Sub-Proctor Anne’s mouth was tight, as though she were braced for me to gloat.
“Oh,” was my entire contribution to the conversation; it was the most Christian thing I could think of to say.
“I thought you would want to know,” Sub-Proctor Anne said, still guarded. I nodded politely at her, and she moved on to resume her work.
I wasn’t surprised. How many times had I warned everyone that Kristen would remain here only as long as she wanted to? The church’s Joliet Maximum Assistance Rescue Ark hadn’t held her during a previous pregnancy. She slipped past the dogs and the guard towers and the electrified fence as though they didn’t exist. So what chance, I asked, did the minimum assistance-level St. Reagan’s Birth Assurance Home have? An electronic gate and a simple nine-foot chain-link fence with a thin strand of razor wire on top meant nothing to someone like Kristen.
As St. Reagan’s preborn devotional counselor, I had read Kristen’s record and succumbed briefly to the sin of despair. To say she was a recusant would be putting it ever so mildly. Kristen was designated as breeder positive; the church wanted her babies, so long as they were with approved men. But Kristen had a tempestuous streak a mile wide that the church had not been able to narrow.
I remonstrated with her at her intake meeting. “Kristen, you have an appalling fornication record.”
She smiled. “Those are just the times I’ve been caught. And simple fornication is just the tip of the iceberg.”
“Yes, I see that.” The egregiously sinful things she had been discovered doing with various men … and groups of men … made me queasy despite my training. “And you are here, at St. Reagan’s, for your third unconsecrated pregnancy.”
She seemed to pout. “The people I buy contraceptives from keep getting arrested.” She sighed. “I wish I were classified as breeder negative. I could be sterilized. I’d only have to face the fornication charges rather than have to give birth to this parasite in me.”
Sinners like to use provocative language to shock believers, but I didn’t respond to her blasphemy; that was part of my training, too.
“While it is true that you that you are pregnant by another sinner, you bear a new life, one we hope will grow up to renounce the sins of his parents…”
“And be a member-citizen in good standing with the Foundational Church of America,” she finished in a nasty tone.
“That is correct,” I said mildly, still refusing to rise to the bait.
“You know,” she said, “I learned in a history class that the original Constitution prohibited the government from establishing a religion. I guess things changed over time.”
“You should also have learned that the Second American Constitution corrected the errors of the first one and established the national church-government. We are blessed to live under the new Constitution and the sheltering wings of the church, its pure teachings, and its security forces.”
“And its tyranny over who can and can’t and must have babies.”
“The church-government knows these things best,” I reminded her. She didn’t respond verbally, but I could have added an entire paragraph to her record about the look she gave me. I pretended to skim through her record, though I knew it well already. “Your first child –”
“My only child.”
“Your first child,” I insisted, “was adopted immediately after his birth seven years ago. He is doing very nicely with his family and is at an age-appropriate understanding of the national catechism.”
Kristen said nothing, but again her countenance spoke volumes.
“Your second child was murdered after you fled the Joliet Rescue Ark.”
“After I escaped from the pregnancy prison, I found a capable abortion provider,” she annotated sinfully.
“Whose name you have never given up despite the church’s questioning.”
“Despite the church’s torture sessions.”
“Kristen, you cannot expect the church-government to be exceedingly gentle with a woman who is complicit in the murder of her own baby.”
“I cannot expect the church-government to let me live my own life the way I want to.”
“Again, there are those who know better than you how a meaningful life is to be lived.”
The next thing she said was both obscene and a personal affront to me. The intake session ended shortly after that.
Over the next two weeks, I had three more meetings with Kristen; each one left me feeling more impotent than the last. My job, my earnest desire, is to help pregnant women in doubt to understand that they are chosen of God to bear the next generation of Americans for the good of His world. Women in good marriages and who are in good standing with the church know this, of course; I never talk with them professionally. I see only the ones who resent their God-given role as givers of new life, the ones who are at risk of committing infanticide.
Kristen had already committed this gravest of sins. I felt certain that she was an escape risk and, once out of our care, would sin again.
I made Kristen’s record and her sinful nature as clear as I could to the security proctors, but they refused to put an extra watch on her.
“Naturally she escaped from Joliet,” Sub-Proctor Anne said. “But St. Reagan’s is a home-like atmosphere. All the women feel cared for and nurtured here. I’m sure we will have no more trouble with Kristen than we do any of the others.”
And that was the end of the discussion.
Two days later, Kristen was gone.
As I walked through the halls of the main dormitory, I saw Sister Fabia coming toward me. Her face was streaked with tears.
“Oh, Counselor, I’ve just heard the news about Kristen. I’m so worried about what she’s going to do. I fear so terribly for her baby.”
I sighed. “I am certain your fear is justified, Sister. All we can do now is pray the church police will find her in time.”
“I so wanted to have a baby, but I wasn’t breeder worthy,” she told me. “Of course, I bow to the will of God and the church-government.”
“But for those who are so blessed to despise the little ones they carry…. It breaks my heart, it truly does.”
“As it does mine, Sister Fabia.”
“Reverend Mother saw how upset I am. She told me I could go to the chapel to pray.”
I smiled at Sister Fabia. “Reverend Mother is wise and compassionate.” Not wise enough to overrule Sub-Proctor Anne and guard Kristen better, though.
“I’ll pray to St. Reagan that Kristen is found in time. That she can be brought back and helped to know the joy of giving birth.”
“I’ll add my own prayers soon,” I said. “I won’t keep you, Sister.”
Sister Fabia started to walk to the chapel again, but she stopped. “Counselor? Women like Kristen. They say they want their freedom. What do they mean?”
“ ‘There is no true freedom outside the Foundational Church of America,’” I quoted, and she nodded. “Women like Kristen simply do not yet understand that. They seek what they cannot find outside the holy church-government. Satan has lied, and they have listened.”
Sister Fabia nodded again. “Thank you, Counselor.” She resumed her journey to the chapel.
I picked up my own pace down the hallway. I was headed for Birth Room 2, where Peggy was in labor. She was another recusant with whom my work had been fruitless. She was not the escape artist Kristen was, however, and now she was going to deliver the baby God had sent her.
I always tried to be there for the mothers at this difficult yet happy time. It was the culmination of my ministry to them. And I felt it especially important to be there to show the love of God and the mercy of the church-government to support the mothers who – to ensure a routine delivery – were handcuffed to their beds.