Mary’s Battle 

Jacqueline Kasemsri, Wake Forest University School of Law JD ’22

“Please, God. Please, forgive me for my sins.” 

Mary kneeled on the cold tile of her bathroom floor with her elbows propped on the toilet lid. Her knuckles turned white from squeezing her hands tightly. She could taste salty tears running down her cheeks. She was praying harder than she ever had. The toilet was the altar and the little white stick sitting on the toilet lid was the cross. Her mind began to wander, and she thought about how angry her mother was going to be. Her mother was going to kill her. Then she would have to call Jackson. She would have to call Jackson and tell him that she had ruined both of their lives. The last time she had spoken to Jackson was when she had FaceTimed him to see his new dorm room.  

When Jackson had answered her call about a month prior, she could tell something was off. He’d given her a forced smile and half-heartedly showed her his dorm room. Then came the sigh and the inevitable, “We need to talk, Mary.” She had known it was coming, but part of her had hoped that it wouldn’t. He was starting college in Houston, the biggest city in Texas. Meanwhile Mary was stuck in Canyon, Texas, nine hours from Houston with a population of 15,000. She understood why he did it, but that didn’t make it hurt less.  

“I just want to move on from Canyon and focus on my life here.” 

You mean move on from me. 

That conversation was exactly 32 days ago. She had cried herself to sleep every night the week after that. It was easy to keep herself busy during the day. She would go to school from 8:00 to 5:00, then she would go straight to work at the coffee shop. Her shift would end at 10:00 and she’d close until 11:00. She would go home to a dark house; her mother always went to bed at 9:00 on the dot. She would make dinner and try her hardest to eat her food before she felt the emptiness fill her. Then, without warning, the tears would start streaming down her face. She would manage to quickly do her dishes and brush her teeth, tears streaming down her face the whole time. Then she would crawl into her bed and fall into a deep sleep, waking up on a tear-soaked pillow. 

Things got better as the weeks passed. She found joy in going to church on Sundays and youth group on Wednesdays. She had finally researched SAT courses and figured out which one she could buy without spending too much of the money she had saved up. She was excited to start her junior year and figure out her path to get into medical school. The newfound happiness came to a screeching halt at lunch that same day.  

Mary walked up to her usual table and saw her friends’ faces red from laughter. 

 “What’s so funny?” she asked.  

Amber held up her finger, trying to catch her breath. “Today in Spanish class, Annabelle Johnson walked in super late. So, of course, Mr. Martinez completely stopped teaching and asked her if she had a good reason for being so late. Annabelle looked him dead in the eyes and was like, ‘I had to change my tampon.’ Mr. Martinez turned bright red and just started teaching again!”  

Everyone started laughing again and Mary joined. Amber started describing the look on everyone’s faces in the class, but Mary had stopped listening.  

When was the last time I got my period?


Now here she was, sitting on her bathroom floor and praying on her toilet lid, wishing she was in Annabelle Johnson’s place. She thought back to the night she had sinned, the night of her and Jackson’s one year anniversary. She remembered it like it was yesterday. 


Mary zipped up her overnight bag and pulled on a sweatshirt over her dress. She walked down the hallway to her mother’s room. It was 8:45 so she knew her mother would be reading her Bible before going to bed. Mary stood in the doorway of her mother’s room, waiting. She knew not to interrupt her mother while she was reading.

“If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season—”

“And the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit,” Mary finished.

Her mother smiled, “Impressive. You’ve been reading the Old Testament?”

“Father McKay thinks we don’t focus on it as much as the New Testament. So, I’ve been reading the chapters before Bible group.”

“Smart man.” Her mother looked up from her Bible, “Whose house are you staying at tonight?”

“Madison’s house.”

“Okay, well just be back by 9:00 tomorrow. I told Father McKay we’d help set up for the bake sale.” 

“Will do.”  

Mary turned around and walked through the living room, passing all the crosses hanging on the wall. Only once she was pulling out of the driveway did she stop holding her breath. She couldn’t believe she had just lied to her mother, but there was no turning back now. It was her idea to do spend the night at Jackson’s house while his parents were out of town. When she pulled up to his house, he was standing in his garage, smiling as she pulled up. She pulled off her sweatshirt, jumped out of the car and ran into his open arms. She felt all her muscles relax and a sense of peace wash over her when he wrapped his arms around her.  

Mary’s dream was to go to Italy, so Jackson made it an Italian-themed night. They made Caprese salad, meatballs, and fettucine alfredo, while dancing to the playlist Jackson made with Italian songs. When they couldn’t eat any more food, they went to the living room to watch Roman Holiday. While lying on the couch with Jackson, watching her favorite movie, Mary thought to herself that it had been the perfect night. She turned and kissed Jackson softly. 

“I love you, Mary.” 

“I love you more.” 

Mary decided that she wanted all of Jackson, and that she would give him all of her.   


Mary’s tears soaked the collar of her work shirt. She had come to terms with going against what her church and mother had taught her, that premarital sex was a sin. She didn’t regret her choice, but now she was wondering if she was being punished. Her hands were still pressed together, and she started to pray again. After what felt like an eternity, she jumped at the sound of her timer going off. She took a deep breath, unclasped her hands, and reached for the white stick in front of her. She saw one word on the white stick’s little screen. Pregnant.

Mary was frozen in time. Everything stopped: her tears, her heart, her lungs. All that existed was her and that tiny word on the screen. She snapped out of her trance as she gasped for air. She crumpled on the bathroom floor and began sobbing.  

No, no, no. How did this happen? 

Mary thought back to that night, that perfect night. What had she and Jackson done wrong? Jackson told her he had talked to his friend about “pulling out”. He told her that his friend had been doing that for months with his girlfriend. Mary tried to rack her brain for an explanation as to what she had done wrong. Her mother had never talked to her about sex. The health class she took in middle hadn’t really talked about sex either. She thought back to that day in sixth grade science.


Her science teacher, Mrs. Nelson flipped through the slideshow. Each slide had a gruesome and sickening picture of genitalia.

“And this, this is what your private area will look like if you get herpes.” 

There was a collective grimace from the class of 12-year-olds. 

Mrs. Nelson turned off the slideshow. “The only way to 100% prevent getting an STD is to remain abstinent. Remaining abstinent is also the only way to 100% prevent getting pregnant.”  

She talked about how someone becomes pregnant; they have sex and the sperm and egg meet to form an embryo. Then she handed each student a page-long story written by teen parents. Each of the students had to stand up and read the story they had been given. The stories talked about how hard being a parent was and how much they regretted not staying abstinent. After all the stories had been read, Mrs. Nelson handed out a slip of paper to each student. At the top of the paper, it said “I Commit”. Underneath the title was a reminder to “Keep this card as a reminder of your pledge to respect sex as a gift for yourself and your future spouse.” Then a place for the student to sign and date.  

“Now kids, you do not have to sign this pledge. But if you do want to commit to abstinence so that you won’t get an STD or get pregnant, then you can sign this paper. You can keep it with you to remind yourself that you have made the pledge to wait to have sex until you’re married.” 

Mary looked at the paper in her hand. Her mother always told her that sex was a sacred thing for a wife and husband. Mary’s pastor talked about it too. She didn’t want to kiss a boy, let alone have sex with a boy. She picked up her pen and signed the slip of paper. She looked over at Amber who was grimacing at the unsigned paper in her hand.  

Mary whispered, “Amber, aren’t you going to sign it?” 

“I don’t know. This seems kind of weird. If I sign this, what happens if I decide to have sex before I’m married?” 

“I mean I think this is just a promise to yourself, but the Bible does say that you shouldn’t have sex with anyone except your husband.” 

“Yeah, yeah.” Amber shooed at her and grabbed Mary’s pen to sign the abstinence pledge.  


Mary grabbed the bathroom towel and shoved her face into it, screaming. “Remaining abstinent is the only way to 100% prevent getting pregnant.” The words echoed in her head.   What am I going to do? Should I call Jackson? Should I call Amber? I can’t tell my mom because this will destroy her. What if I—no I could never. I couldn’t do that. Maybe I can run away? I can go somewhere that no one will know who I am.  

Her mind was racing, planning her escape, when suddenly she heard her mother’s car pull into the driveway. Mary bolted up and grabbed the evidence of her sins, shoving it back into the plastic bag. She put the tear-soaked towel in the hamper and looked in the mirror, assessing how horrible she looked.  

“Mary, is that you in the bathroom? I thought you had a shift right now.” 

 Mary cleared her throat, “Yeah, it’s me! I wasn’t feeling good, so I had someone pick up my shift.” 

“Okay, well I’m going to Bible study, since you’re not working do you want to join?”      Mary couldn’t even go a minute without crying. There was no way she could hang out with members of the parish right now. 

“No, I think I just need to rest!” She called out, hoping that would put an end to the conversation. 

“That’s a shame. Well, let me know if you need anything.” 

Mary stayed in the bathroom, listening to her mother go into her room to grab her Bible and notebooks. When she heard the front door close, she grabbed the bag of evidence and ran to her room. Mary closed her door and got underneath her covers.  

What have I done? What am I going to DO? 

Mary reached for her phone. She opened it to Amber’s contact and stared at it for a while. If she told Amber, that would ruin her plan to disappear, but she couldn’t think straight and needed Amber’s honesty. She clicked on the call button and held the phone to her ear. The phone rang once before Amber picked it up.  

“Mother Mary! I was just about to text you. I’m with Todd and them and I was gonna tell you to meet up with us after work. Did you get off early?” 

Mary tried to sound normal, “Amber, can you come over?” 

“Where? Are you at home? I could have sworn you worked today.” 

“Yeah, I had someone cover my shift. Can you come over? I really need to talk to you.”

“No, just come here! We’re grabbing Sonic and—” 

“No, Amber I can’t I—” Mary burst into tears. 

“I’ll be there in 5.” Amber hung up the phone. She was the person that was always looking for the next fun thing to do. It was frustrating at times, but when you really needed Amber, she was always there.  

Four minutes later, Mary saw Amber’s Mercedes pull into her driveway. It always looked so out of place in Mary’s neighborhood, especially in front of her small, rundown house. Amber got out of the car, holding a Sonic bag and drink. She walked up the driveway, into the house, and opened Mary’s bedroom door.

Mary sat up weakly, “Hey.” 

Amber handed her the bag and drink, “Some tots and a cherry limeade. What’s wrong? What happened?” 

Mary opened her mouth to speak but burst into tears again. Amber rubbed her back and handed her a tissue. She waited patiently while Mary tried to control her breathing.  

“I – I – messed up – messed up bad.” Mary managed to get out.  

“How bad?” 

Mary shook her head.  

“Mary, I can’t help you if you won’t tell me,” Amber said sternly. 

“I’m pregnant.” 

Amber gasped, hand flying to her mouth. Her hand slid down to her chin, and she stared at the floor. She took a deep breath and turned back to Mary. 

 “Okay. What do you want to do?” 

“I don’t know, Amber. I don’t know! I don’t want to tell my mom. I don’t want to tell Jackson. This is all my fault! I should have listened to Mrs. Nelson! I messed up!” Mary sobbed into her hands. 

 “Okay, I don’t know what our sixth grade science teacher has to do with this, but you do have options.” 

Mary looked up at her, “What do you mean?’ 

“I’m just saying you have options. You can keep it, you could put it up for adoption, or you could…” Amber paused, then finished, “decide that you don’t want to be a mom at seventeen.” 

Mary’s eyes widened. “No Amber, I can’t do that. I can’t.”

“Yes, you can Mary. You have the right to do it. I support whatever you decide, but I want you to know that it’s an option. You want to go to medical school and then open a family practice here. You can’t do that if you have a child at seventeen. Babies are also expensive, and you basically support yourself. I just think you should think about these things.” 

If someone had asked Mary two days ago, if she would ever do that—get an abortion— she would have told them never. But two days ago, Mary thought that her future was wide open. She thought that the only thing standing in her way of accomplishing all her dreams was herself if she didn’t work hard enough. Now, a lot more could stand in the way.

“I don’t know what I want to do yet. But I guess it is a good idea to learn about my options.”

Amber hugged Mary and said, “I think that’s a great idea. I’ll find a clinic in Amarillo. That way you won’t need to worry about running into anyone here.”

“Thank you, Amber. Thank you.” 


Amber pulled into a spot and parked the car. She yawned, took a sip of her coffee, then asked, “Alright, here we are. Do you want me to go inside with you?” 

Mary looked at the building in front of her, with the sign “Pregnancy Resource Center.”

“No, it’s okay. My appointment is at 8:00, so I shouldn’t have to wait long.” 

Mary walked into the lobby and gasped. It looked like a normal waiting room, but there were posters hung up on all the walls: posters of babies. Some of them showed smiling mothers with babies. One poster was a picture of a baby smiling in a highchair with food on its mouth. Her face flushed, remembering what she was there to talk about. She looked straight ahead and walked to the front desk.

“Good morning, sweetheart. Do you have an appointment?” 

“Um, yes. It should be under the name Mary Lucas.” 

“Got you right here! Just take a seat and our health assistant will call you back.” 

Health assistant?  

Mary sat down, pulling out her phone to distract herself from the posters. 

“Mary Lucas?” 

Mary got up and followed the woman through a door and into a room. It looked like a normal examination room in a doctor’s office, except it was more rundown. Mary flushed when she saw the posters on the wall; one was a picture of a baby, and the other showed the different stages of a fetus. The health assistant smiled warmly at Mary and motioned to the exam table, “Take a seat, Mary.” Mary sat down, looking at her feet.  

“So Mary, what brings you into the clinic today?” 

Mary looked up to answer, but quickly looked back down, unable to keep eye contact with the woman. “Well… I found out that I’m…pregnant, so—” 

“Mary, that’s wonderful. Congratulations! I want to confirm that you are pregnant. So, just take this to the bathroom right across the hall.” 

The woman handed Mary a generic pregnancy test. It was a cheaper version of the one Mary had used a couple days earlier. She was a little confused but took the test anyway. Mary gave the woman the test with the bright pink plus sign, confirming what she already knew.  

“Wow, Mary. What a miracle! A baby is truly a blessing.”  

Mary felt a pang of shame and her cheeks turned red. 

 “Um… thank you… but I just wanted to learn about my options if I don’t want to keep the baby.”  

“So, you want to know about giving your baby up for adoption?” 

 Mary looked up at the smiling woman. “No, I want to learn about my options to get an abortion.”  

The woman stopped smiling. She looked at Mary intensely.   

“Mary, do you know what happens when you get an abortion?” 


“Well, the local provider in Lubbock is known as ‘the butcher,’ because of what they do. They tear apart the baby inside of you.” 

Mary’s mouth opened in shock as the woman handed her a pamphlet. 

“If you look at the first page of that, you can see that your baby should be at around Week 5. Your baby’s five little fingers have formed. That pamphlet also lists all the dangerous side effects of abortions: women have bled to death from abortions, women get infections or cervical damage, and a lot of women become infertile after getting one because…”  

Mary was looking at the pamphlet but the tears in her eyes were blurring the words and the drawings. The walls started closing in on her. She felt like she couldn’t breathe. Mary squeezed her eyes shut, but she began to picture what the woman was describing. She thought she was going to faint.  

“Then if they leave a piece of the baby in you –” 

“I have to go!”  

Mary sprinted out of the room, running through the lobby, past all the baby posters, and into Amber’s car. When she closed the door, she immediately burst into tears. Mary squeezed her eyes shut, hands covering her ears. She wanted it to stop, but she kept hearing the woman’s words. 

“They tear apart the baby—”  

“Mary! Mary, what’s wrong?” Amber’s words snapped Mary back into reality. Amber’s hands were gripping Mary’s shoulders.  

“Mary, please, just breathe!” 

Mary took a couple of shaky deep breaths before saying, “Oh, Amber. I can’t do it. I can’t let them rip apart my baby.” 


Mary nodded her head. Amber looked furious. She handed Mary a water bottle and some tissues. 

“Just take some deep breaths, Mary. Drink some water. I’m going inside, but I will be right back.” 

Amber got out of the car and yanked the clinic door open. Mary could see the woman at the front desk through the glass door. She watched Amber go in and talk—well actually it looked like yelling—to the front desk lady. Amber was furiously pointing while yelling, first at the car’s direction, then at the woman. The woman looked terrified. When Amber had paused, the woman said a word or two before Amber began yelling again. When Amber was done, she turned around and walked away from the shocked woman. She pushed through the glass door and walked to the driver’s side of the car. Amber got in the car without saying a word, buckled her seat belt, backed out of the parking space, and sped onto the road.  

They sat there silently, Amber’s knuckles white from squeezing the wheel so hard, Mary with tears streaming down her cheeks. They didn’t say a word until they saw the sign that said, “Randall County,” where Canyon was located.  

Amber sighed and quietly said, “Mary, I am so sorry.” 

“For what?”  

“For taking you to that fake women’s clinic. I’ve read about them. I should have known. I should have known that nothing in this state was legit except Planned Parenthood! Do you want to drive to the one in Lubbock? I’ll take you right now, we’ve got plenty of time.” 

“No, it’s okay. I just want to go home.” 

“Mary, we don’t have to talk about what they told you. But you and Jackson had sex like a month ago. There isn’t a full baby inside of you. I’m pretty sure at this point the fetus is so small all you would need to do is take a pill for the abortion.” 

Mary didn’t answer. All she wanted to do was curl up in bed and never wake up. She never wanted to hear the word “baby” ever again.  


Mary’s thumb hovered over the send button. She had been sitting in her car for twenty minutes, re-typing the message a hundred times. 

“Hi Jackson, if you have any free time today can you call me?” 

I sound pathetic. I AM pathetic. What do I even expect him to say? What if he never calls me? What if he wants me to get an abortion? Well, you’ll never find out if you don’t SEND it. Pull yourself together Mary, just send the text! 

She took a deep breath, pressed the send button, and threw her phone on the seat next to her. She turned her music up and started driving home from church. It had been three days since she had gone to the clinic. The night after going to the clinic, Mary couldn’t sleep. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw what the woman had described to her. She was riddled with guilt. Mary jumped at the sound of her phone ringing.  

That couldn’t be Jackson, could it? I sent that text only minutes ago.  

She reached for her phone, and sure enough his name was on the screen. She took a deep breath and answered the call.  

“Hi, Jackson,” she tried to sound casual, but her voice was shaking.  

“Hi, Mary, it’s been a minute.” 

“Yeah, I hope you’re having fun at college,” Mary cringed.  

“It’s fun, but classes are a lot harder than high school. You doing okay?” 

Mary was unsure of how to answer that. “Um, well I actually wanted to talk to you about something. Are you busy right now?” 

“No, I’m just in my room working on some homework. Is everything alright?” 

“Jackson…” She felt tears fall down her face. “I am so sorry… I’m pregnant.”  

There was a long pause. 

“Jackson? Are you still there?” 

“I—I—I don’t understand. How are you pregnant? We had sex one time.”  

Mary pulled over on the road, “I don’t know Jackson, but I am. I’m sorry!”  

“Oh Mary… no this is all my fault. I should have—I should have bought a damn condom! I knew I should have! I’m so sorry. Dan told me that I didn’t need one if I pulled out. I’m such an idiot!” 

Mary didn’t expect Jackson to be the one apologizing. She was the one that got pregnant, but he was right. He’s the one who said they didn’t need a condom. 

“I guess… neither of us knew what we were doing.” 

Jackson groaned, “Oh, God! Your mom! What did your mom say?! Oh, she’s going to murder me.”  

“I haven’t told her.” 

“What? How are you hiding your stomach?” 

“Jackson, the baby is the size of a pea right now.” 

“Okay, okay, okay. Um, I can come next weekend and we can tell her—tell her together. Then we’ll need to tell my parents—OH GOD I can’t—”  

“Jackson!” Mary interjected, “We might… we might not have to tell them.”                                  

“What do you mean?” He sounded confused.  

“Well…” Here we go. “I have the option to decide not to have the baby.” 

“You mean… get an abortion?! Mary, no. You can’t kill the baby! That’s a worse sin than premarital sex!” 

“Well then we’re already going to hell! Jackson, think about it, we are dirt poor! My mom is a cashier, and your dad is a truck driver. That’s why you’re at college, to become an engineer and take care of your family. That’s why I want to be a doctor! We can’t do that if we have a baby and are living with our parents in Canyon.” 

Her sadness was slowly turning into anger.  

“That’s not true Mary. I can transfer to West Texas A&M. I can study engineering there—”  

“BUT WHAT ABOUT ME, JACKSON?” Mary was yelling now, something she rarely did. “I get death glares in public with my huge stomach, while you just go to class? I have to go through CHILDBIRTH while you’re studying?! What about my future?! Your future stays the same, but I become a teen mom and a high school dropout? THAT’S NOT FAIR.” Mary was shocked. She didn’t realize until that moment how much she didn’t want her future ruined.  

“I’m—I’m sorry, Mary,” Jackson said softly.  

Mary took a deep breath, “It’s okay. I’m sorry for yelling. It’s just—you know I was against abortions, but it’s different now. I know now that it’s not simple.” 

“So, that’s it? You called me to let me know you’re doing it?” 

“No, I’m going to Planned Parenthood in Lubbock tomorrow to discuss my options. I won’t do anything without telling you.” 


Mary was sitting in the waiting room of Planned Parenthood. In this waiting room, there wasn’t a single picture of a baby. The nurse called her back and performed a blood test to confirm that she was pregnant. Mary was then taken into an examination room that was as clean as the ones in her doctor’s office.  

“So, Mary, what brings you in today?” 

Mary looked down at her feet, “I wanted to learn about my options to get an… abortion.” 

Mary looked up, bracing herself for the woman’s disappointment, but her expression didn’t change. 

 “Okay. We can definitely help you get some information about your options for abortion. How many weeks ago was your last period?” 

“I think five or six weeks ago.” 

“Okay, when Dr. Cox comes in, she’ll do an ultrasound to see how far along you are.” 

The nurse left and closed the door behind her. 

A few minutes later, a woman in a white coat came into the room.  

“Hi, Mary, I’m Dr. Cox.” She smiled at Mary warmly and shook her hand. “Dana told me you’re here to learn about your options. We’ll first need to do an ultrasound to see how far along you are. It says here your last period was five or six weeks ago?” 

“Yeah, it’s kind of irregular, but I think that’s correct.” 

“Okay, I’m going to be honest with you, Mary. You’re right around the time that the new Texas law prohibits women from getting an abortion.” 

Mary’s heart dropped, “What? I thought it was if I were six weeks pregnant. My period is only a week or two late!” 

Dr. Cox pulled grabbed a chair and sat down in front of Mary. 

“The new bill prohibits abortions if we can detect a… heartbeat,” Dr. Cox shook her head, “Well, it’s not technically a heartbeat, because the embryo inside you doesn’t have an actual heart. However, if the embryo inside you is at the stage where it sends out an electrical activity that the ultrasound picks up, then your pregnancy is at six weeks’ gestation. That’s the point where it becomes unlawful to perform an abortion.”  

Mary was shocked. She was trying to wrap her brain around the fact that she had missed her period two weeks ago and there was a possibility that she was too late. 

I guess I had just assumed the six weeks was after I missed my period.  

Dr. Cox gave Mary a half-hearted smile, “Okay, well let’s just see where you’re at before we discuss your options.” 

Dr. Cox had Mary change into a gown and brought in a machine. Mary laid on her back, staring at the white, tiled ceiling.  

“Okay, you’re going to feel a little pressure while I insert the ultrasound wand.” Wow, that’s an uncomfortable feeling

“Okay, so that black circle is the gestational sac.” Dr. Cox said, “And… that is the embryo right now.” 

Mary turned her head to the screen, holding her breath. Well, it’s time to see the baby you’re thinking of killing. To Mary’s surprise all she saw was a small grey blob inside a small, black oval. It didn’t have fingers or toes. But what she did see was part a small part of the grey blob contracting and expanding rapidly. Mary turned to look at Dr. Cox.  

“Is that… what’s considered a heartbeat?” 

 Dr. Cox let out a sigh and looked at Mary, “Yes, it is.” She turned removed the wand and turned off the machine.  

“I’m sorry Mary, but we can’t give you the abortion pill.” Mary could hear the sadness in Dr. Cox’s voice.  

“Can I get the pill if I go to another state?” 

“Yes, we can help set you up with one of our clinics in Colorado. You will have to find a way to get to the clinic. Last time I checked the pill will cost $625, so I would ensure that you have $700.” 

$700?! Plus I need gas for the interstate drive. What will I tell my mom? Maybe I can tell her that there’s a concert or something? But my appointment wouldn’t be at night, so— 

“Mary?” Dr. Cox’s voice broke her train of thought. “Do you want me to schedule an appointment for you?” 

Mary was flustered, “Um, maybe? No, I don’t know… I need some time to think.”

“That’s perfectly fine. Here’s my card with my office and personal numbers. If you decide you want to move forward, contact me as soon as possible.”  


Mary walked out of the examination room in a trance. She got into the front seat of Amber’s car, still clutching the card. She was staring straight ahead, unblinking. Amber snapped her fingers in front of Mary’s eyes. 

“Mary? Mary? What happened?” 

Mary was still starting straight ahead when she said, “Colorado.” 

“Colorado? What are you talking about?” 

Mary turned to face Amber and robotically recited what the doctor had told her. “I’m past six weeks’ gestation… So, I can’t get an abortion in Texas. If I want one… I have to go to Colorado and it’s going to cost me… $700.”

Amber’s eyebrows furrowed. She was silent for a moment and slammed her hands against the steering wheel. “I hate this goddamn state! I hate it here! Of course, the stupid heartbeat bill!” Mary snapped out of her trance when Amber’s hands hit the steering wheel. She felt like crying, but she was more tired than anything else. There weren’t any more tears left in her body after crying constantly for the past week.  

 “Okay, if you want to go through with it, I can pay for it,” Amber said.  

“No, Amber, I can’t ask you to do that.” 

“You don’t have to ask, Mary. We both know I’m spoiled and have an unlimited allowance. I can take out $100 out of my bank account every other day for the next week or two. 

We would just need to figure out an excuse to be gone for a whole day.” 

Even though she thought she was out of tears, Mary’s eyes filled up at her friend’s kindness.  

“I don’t know what to say.” 

“You don’t have to say anything right now. You just think about what you want to do and let me know.” 

Mary smiled at Amber, a tear rolling down her cheek. “Thank you.”  


Mary woke up the next day feeling relieved. She was thinking about how truly blessed she was to have Amber in her life. Without Amber, Mary wouldn’t have a choice in this. Thank you, God, for a friend like Amber. The smell of pancakes traveled to her room. Mary put on her robe and walked into the kitchen where her mother was standing over the stove, flipping a pancake.  

“Oh, Mary, hi. I found some ripe strawberries in my garden. Perfect for some pancakes! How was studying with Amber?” 

 “It smells delicious. Studying was good, we finished our all our homework.” Mary smiled; she could tell her mother was in a good mood. 

“That’s good… but Mary you really shouldn’t take off too many shifts from work. You’re going to college and will need the money.”  

Mary’s smile faded. Her mother always had a way of ruining sweet moments. 

“I know, Mom. I’ll make sure I don’t miss too much work.” 

Mary sat at the table. Her mother put a plate of pancakes in front of her, fresh strawberries piled on top. Mary waited for her mother to sit down. They bowed their heads and Mary said a prayer. They started eating the pancakes in silence. I really want to ask her… Now wouldn’t be a bad time. Mary set down her fork. “Mom, how old were you when you had me?” 

Her mother didn’t look up from her plate, “Well, I was married at eighteen, and I had you at nineteen. Then I was a single mother by twenty.” 

“Do you think you were too young to have a baby? To be a single mom?” 

Her mom thought for a second, put down her fork, and looked at Mary. “No, I don’t think so. You were a blessing from God; you were part of His plan for me. It was hard being a single mother, but I managed. God never gives us battles that we aren’t equipped to handle. Even babies who never shut up.” Her mother chuckled.  

Mary smiled, “Yeah, I guess so.” 

“Oh, also, your SAT books got here. They’re by the front door.” 

Mary jumped up, “I’m going to look at them before school. I’ll be ready to go by 7:30!”  She grabbed the box the door, it was heavier than she anticipated. She walked into her room and dropped the box on her bed. She ripped open the box and picked up the first book. The cover was glossy with “SAT PREP PLUS 2023” printed across it. She flipped through and saw all the practice tests it included. She became giddy thinking about studying for the math section of the test. She loved that math always had one right answer and that Mary could find her way to that answer. 

Mary set the box down on the ground and collapsed onto her bed. She stared at the ceiling, her mind racing. She thought of the pictures of her young mother in the hospital, beaming with a newborn Mary in her arms. Her mind switched to visions of herself in college, studying in an old library, sitting in classes and well-equipped labs.

“God never gives us battles that we aren’t equipped to handle.” 

Mary thought about what battle God was giving her right now. I can do all things through Him. Mary felt a sudden peace come over her, a peace she hadn’t felt in a long time. She got up and quietly walked out the back door. She went to the far corner of her backyard and opened her phone. She found the contact, clicked the call button, and put the phone to her ear. It rang two times until the person on the other side answered.  


Note from the Author  

This story was inspired by my own experience with sex education in West Texas, and the newly passed TX SB 8. I grew up in Lubbock, which is just under two hours from Canyon. Like Mary, in my sixth grade sex education class we were shown a slideshow of STDs, read stories from teen parents, and asked to sign an abstinence pledge. In 2003, The Washington Post published an op-ed highlighting that even though Lubbock County was teaching teenagers to practice abstinence, it had some of the highest pregnancy and STD rates in the country.1 Texas does not require schools to teach sex education, but if a school chooses to teach sex education, it must stress abstinence.2 This approach of abstinence-focused sex education does not seem to be effective, because Texas has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country.3  

In 2021, Texas passed the “Texas Heartbeat Act,” which outlaws abortions at six weeks’ gestation.4 Mary’s story highlights the difficult position this bill creates for women since six weeks’ gestation is two weeks after a woman’s last missed period. The main purpose of this story is to propose that if Texas truly wants to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, which in turn leads to less abortions, Texas needs to address the root of the problem. An abstinence-focused sex education is not realistic, and only leads to the ignorance of teenagers, like Mary and Jackson, about what leads to pregnancy. If Texas wants to reduce abortions, they should reduce unwanted pregnancies by implementing a contraceptive-focused sex education curriculum. 

  1. Ceci Connolly, Texas Teaches Abstinence, With Mixed Grades, The WASHINGTON POST (Jan. 21, 2003)
  2. Aliyya Swaby, Texas gives preliminary approval for revised school sex ed policy that excludes LGBTQ issues, The Texas Tribune (Sept. 11, 2020),
  3. Teen Birth Rate by State, CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (2019),  
  4. Selena Simmons-Duffin, The Texas Abortion Ban Hinges On ‘Fetal Heartbeat.’ Doctors Call That Misleading, NPR (Sept. 3, 2021),

Photo by Petr Magera on Unsplash

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