 weeks, and others as late as 22 weeks.”
What so significant about that paragraph? Well, two things in particular, first of all notice the complaint very explicit in that paragraph about counting weeks. But that’s exactly what the Roe v. Wade decision did back in 1973. But also note the kind of language this reporter uses about the very idea that an unborn baby can feel pain. Remember that she described what she called the scientifically, far-fetched, unproven claim that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks. Well let’s simply turn the question. Then when would she allow that the unborn baby can experience pain? And at what point would she admit that that unborn child then becomes a moral agent and a life worthy of protection?
But the point here is that pro-abortion activists want to support abortion for any reason or for no reason right up to the very moment of birth. Later in her article Crockett writes,
“Under Roe, the state can’t interfere with a woman’s right to choose before a fetus is viable outside the womb – which,” she says, “usually happens around 24 to 26 weeks,” but she says, “but is different for every pregnancy.”
Her concluding words in the argument,
“If advocates managed to convince the courts to adopt a new standard for viability with a hard deadline, however, it could upend the whole legal framework for Roe.”
Well let’s just pause for a moment. Then what in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was viability supposed to mean if it didn’t represent some kind of hard deadline? What you see here is not only the basic inconsistency, but the very fundamental intellectual dishonesty of the pro-abortion movement. Meanwhile Nina Liss-Schultz writing a similar article in the magazine Mother Jones recognizes that what is faced in this legislation is what will amount to a frontal assault upon the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade in the first place. If the viability standard as it is known cannot be sustained, then neither can Roe v. Wade.
Again, this bill passed on Tuesday by a vote of 237 to 189. It now moves to the United States Senate. Last night, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham indicated that he would initiate this legislation in the Senate. And President Donald Trump has pledged that if this bill were to be adopted by the House and the Senate, he would quickly sign it into law. At this point, however, and this is our concern, the bill is likely to die in the United States Senate because of the filibuster. At this point there are not yet 60 pro-life votes in the Senate to break the filibuster. And so in this question, the sanctity of human life could hang by a senate rule.
While upholding sanctity of life with his vote, PA congressman undermines it in personal life
But now we also have to turn to two tragic examples of political hypocrisy in high office on the question of the sanctity of human life. The first is the example of the United States Congressman who voted for the pro-life legislation on Tuesday. This is Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Tim Murphy. Who even as he voted to uphold the sanctity of human life on Tuesdays and even as he has of voting pattern which has defended the sanctity of human life, court proceedings this week in Pittsburgh revealed that in the midst of admitting he had had an extramarital affair texts with the woman with whom he had the affair surfaced in which when she was suspected of being pregnant the Congressman suggested repeatedly that she abort the unborn child.
The story about Congressman Murphy began to spread on Monday and especially on Tuesday because of the court proceedings and the release of the texts as part of the evidence in the trial. But as of yesterday, the pressure was just too great. The hypocrisy was just too glaring and clear, and Representative Murphy announced he would not run for reelection in 2018 and would retire. A team of reporters at politico established the story this way,
“Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of his term, after allegations that the married Republican lawmaker, who opposes abortion rights, asked his mistress to terminate a pregnancy.”
The reporters also tell us that the Congressman admitted several weeks ago to the affair:
“news that came to light during the woman’s divorce proceedings with her husband.”
In this story we see a particularly twisted form of moral hypocrisy in which someone who holds the sanctity of human life with his vote undermines it in his own personal life, not only committing adultery, but calling upon his mistress to have an abortion if it turned out she was pregnant. Political hypocrisy is hardly a new story, but it’s hard to fathom the depth of hypocrisy that can lead one to argue for the sanctity of human life on the floor of the House of Representatives and then argue for abortion with one’s mistress.
Political hypocrisy on the sanctity of life is not only immoral and humiliating, it’s deadly
The second example of political hypocrisy on the issue of abortion arose last week in the state of Illinois. As Kim Geiger and Rick Pearson report for the Chicago Tribune,
“A somber Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday signed into law a controversial measure to expand taxpayer-subsidized abortions, drawing unusually sharp criticism from fellow Republicans who accused him of breaking his promise to veto the bill.
That’s an interesting way to put it. There is no question that the Republican governor, a liberal on the question of abortion from the time he has run for office, did indeed break his promise to veto the bill. And as the subhead in this front-page article in the Chicago Tribune also makes clear, he broke his word to the Roman Catholic Cardinal of Chicago, Blase Cupich, to whom he had also made a very clear vow to veto the bill. Well this particular legislation does not go quite as far as the legislation we saw a recently in Oregon. It does but the taxpayers in the state of Illinois by virtue of this bill, the Governor signed into law, in the position of complicity not only with abortion, but paying for abortion, abortions that will be covered by Medicaid and State employee insurance.
Columnist Kristen McQueary for the Chicago Tribune wrote,
“For more than 30 years, we had a pact in this state. Abortion would be legal and safe, but tax dollars would not fund it, except in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life or health of the mother. That was the bright line imposed and respected since the state of Illinois adopted the framework of the 1976 Hyde Amendment, restricting federal funding of abortion.”
But she says,
“Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Sept. 28 signature on House Bill 40 erased that line.”
She went on to say,
“So let’s be clear: The bill Rauner signed was not about protecting safe and legal abortion. It was about putting taxpayers on the hook for more abortions.”
“Even voters who consider themselves pro-choice often object to public funding of abortions.”
But now the Governor breaking his word has vetoed the legislation that would prevent it. The Roman Catholic Church is a potent political force in the state of Illinois, but particularly in the city of Chicago. The Chicago Tribune noted that just a few hours before he placed his signature on the controversial bill Governor Rauner made a courtesy call to the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich. The Archbishop reminded the Governor of his pledge, and later, the Archbishop said that there was no question that the Governor broke his word:
“He did break his word. He broke his word to the people, especially those who have continued to speak on behalf of the vulnerable child in the womb.”
Representative Peter Breen, a Republican from Lombard, said about the Governor,
“He liked to us, he lied to the people, he even lied to Cardinal Cupich. And now, as far as reelection, I don’t think he has a chance. It’s done.”
Veteran political commentator John Kass also in the Tribune noted the spectacular collision between the governor and the Cardinal Archbishop. He wrote,
“Think of it. The cardinal calling Rauner out. I don’t see how he survives it.”
As we’ve often had to note political hypocrisy is nothing new, but this kind of hypocrisy, two examples of this kind of hypocrisy at this level on the question of the sanctity of human life, this kind of hypocrisy is not only immoral, it’s not only humiliating, it’s downright deadly. Day by day, vote by vote, headline by headline, America’s soul on the question of the dignity and sanctity of human life is becoming more apparent. And what we see, quite frankly, is even more troubling. This is a very encouraging development we saw Tuesday in the United States House of Representatives. But this is the kind of legislation that will only give us slight encouragement until it is actually adopted and signed into law. Do we need any further reminder of the importance of our laws and of the individuals who make them?