The sidewalk in front of the abortion clinic was filled with chanting picketers carrying banners and signs urging women to think of their maternal responsibilities.
"I had ten kids. Why can't you have one?" and elderly woman who looked as if she had a pillow tied around her waist cried out.
"You want a career? You got one. You're a wife!" a red-faced, balding man toting a six-pack and an American flag sneered.
"All life is sacred, particularly that of the tiny children. God bless the fruit of woman's womb," a virginal nun prayed vociferously.
"A woman shall pass from her father to her husband. Amen. A woman shall bear more women who shall pass from their father to their husbands. Amen," a fundamentalist minister exhorted.
Inside the abortion clinic, a frightened eleven-year-old lay under a white sheet and white blanket in a sterile white room. An unopened envelope fluttered to the floor. It was addressed to her in block letters. She didn't have to open it. It was from "an anonymous friend," someone who wrote to her weekly telling her how she would burn in hell if she had this abortion.
Across the hall from her, a college student who had been raped, awoke screaming from a nightmare in which an ugly fetus had been trying to strangle her. She would never, never, never leave her dorm room again. She would let the knife-wielding attacker have his way next time. That was what good girls did. She would be good.
A front window was smashed and somebody threw what looked like a bomb through it. The receptionist put it in a sink full of water and called the bomb squad. As the clinic was being evacuated, onlookers hurled curses and chunks of ice at the women. It was winter. They wore only hospital gowns and flimsy slippers.
The "bomb" proved to be a hoax. After a two-hour inspection of the facilities, patients and employers were allowed to go back inside. The picketers were told to quiet down. No one was arrested. No one was even told to go home.
An ashen-faced young woman stared at the ceiling of her clinic room and wondered if she were doing the right thing. After all, she was unmarried and quite pregnant. Society, despite its loosening up, would nevertheless refuse to accept her and the child. She would not go on welfare. It would be too humiliating. The fetus' progenitor had already found another fast number to fool around with. Someone on The Pill.
A star shone in her window — or was it a comet? She had been expecting three visitors the following week, but they had inexplicably changed their plans and would be journeying to Miami Beach instead. It was going to be a very long winter.
Susan Packie teaches anthropology at Malcolm-King College, which is located in America's premier anthroplogical site, New York City. She has had her work published in more than 80 magazines.
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