“Don’t worry too much,” my OB-GYN said in a soothing, motherly tone. “We can always take care of a pregnancy if anything goes wrong.”
“Umm, no – ” I stammered. “ – No, not really. I would still go through with it. Can we go over birth control options one more time?”
The year after my accident, Ivan and I learned I should never get pregnant. Not I could never. I should never. My two traumatic strokes, uncontrolled seizures, and heavy neurological medication meant I could die if I went into labor. This was a tremendous loss, especially since Ivan has always dreamed of a large family, but we learned to accept God’s will and make peace with our future.
Until last year.
Last year I found myself back in my doctor’s office, praying the pregnancy test would come back negative. Ivan and I had picked a birth control method that seemed effective and met our ethical standard for not terminating any life after conception. But no method is perfect, and last year we faced grueling days of discussing the “what-if’s” before I could take the test. Was I brave enough to say no to an abortion if my life was actually on the line?
Thankfully, that test did come back negative, but God used our gut-wrenching wait to force us to flesh out what we really believed about choosing my life over a hypothetical baby’s.
As Ivan and I hashed and rehashed our dilemma, we realized that terminating the potential pregnancy would be like holding the baby accountable for other people’s mistakes. It wasn’t the baby’s fault that I’d been hit by a car, or that the birth control hadn’t worked properly. If we didn’t deserve to die for those things, neither did the baby. No matter how early we confirmed the pregnancy, the pre-born baby would still be a living human made in the image of God. Psalm 139:15-16 says:
“You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.”
It was frightening to surrender my choice to live, but how could Ivan and I tell God which of his two creations to spare? If the baby’s days were laid out in just as much detail as mine were, it would be arrogant to assume mine were somehow more valuable because I’d learned to walk and talk. What we could do was trust that we serve an all-wise and all-loving God, whose choices are always in our best interests.
It’s one thing to argue from personal experience, but it’s another to learn from one of the most influential women in history. The “real” Mary of the Christmas story was an unwed girl between 13-15 years old when the angel told her she would be Jesus’ mother. Although we’re used to an idealized version of the story, the truth is that the angel told her the end result – she’d mother the Messiah – but didn’t give her any prediction of daily life until then. Unwed motherhood carried the death penalty in Mary’s day. While Mary knew she wouldn’t die, she still risked losing her fiancée as well as being ostracized by society, both of which could threaten her survival after Jesus’ birth.
In our day, a teen mom facing these obstacles would be an automatic candidate for abortion. But what does Mary do? Instead of arguing with the angel, she responds to his message with gratitude: “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (Luke 1:38). It’s easy to discount Mary’s story because she lived two thousand years ago and has attained an almost divine status in some churches, but the truth is that she was a teenage girl who embraced a terrifying proposition with truth and grace.
I write all this to challenge our thinking on abortion, especially in light of the upcoming Supreme Court decision. Are health or socio-economic status really valid reasons to prioritize one human’s life over another’s? Or do we accept these arguments simply because their advocates are standing in front of us but their victims are not? My goal is not to condemn anyone who may have had an abortion in the past, but to stimulate us to a clearer knowledge of the truth and a firmer resolution to uphold it. One of my favorite Bible passages that speaks to this issue is 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Let us not fear what may happen to us – or our loved ones – in the future, but let us trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to love our neighbor as ourselves. Even if our neighbor is unborn.