Union University
Union University Dept of Language


No Plan B for Mary

Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship

December 7, 2011 - The timing of the latest chapter in the on-going saga over so-called “reproductive health” involving the federal government, the pharmaceutical industry, and various lobbying interests is pregnant with irony. In a move today that surprised many, the Obama administration overruled the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation to make the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step available to teenage girls without a prescription. Prior to today’s decision, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg released a statement in which she declared that Plan B One-Step is “safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential.”

Among Christians who are mindful of the Advent season, the magnitude of this claim is striking. Undoubtedly, Hamburg and the pharmaceutical industry promote the availability of this product with the noblest of intentions. Teen pregnancy is, after all, a matter of grave social concern: for the young mother whose health and psychic well-being are placed at risk, for the child who is unwanted, and for socio-economic community that will bear the cost. Yet, Christians profess to worship a God who becomes human precisely in and through this public health conundrum. For Mary, an unwed, young teenager, conceives involuntarily by the power of the Holy Spirit.

From the perspective of contemporary views about “reproductive rights,” Mary’s situation is an archetypal argument for the necessity of widespread availability of Plan B One-Step. Mary was poor, vulnerable, fearful, at-risk, and perhaps most importantly, not antecedently-desirous of the pregnancy with which she found herself. Worse still, she was morally innocent with respect to any actions that would have made her complicit for the fact of her pregnant condition. In a word, she was “powerless.”

A purported purpose of emergency contraception is the empowerment of powerless women like Mary. But the “power” that is promoted with religious fervor is one that seeks to overcome victimization, either felt or real, by victimizing someone else. For part of the function of such “medicine” is potentially to place in the hands of its user the power of life and death over another, albeit very small, human being. To see that this is so, contemplate how radically different salvation history might have been had Mary visited her local pharmacy for an over-the-counter purchase of Plan B One-step within 72 hours of Gabriel’s announcement.

Wondrously, providentially, and thankfully, God supplied Mary with the grace to see that just as the Savior she was carrying would demonstrate, the way of empowerment by means of destructive self-assertion is the lure of an ancient lie.