After Christmas: What the Incarnation Means for the Abortion Controversy

Mary, mother of Jesus, had all the reasons to abort him.

She wasn’t wealthy. She was to face public shame for bearing a child not from her new husband. And it was uncertain whether Joseph, the husband, would stick around. In fact, plans were set for a quiet divorce. Mary was, moreover, most likely somewhere in her late teens.

Planned Parenthood would’ve taken all of these reasons to utterly reject the more difficult possibility of carrying to term. Pro-choicers would’ve absolutely commended Mary for her courage and independence and fortitude if she had had an abortion, then. All things considered, all constraints and setbacks accounted for, abortion would’ve been a sensible, self-preservative, autonomous decision. An exercise in self-empowering womanhood.

But Mary didn’t abort Jesus. In fact, she quite determinedly gave herself over to the Christmas mission, which was to birth, in physical form, the one to be called Emmanuel — God with us. She says, in Luke’s account, to the angel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38).

Some may say, if they’re pro-choice (and even Christian), that since Mary knew what Jesus would do, that he would “be great”, it was clearly the right decision, on her part, not to abort. But, had this been like any other ordinary pregnancy, where it isn’t known what the pre-born would grow to become and do, the right decision is far less obvious. Of course, this is absolutely bogus because whether a person happens to be Christ or not, whether a person does great or terrible things, we wouldn’t think to kill the individual (normally).

Besides this, I have a couple of thoughts one might consider on the Incarnation and Mary’s response to Gabriel’s notice.

Firstly, God knew Mary’s circumstances and still caused her to become pregnant. Does this not suggest something about God’s design of womanly strength to carry to term in spite of heavy pressures? It seems to me like God disagrees with the objection that women should be allowed to abort because circumstances can be mentally or physically overwhelming. God seems fairly confident where Planned Parenthood et al. seem overly skittish.

Secondly, Mary’s response of submission is a teachable moment for the rest of us. I almost never respond with such instinctive trust. I need to be better. This is also something worth careful consideration for the pro-choice Christian who would anchor abortion rights in individual autonomy. When faced with the inconvenient, do we run, do we go our own way, do we turn to our own feelings, or do we incline ourselves to the Father’s wisdom?

Thirdly, the sovereign command of God recognizes the personhood of Christ, and his cousin John, pre-birth. In Luke 1:31, Gabriel says to Mary, “… behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” This seems to indicate unambiguously that between conception and birth, what is being carried inside Mary’s body is a son. An individual, rather than a blob of tissue, a growth, or another organ. Once she has conceived, Mary is a mother, a parent. 

Photo: Adoration of the Child, Gerard van Honthorst, 1619-21, retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

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