In Seattle's storied University District . . .
Mary Magdalene O’Shea never missed 6:30 a.m. mass every weekday at Our Lady of Perpetual Adoration Church. Then, at seven o’clock each evening, she returned to church to pray the Stations of the Cross.
In between, Mary deceived, intimidated, guilt-tripped, and manipulated women whom she lured into the Puget Sound Coalition for Life’s “crisis pregnancy center,” located by design across the street from the White Eagle Clinic.
“Save one of God’s precious babies at a time” was Mary’s motto. She didn’t care how she achieved that goal, even it meant bending the Ninth Commandment’s admonition against bearing false witness.
Order after order of nuns—first the Carmelites, then the Maryknolls, and finally the Holy Cross sisters—had rejected Mary’s application for the Catholic sisterhood. If her disingenuous nature didn’t trigger an alarm with the screening panel, the required psychiatric exam hoisted storm warnings:
“Indications of obsessive-compulsive disorder mingled with intense narcissism” usually read the reports of those expert evaluators.
Despite the worldwide priesthood pedophilia scandal that had rocked the Catholic Church in recent years, there had never been the hint of wrongdoing regarding the church's female religious orders. The sisters intended to keep it that way. Modern Catholic orders recruited cool-as-a-cucumber, spiritually mature young women to serve as their teachers, nurses, and aid workers, not loose cannons like Mary.
Even Monsignor Flannigan, Mary’s pastor, had warned the Coalition for Life, a lay organization, about their ticking time bomb. But the anti-choice firebrands that ran the Coalition had no regard for moderation. As long as Mary dissuaded women from seeking abortion or contraception at the White Eagle Clinic, they didn’t care about her methodology.
* * *
Alex didn't want Drew or Joey in the building when she was undergoing a gynecological exam nor when the IUD was inserted. She insisted on going to the clinic without the protective supervision of the men in her life, and reluctantly Drew gave her the freedom to confront her problem alone.
That liberty resulted in a crucial navigation error.
While Drew browsed the do-it-yourself section and Joey immersed himself in the classic comic books at Harold’s Half-Price Books down a tree-lined street just blocks from the University of Washington, an emboldened Alex climbed the wooden steps of the Crisis Pregnancy Center.
The hardwood back porch replete with white oversized rocking chairs seemed a bit out of character for a medical clinic, Alex thought. Colorful, blooming, fresh flowers, trucked in weekly and planted by the gardening staff, seemed a bit artificial during Seattle’s cold, rainy, gray winter.
The rationale could be found in the handbook published by the Pearson Foundation, a group of anti-abortion zealots, entitled How to Start and Operate Your Own ProLife Outreach Crisis Pregnancy Center.
“You should acquire real estate next door or across the street from the abortion mill,” the manual stated, “and strive to make it appear homey and welcoming to women facing the strain of a crisis pregnancy. The landscaping and interior décor should stand in stark contrast to the bunker appearance of the abortion facility.”
What the manual didn’t reveal was the reason family planning clinics were usually built of nondescript brick and mortar, protected by opaque curtains drawn across double-pane plexiglas windows, sequestered behind tall wrought-iron fences, and watched by 24-hour-a-day, 360-degree surveillance video cameras.
Pressure washing hadn’t quite yet removed the burn scars left by a Molotov cocktail thrown during a pro-life rally outside the Clinic three years ago, nor had management bothered repairing the bullet holes above the door left by a drive-by shooter recently.
Every Saturday, armed private security and a small group of dedicated pro-choice escorts protected women who came to the White Eagle Clinic for abortions. Hostile anti-abortion demonstrators often surrounded the tall metal fence, shouting epithets laced with profanity and mingled with scripture, at the clinic workers and their patients.
“Jesus loves your baby, slut!” was one line the clinic director not so fondly recalled.
As Alex knocked on the door of the Pregnancy Crisis Center, Drew’s cell phone rang at the bookstore down the street. It was Tim Keegan, the druggist who had arranged Alex's appointment at the White Eagle Clinic.
“Tell Alex to be careful to get the correct building,” the pharmacist warned. “If not, she’s liable to be drawn into the damned crisis pregnancy center, where Typhoid Mary will try to browbeat her into keeping her baby.”
Tim had recently testified before a subcommittee of the Washington state legislature in Olympia about the disingenuous behavior and outright fraud perpetuated by religiously oriented crisis pregnancy centers. Operating under various names, they all used the same subterfuge: to trick women intent on an abortion or seeking emergency contraception into visiting their facility, where they would be pressured to carry the pregnancy to term. The resulting state law, which required that a sign be posted outside: “Abortions Not Provided Here,” had been stayed pending a legal challenge by the right-wing Thomas Moore Law Center.
Drew thanked Tim, found Joey, and suggested: “Let’s take a walk down the street.”
Tim’s warning arrived too late. Mary O’Shea, the pious, 26-year-old immovable object, was destined to meet Alexis Jackson, the irreverent, 16-year-old irresistible force. The resulting tsunami would be talked about in Seattle’s pro-choice and pro-life camps for years afterward.
* * *
Meanwhile, back in Montana . . .
Lizzie’s acceptance of her culpability in the condom heist and water fight that damaged her friends' home, and her willingness to be punished sooner rather than later, didn’t give her the endurance to withstand the blistering swats that Michelle forcefully delivered to her bare tush.
Tears cascaded down the 16-year-old’s face as she squirmed, kicked, and fervently dug her fingernails into the down pillow she clutched in an effort to withstand the excruciating pain that the paddle imposed on her rapidly reddening flesh.
Michelle, wearied by having to push firmly on the small of Lizzie’s back to keep her steady, paused momentarily to challenge her daughter.
“Lizzie, are you tough enough to take the rest of your punishment?”
“I’m sorry I’m such a wuss,” Lizzie blurted out, sobbing loudly.
“Keep going, Mom. I know I deserve this spanking. I just wish I were braver. You can give me extra swats if you think I’m not being tough enough.”
“That’s okay, baby,” Michelle soothed sympathetically, giving her daughter’s scalded bottom a comforting rub. "We all have different levels of pain tolerance. Try to be brave, okay? Remember, I’m doing this because I love you.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Lizzie sobbed. “I’ll try to be tougher.”
Maddie helped solve the problem. Putting aside her trepidation at being next in line, she knelt, wrapped her arms around her sister’s shoulders, and consoled her as Michelle resumed the blistering paddling.
“I love you, Sis,” Maddie comforted as the licks rained down on Lizzie’s scorched derriere.
It was the first time Maddie had ever referred to one of the other Jackson kids as her sibling. It did not escape Michelle’s notice.
Unlike Drew, Michelle didn’t give her girls a set number of paddle swats. Instead, she watched Lizzie’s bottom turn pink and then bright red. Not wanting to leave a nasty bruise, Michelle deduced that Lizzie had been punished enough. Using a mother’s intuition, she knew exactly how much chastisement her daughter’s little bottom could take and how much her heart could withstand.
Then, Michelle reached down to guide the sobbing teenager's tear-stained face into the fabric of the sweatshirt that covered her ample cleavage.
“It’s all over, baby,” Michelle comforted. “You’re totally forgiven, okay?
Lizzie, still crying profusely, nodded her understanding.
Then it was Maddie’s turn.
The diminutive 14-year-old was pale with fright. She trembled.
Rather than putting her over her knee immediately, Michelle coaxed Maddie onto her lap.
“Now listen to me,” she gently admonished her terrified daughter, as she wrapped her arms around Maddie and hugged her.
“I have no intention of letting Drew spank you and Lizzie again for what happened today. I’m going to give you your punishment, and I’m going to whip you hard enough to make an impression. But when it’s over, it’s going to be over forever. You’ll be completely forgiven, just as I have already forgiven your sister.
“Yes, ma’am,” Maddie said, almost in a whisper.
“Now, get over my knee and show me how brave you are,” Michelle instructed with a tone of firmness mixed with love.
"Take you licking like a woman and make me proud of you!"
Maddie managed a nervous smile as she reluctantly positioned her bottom over her Michelle’s lap. Cold fear still dominated her mind, but a strange sense of loving warmth filled her heart for the adoptive mother who was about to make her bottom miserably hot.
* * *
Dusk in Seattle . . .
“Well, hello, young lady,” Mary said with an oversized smile. Alex noticed that she wore a white lab coat over something that looked like a tracksuit.
Hi, I’m Alex Jackson and I’m here to see Dr. Madison for an IUD.”
Mary seemed stunned for a moment, and then proceeded with lie number one. “Dr. Madison is delayed, but please come in and make yourself at home. I’m sure he’ll be along momentarily.”
Alex noticed medical posters on the wall that detailed the various stages of fetal development. Next to them were pictures of happy, smiling mothers holding their health, pudgy, newborn infants.
Across the room there appeared to be a medical examination table, and mounted above it was a large monitor. Alex recognized it from television as an ultrasound machine. Mary had received rudimentary training regarding the machine's use, enough to show a pregnant woman images of her fetus, in an effort to evoke guilt regarding any plans for an abortion.
The caption on a sign beside the table said: “It’s a child, not a choice.” That set Alex’s well-calibrated bullshit detector vibrating in the low intensity mode.
“So tell me, Alex,” Mary inquired, “why do you want an IUD?”
Mary frowned in a judgmental way that Alex had never observed a medical professional behave.
Alex explained that she had come from out of state seeking emergency contraception, but found out this morning that the manufacturer had recalled both morning-after pills. A family friend has arranged for an IUD as an alternative.
With every word, Alex felt more and more uncomfortable. Why did she have to explain all of this? Hadn’t Mr. Tim, the pharmacist, made all of the arrangements? Who was this woman asking these questions?
“While we wait for Dr. Mason . . . uh, Madison,” Mary stammered, “why don’t you come in and look at a few films? They’re a prerequisite to any kind of procedure.”
That was lie number two.
Alex squirmed as the VHS tape began with a documentary that was at least 20 years old. The hairstyles and clothing appeared a generation out of style. Its purpose of was to convince a woman considering an abortion that the fetus feels pain. Alex's bullshit meter came off of the peg and the needle now indicated in the caution range.
The next segment purported to show a fetus at some stage of development dodging a forceps abortion. Somebody set it to music from a grade-B horror movie, which was artificial and just plain hokey. A third was a disgusting series of still photographs of bloody, aborted fetuses.
“Hey, enough of this,” Alex said to Mary with annoyance as she walked out of the television room.
“Listen, I just got laid early this morning and I’m not here for an abortion. Fertilization probably hasn’t happened yet. Joey’s sperm cells are probably treading water in my uterus, waiting to gang bang my egg as it drops out of my fallopian tubes.
“I’m here to get an IUD because the morning-after pill manufacturer fucked up and I’ve got no other choice. Otherwise, that sperm and egg are probably going to hump each other until there really is a baby on the way—and I’m not going to let a teenage pregnancy fuck up my life!
“Understand? Now, where’s Dr. Madison?”
Mary seemed stunned to hear a 16-year-old talk in such an irreverent manner about Heavenly Father’s creative process.
“Don’t you know that preventing implantation of a fertilized egg in the wall of the uterus is tantamount to an abortion?” Mary asked in a condescending tone of voice.
Alex’s bullshit meter was now pegged to the mechanical stops.
“Who says that?” Alex demanded in an agitated tone.
“Why Holy Father does, and also the teachings of the Church,” Mary replied indignantly.
“Listen, lady,” Alex snorted, “I don’t know who this ‘Holy Father’ is you’re talking about, buy my own father just spent a bunch of money to get me out of backwoods Montana and fly me to a place where I could get some emergency contraception.
“And as far as ‘teachings,’ are concerned, the only schooling I’m going to get on this subject is an ass-blistering session with Dad’s paddle for banging my boyfriend without protection.
“So don’t give me any more of your religious shit. Tell me when Dr. Madison is going to arrive!”
Exasperated, Mary tried another tack. From a desk drawer she produced a Raggedy Ann doll and handed it to Alex.
“Alex,” Mary said with a tablespoon of honey in her voice, “here’s a gift for your baby.”
That was it. The bullshit meter pegged so far to the right that the needle broke off.
In a burst of temper, Alex threw the doll back in Mary’s face, turned around, and headed toward the door. Just before she opened it, Drew and Joey stormed in, grabbed Alex by each arm, and expedited her departure.
“This place is a fraud,” Drew explained. “Mr. Tim said flim-flam operations like this exist to keep women from getting contraception or abortions. The real clinic is across the street. You went to the wrong place.”
Incensed, Mary Magdalene O’Shea lost it.
She ran beside the Jacksons, cutting the Raggedy Ann doll into pieces with a large pair of scissors.
“This is what an abortion looks like,” the crazed religious fanatic shouted at the top of her lungs. “How are you going to tell Jesus you killed your baby?”
That was it. It was Alex's turn to snap. She grabbed the heavy scissors from Mary’s hand and propelled them with all her might through the open door back into the Crisis Pregnancy Center.
The sound of shattered and falling glass disturbed the tranquil Seattle twilight air.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph”” Mary O’Shea exclaimed in horror as she crossed herself. “The ultrasound machine!”
To be continued . . .