The courtroom was cold. Jamie guessed that the temperature was set low to battle the intense, August heat. He took a seat next to Mr. and Mrs. Brown in the front pew. He prayed silently for Shawna as she made her way to the podium where she would speak.
The town council consisted of a number of business owners, including the town’s only resident physician, Dr. Zimmerman. Notably a pro-life doctor, Jamie knew that he was interested in what was going to be said.
Madeline Sarrandon, the only outspoken atheist on the council, owned a bar on the outskirts of town that lay on the opposite side as Jamie’s house. She scowled as Shawna took her place at the podium. “Why do we have to listen to an adolescent in this case? Aren’t we capable of coming to a decision on this issue with the facts we have?”
Dr. Zimmerman looked at the councilwoman and replied, “The petition requested Ms. Weston specifically to argue this case. As the valedictorian of her class, we feel that she’s educated enough to present the con side of rebuilding the clinic.”
Shawna set her papers before her. After calmly adjusting her notes, she looked toward the council and met each member’s gaze. Her eyes settled on Mrs. Sarrandon, who returned Shawna’s stare with an icy glare of her own. Jamie was heartened to note that Shawna’s gaze did not waiver.
Finally, the valedictorian began. “Ladies and gentlemen of the council, I stand before you today—as a registered voter—on the issue of morals. I have been asked to refrain from mentioning my religious beliefs to you, so I will not discuss Jesus Christ, the Messiah Who gave His life so that all who believe in Him can have eternal life.”
Madeline tensed visibly, her eyes glaring flaming daggers at the teen. Jamie could barely note a quiet snicker from Mr. and Mrs. Brown.
Shawna’s face remained passive as she continued. “Of the 824 registered voters in this town, 743 have signed this petition,” she held up a stack of papers, “stating that they oppose the reconstruction of the abortion clinic. Many of these same people signed the initial petition and were told that it was too late to back out of the project at that time.” She set the papers back on the podium. “We know about it in advance this time.”
She stepped out from behind the podium, her hands clasped behind her back, and continued. “Those of us who signed this petition—over eighty percent of our town’s population—did not appreciate having the abortion clinic snuck into our town under our noses. We feel, rightly so, that abortion is not health care. It is sacrificing the most innocent of us to the deity of Convenience. We expect you, dear members of the council, to take this opportunity to correct a mistake . . . a mistake that has cost the lives of too many innocents.”
Jamie was truly amazed by the reaction that Madeline Sarrandon was having to Shawna’s speech. The councilwoman’s face was stern. Her eyes flared. The veins in her temples bulged and her right hand squeezed her ink pen dangerously.
Shawna cleared her throat. “In short, ladies and gentlemen, anyone who votes to rebuild the abortion clinic will find a new person occupying his or her place on the council after the next elections.”
The deafening quiet that followed Shawna’s final proclamation was broken by the hard snap of a breaking pen.