In Matthew 22, we are painted a vivid picture of Jesus being cornered by the Pharisees and the Herodians.
Maybe you remember He was asked if it is right to pay taxes to Caesar. This was a well-crafted plan on the part of the Pharisees, not only in asking the question but also in bringing along the Herodians, a group who possessed a fierce loyalty to Rome and its god Caesar.
If He says “no, it isn’t right,” He risks being arrested (at least) and thrown into jail for what amounts to treason. If He says “yes, it is right,” He would basically be admitting Caesar’s “deity” and undermining all of Jewish teaching. He would then be reprimanded by Jewish authorities.
It was a no-win situation as far as the Pharisees were concerned. I’m sure they were licking their chops in anticipation of Jesus’ impending downfall.
And so, we have Jesus posed with the question of if it is right to pay taxes to Caesar. It is a question I so desperately wish he would have answered differently. If he had, I could be both holy and rebellious come every April.
Of course, He answered it with wisdom and grace, first asking for a coin and to be told whose inscription is on it. He is told it is an image of Caesar. He then replies with the famous line, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” I wonder if someone in that moment thought about asking “What exactly is God’s?”
Jesus would have then answered, “Whose image is on you?”
What does it mean that we have been created in the Imago Dei – the image of God?
A recent story here in our very own town has driven this point home to me.
Haven Kincaid is a delightful, 26-year-old wife and mother of two (mother of one, prior to this story). She has a passionate heart for troubled youth whom she works with on a daily basis. Her family history is incredible, worthy of a whole separate article, honestly.
Suffice it to say, they are all an extremely close-knit group.
Drawing from the compassion in her heart and the history of her mother having had much difficulty in bearing children, she felt led to become a surrogate mother. One year ago, she came into contact with a foreign couple who could not bear children.
Haven’s heart broke for them, so she agreed to become a surrogate mother for their first child. After the initial testing and implantation, she was pregnant by December of 2017.
Haven and her husband, James, stayed in contact regularly with the couple. Conversations were rooted in anticipation.
“What will you name the baby if it’s a boy or a girl?”
“How will you decorate the nursery?”
“Who’ll get up to feed in the middle of the night?”
The positive energy of this international agreement was palpable between the two families. What’s more, the couple had only two viable embryos to use; excitement was abound when the first took with such ease.
There were no complications, and the donor couple was footing the bill for the whole process. Literally all they needed was a willing heart and a “hospitable” womb; they would take care of the rest.
What they received in Haven ended up being much more than they asked for and definitely more than they expected. Little did they know, and by the grace of God, Haven is a woman of incredible character and impeccable moral fortitude.
There are times in life when you are presented with a shock. Maybe you come home to find your dog has eaten the meat that was left to thaw (this has never happened at the Hodges home). Perhaps you show up to Payne’s only to be told they’re out of red slaw (in case of an emergency, I may or may not know the secret recipe).
Further still, maybe you can remember when you first asked “Who shot J.R.?”
Just as there are light-hearted surprises, however, you’ll agree there are just as many instances of horrific revelation. The death of loved one; a terminal diagnosis; a sudden car accident; all are evidence we live in a broken world.
This broken world, though, is under the sovereign rule of God, in whose image we are created. The one true and loving God chooses to use these instances of shock and awe to draw us closer to Him.
In the first installment, I introduced you to Haven Kincaid, a local 26-year-old woman who agreed to become a surrogate mother for a foreign donor couple. The implantation was a success; she became pregnant in December of 2017.
When the baby was at 10 weeks’ gestation, Haven and the donor couple decided to have her (Haven) undergo genetic testing (a non-invasive prenatal test called Panorama, taken as a sample from the mother’s blood) in order to get an early glimpse of the baby’s gender and to screen for any genetic abnormalities.
“When I found out the results,” Haven remembers. “I immediately knew the couple would not be accepting of this. Something told me they would push back.”
Haven’s blood sample yielded results strongly indicative of a baby girl with Trisomy 21 – Down Syndrome.
Haven admits she had a heightened level of anxiety due to this. However, it was not the diagnosis unsettling her nerves; she knew in her heart the donor couple would see this as something gone wrong.
Her mind quickly turned to the surrogacy contract signed in the beginning which had an abortion clause. She and James, believing abortion is wrong, were assured this clause was rarely (if ever) enacted; this was basically just a formality of a standard contract reaffirming whose “property” the developing baby was.
In other words, it’s up to the donating couple what is and isn’t done while their baby is in utero. They signed the surrogacy contract with the advice that “the abortion clause is just a formality; it never happens.”
Months later, she learned not only do these things indeed happen, but also her initial fears of the donor couple were spot on. The donor couple suddenly ceased all communication with Haven and James, save for one request: abort the pregnancy and retry for a “normal” baby.
Like I said, sometimes in life you are presented with a shock.
Haven was dismayed, appalled, heartbroken.
“Retry for a normal baby...what does that even mean?!” she thought.
Were they suggesting that a baby with Down Syndrome is something less than human?
Were they affirming their belief that this chromosomal abnormality would yield a child unfit and unworthy of life?
Haven’s mind raced with thoughts of what trouble was ahead. There was never a doubt in her mind as to what she should do. She knew when she made her choice to do what was right, though, all hell would break loose.
She felt maybe–just maybe–if she gave the couple some time to cool off and adjust to the news they would change their minds. To buy some time, she offered the compromise of waiting a few more weeks for an official amniocentesis to be performed.
After all, tests are just tests, they can be wrong. Who knows? Maybe this test was wrong and the amniocentesis would show no evidence of a genetic abnormality.
The donor couple agreed. At about sixteen weeks, Haven underwent an official amniocentesis.
It strongly confirmed the results of the initial Panorama testing.
At that moment, Haven and James knew the world would be blessed with a precious and perfect baby girl with Down Syndrome. They knew what they had to do; they knew the life of a precious image-bearer of God was hanging in the balance.
In the first two installments, I introduced you to Haven Kincaid. She is a local 26-year-old woman who decided to become a surrogate mother for a foreign donor couple. When early testing of Haven’s blood suggested a baby with Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), the donor couple asked Haven to abort the developing baby and retry for a “normal baby.”
Through the support of her physician and her lawyer, Haven communicated to the donor couple she would indeed not be having an abortion. In fact, not only was she going to deliver the baby but she and James also decided to adopt the child into their own family.
“No, please don’t do that,” said the donor couple. “We couldn’t bear to know that our child was out there somewhere in the world suffering.”
Suffering? Haven was astounded at their outright foolish line of reasoning; Down Syndrome hardly amounts to what is considered “suffering.” At this point, the cards were on the table: the donors would rather kill the child than allow it to be born with Down Syndrome.
Clearly, their worldview allows them to play the role of God in their own lives, and that’s exactly what they were doing. They were deciding who is worthy and unworthy of life.
In other words, they were acting as judge, jury, and executioner.
Word came back to Haven the couple would be hiring a legal team to fight this breach of contract. They were planning on coming to Alabama to fight Haven’s decision. At this point, Haven’s baby girl was at approximately sixteen weeks gestation.
Fear set in at the Kincaid household. Would they force her to get an abortion? At this point, she knew Alabama’s law held that abortion is legal up until 20 weeks; she had four weeks to stall the legal process as much as possible.
If she carried to full term, would she have to sign over parental rights to parents who truly wanted the baby to be dead? The questions piled higher and higher. Then, a glimmer of light appeared.
It is no secret that Alabama’s laws are a bit antiquated in some ways. In this instance, however, it played to Haven’s good fortune. Under Alabama law, any child born to a woman and her husband is legally that couple’s child.
At last, a moment of hope in an otherwise dark situation, as this overruled the conditions of the international surrogacy contract.
Through a complicated process of arbitration, middle ground was achieved without the donor couple setting foot inside the U.S.
Haven and James would indeed adopt the child and a no-contact agreement would be signed. There would be no communication between the two parties for any reason whatsoever.
However, the donor couple would pull all funding, past and present, for the pregnancy and delivery. At this point, Haven and James were responsible for all medical expenses starting with the beginning of the pregnancy. This would include the implantation, ultrasounds, blood testing, physician expenses, etc.
Haven and James reasoned this was a small price (literally thousands of dollars) to pay considering the victory that was just accomplished. Obviously, the life of this amazing child was, and continues to be, worth much more than that to the Kincaid family. Obviously, the life of this amazing child was worth nothing other than death to the donor couple.
And so, with tears in my eyes and joy in my heart, it is my distinct honor and pleasure to announce that Scottsboro is home to a precious image-bearer of God – Nadia Lucille Jean Kincaid. She has a small congenital heart defect common for Trisomy 21, but she is otherwise a normal, healthy baby girl.
As you read this, have you ever wondered what makes your life valuable?
God has revealed to us from the beginning of time we are made in His image. That is where our inherent value rests. That is why even the most ardent atheist will be saddened at the loss of a loved one; that is why we all watched in horror when the Twin Towers fell seventeen years ago.
When human life is lost, regardless of age, we mourn the loss of an innately valuable person who bears the image of God. Humankind, above all other earthly life, has intrinsic value and worth. This cannot be given to, or taken away from, us by the government or by the fleeting desires of popular culture; this inalienable truth is literally woven into our very being.
Nadia’s story is evidence that all human life is valuable, whether at nine weeks or ninety-nine years it is worth fighting for. Babies are not mistakes; babies are blessings. Nadia is an incredible blessing, and so is Haven.
We are blessed to have them as a part of our community.
If you’d like to donate to Haven and James in order to help with their medical costs, please visit www.gofundme.com and search for “Surrogate Chooses Life."
Born and raised in Scottsboro, Dr. Andrew Hodges is a local internist who enjoys reading, writing and running. When not at the office or on a run, you can find him on the water with his wife, Sarah, and two boys, Carter and Miles.