To Thine Own Self be True

     I remember a sweet high school girl Netta across the street used to just walk on over to my house every day just to hold my newborn Laila. She and I got to know each other as the weeks passed. This girl’s countenance radiated. She was African American and she had the blackest and most beautiful face I had ever seen. She loved literature so I loaned her my books. I had majored in English. I loved to write. She loved to write.
     But she wrote this paper in school. She spoke of it passionately. It was an assertion that abortion was always wrong. Her position was that it was murder ALWAYS. She believed the moment of conception defined a baby, so abortion was murder. I remember gently asking her about some “what if” scenarios. She saw no exceptions. I asked what she would do if her boyfriend and she got pregnant. She said they would keep the baby and worst case scenario she would put the baby up for adoption. I was impressed. But she wasn’t sexually active. I was shocked.
     Netta wasn’t a religious person. She was still at the on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand stage of whether or not she believed there was a God. Even the most religious convictions armed with wise strategies to avoid all the pitfalls could barely stand up to the hormones of two in-love teenagers who spent hours alone. The only consistent upholder of her chastity was logic. She explained you did not risk creating a child unless you and the father were prepared, happily married, and seemed 100% likely to stay married. Well, that was truly thrilling. Wait. Who would win in a fight over what to do with your boyfriend when you were typically alone with him, logic or hormones? And then there was the fact that this chica’s body was as sexy as I’d ever seen.
     But most of my time with Netta wasn’t heavy, although I had a pernicious habit of wanting every conversation to be deep. She just wanted to laugh and play with little baby Laila. I would watch her curiously glowing with love and loveliness. Eighteen years old!
     Then one day her mom came over and told me her daughter was pregnant and getting an abortion. They wouldn’t support any other choice and Netta would get an abortion or they’d kick her out. The parents wouldn’t give her an option now because they didn’t want her future to be closed to other important options.
     I wanted to tell that sweet, young angel I loved her no matter what she did – and I had a phone number of an adoption agency. Yes, I was up for a yelling match with Mom for my my undermining audacity. I was wondering why Netta hadn’t run over to me to ask if she could live with me or something. I kept waiting for her to come.
     Before they got home from the clinic, I took two dozen red roses and a journal folded in white tissue paper. I lay them on her front porch.
     She never came to see us again. Never.
     When I caught glimpses of her she looked ashen, empty. Her mother was entirely nonchalant and dismissive of whatever Netta’s problem was. I had been the only one who had understood her fierce convictions against what she just did. She never looked up or waved or would come out of her bedroom when I visited her house. I felt the depth of her grief…she believed what she did was murder. She believed what she did was unpardonable. I prayed she would forgive herself and smile again.
     Months later, we were moving to Oregon. So, I had to purge many beloved, classic paperbacks. She was getting out of her car one day. Without looking at her, I called to her to ask if she wanted any of my books. Almost inaudibly she said okay. I wanted to say her life was going to be beautiful and whoever would get to share a little piece of it with her would be abundantly blessed, just like Laila and I had been. But she quickly took the bag of books and walked into her house.
     What I want to say to you is this. Above all, try to live according to the dictates of your OWN conscience. And do everything in your power to support your child’s ability to do that.
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