I’m a killer. I live with that. Forty-five years ago I killed someone. Actually I helped a good friend kill someone. At that time in Texas, a girl who was under the age of twenty-one could not obtain a legal abortion without the consent of her parents. Or her husband. The girl, named Mary as far as you’re concerned, was a very good friend I met at church, a very conservative and fundamentalist protestant church. She was somewhat naive and not ready for the world into which she had been thrust after high school. The people with whom she had been living had moved out of town so she and her sister moved in with my roommate and me on a temporary basis.
One summer night she asked me to take her to a drive-in movie. I knew something was up because she had never asked that before. We sat quietly for about fifteen minutes after the show started then she started gushing tears. She said, “I’m sorry” over and over and over. I had no idea why. Finally, she told me she was pregnant.
She explained that she began dating a guy she had a huge crush on and soon she found herself expecting his child. She said she was sorry for letting me down because I had been such a good friend to her and cared for her. We started talking about her options.
She had not told the child’s father and had no intention of doing so. Apparently, he had already dumped her. The thought of having a baby out of wedlock in the early 1970s society of southeast Texas in which we lived was unacceptable. With no parents around and her guardians being staunch conservative Christians, an approved abortion was out of the question. For me – a former Catholic – an abortion under any circumstance was out of the question. So what to do?
Mary was my friend, one of my few true friends. Although I had no romantic inclinations toward my friend, I offered to marry her so the child would have a name. She refused my offer. I pleaded with her for weeks to have the child and give the child up for adoption. I offered to pay all the expenses and help her find a suitable family for the child. She refused. She was determined that she would have an abortion. And she needed my help. Being a fairly new convert to Christianity, my love for my friend was stronger than my faith. Mary had a plan.
She borrowed a pair of wedding rings from a married friend and we drove to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston. Having already called them Mary knew that she must be married and have her husband’s consent…my consent…to get a legal, clinical abortion. So, posing as her husband, I signed that damned piece of paper and they took my friend away. And they…we…killed her baby.
In about an hour they brought my friend back to me. I helped her into the car, and before we got out of the parking lot, she started sobbing. When we arrived home about thirty minutes later, she was still sobbing. I carried her inside and sat next to her on her bed while she cried and cried and cried. I sat and cuddled her for four hours until she fell asleep.
While she slept, I went to my room and cried. Quietly. When she called to me, I returned to her room and asked if she wanted supper. She said she just wanted me to hold her. So I did. For about four more hours until exhaustion overtook her and she slept. I slept on the bed next to her ready to comfort her some more if the need arose.
When her sister arrived home, she saw us and knew what had happened. The next day she and I both prayed that Mary could survive the experience and not have lingering guilt and torment from it. The prayers didn’t work. Mary went on to survive training for a career and two suicide attempts. Finally, after I married, we drifted apart. I suspect that seeing me reminded her of what we had done together. I know seeing her reminded me of the same thing.
Thirty-odd years later Mary died. When her sister called to tell me, my first thought was of suicide. However, her sister told me it was an illness she had for over twenty years. I never knew.
So now here I am. The baby is dead. Mary is dead. I am left to deal with the guilt of being a murderer, a baby killer. All by myself.
God has forgiven me for what I have done. But not a day goes by that I don’t remember and think about that day.
When I see an anti-abortion billboard, I compute the age of Mary’s child in my head. How old would he have been? If I see a news story about Planned Parenthood, I wonder what she might have been. A doctor, a lawyer, a housewife? If I see the ad that asks, “Unmarried? Pregnant?” I wonder what would have happened if I had been strong enough to say no to my friend. Would the child have been born?
So many “what ifs” plague my mind to this day.
Three lives were lost that day in 1973, the baby, Mary and me. But I’m the one that is left alone to grieve. The killer.