Waving aside the offer of a bag, the woman headed in the direction of the restroom. She had no time to waste. She had to know.
As I paid for my son's antibiotic, I wondered what her story was. Everyone's different, of course, but most women who suspect they are pregnant but don't want to be are in no hurry to find out.
They wait until they can wait no longer and then make their discoveries in private, where time will allow them to study the color of the stick or the dot over and over, hoping against hope that the shade doesn't quite match the “positive” indicator on the box.
Well, I sighed, I hope if she is she wants to be and I hope if she doesn't want to be she doesn't have an abortion.
Mostly, I prayed. Prayed that a woman I didn't know would find life in whatever her situation might turn out to be.
This painful drama of discovery and decision is played out countless times every day. Thanks to the unbelievably twenty-five year old decision of Roe v. Wade about four thousand of those decisions every day are to abort a child.
The death toll stays steady, rises a bit, declines here and there, but it's still stupendously grim and there's no end in close range. Abortion advocates, with their man in the White House, wish prolifers would just go away, but of course we won't. Why?
Because of the woman in the drug store, of course, and that child she's got inside her.
Despite the odds despite the discouragement we experience when perfectly sane human beings define horrors like partial-birth abortion as not only moral, but a right to be protected it's gratifying to be part of the prolife movement.
It's wonderful to see newborn babies brought into crisis pregnancy centers by proud moms who'd been desperately considering ending their child's life only months before.
It's encouraging to see gradual legislative change, and a very slow turning of hearts, especially among the young.
But the sheer numbers and the terrifically hard work of defending life can be discouraging. That's part of the territory as well.
A few years ago, I had made a routine stop at the local Right to Life office. The director greeted me and gestured toward a closed door.
A student had been referred by a local church. She was pregnant and had an abortion scheduled for the very next afternoon. The church counselors had sent her to this office after failing to discourage her from canceling the appointment, even delaying it.
Now her parents were with her inside the office, offering their support to her and her child.
How does it look? I asked. The director only shook her head.
As I left, sadness overwhelmed me. Here was a desperate young woman with a tiny life suspended within her. That life would be extinguished tomorrow.
Several people knew exactly where and when it would happen and were doing everything they could humanly do to save that baby and its mother from a tragic choice. Ultimately we were helpless. There was nothing left to do but pray.
So when even the best efforts of our movement result in what to our eyes is failure, we are pushed back to where we should be all along: to act lovingly and boldly, but at the same time, accepting our limits as we stand reverently before the mystery of God, trusting through prayer that there is a reason for all things.
(Amy Welborn is a columnist for Our Sunday Visitor and Catholic News Service and a regular contributer to the Living Faith quarterly devotional.)