“Mom, I’m sending the invites. I am so excited!” exclaimed Rita.
“Great, honey. The invitations are so cute!” Rita’s mother, Clara, responded. She smiled at her glowing daughter. Clara continued, “Are you finished with the early detection appointments, dear?”
Rita grinned, “I have one more appointment with Dr. Jorgensen, but I – and the baby – have passed all of the preliminary tests. We are healthy!”
“I can’t wait to meet my first grandchild,” said Clara.
Rita hugged her mother tightly, knowing that her little girl was loved.
Rita Stowell sat in the cold, white room at the Residential Clinic in section 17.F.1822 on City-State’s Layer Seven. It was a middle-class area mostly made up of B-Class citizens. Rita was content with her status and living quarters, but she was ecstatic about motherhood.
Rita was carrying her first child, and she was due in five weeks. This would be one of her last early detection appointments.
Early detection was an intricate part of City-State’s StarChild Program – an advanced medical program that screened and recognized fetuses for abnormalities, defects, and potential health problems.
In the waiting room, Rita tried not to look nervous. The young mother-to-be decided to watch the vid screen as she waited patiently for the doctor.
The vid screen on the wall blasted mindless entertainment. She was already into the third episode of “Working Girls”, a reality television show about young ladies “feverishly employed” in City-State’s Entertainment District. At first, she found the entire idea of the show repulsive. But after two episodes, she was hooked. What else is a D-Class girl going to do? Violet Bluebell had to pay the bills.
Rita laughed and patted her belly. “This show is ridiculous,” she murmured to herself. A working girl life would not be the life for her daughter. Rita quietly continued, “My daughter is going to be an S-Class engineer or at least an A-Class entrepreneur. She will not be damned to be ‘glass house’ entertainment for City-State’s perverted consumers.”
“Rita Stowell,” articulated a petite nurse. She wore light blue scrubs. The upper left-hand side of her scrub top showcased an embroidered symbol: City-State’s Seven Point Star.
Rita drew her attention away from the vid screen and focused on the nurse. “Yes, that’s me,” she said.
The kind-looking nurse showed Rita to a private room. Rita patiently waited for the doctor for several minutes while her legs stuck to the sanitary paper on the table.
The door finally opened, and Dr. Jorgensen entered. He carried his MediPalm device in his right hand. He tapped the screen for a moment before looking up at Rita.
“Hello, Rita, how are you today?” Jorgensen asked vacantly.
“I’m doing alright, I guess,” Rita replied. “I am so excited to be a mother. I can’t wait to meet my little girl!”
“That’s the right idea, Rita,” reassured the doctor. “It is best to stay positive throughout this entire situation.”
“Oh, I do!” Rita proclaimed. “I can’t wait to watch her grow – to learn and to see what she what she will become.” Rita smiled.
“So you will keep trying to have a girl, right? That’s good. Girls are very cute.” Dr. Jorgenson’s voice sounded hollow, harsh, and ominous.
“Wait. What?” questioned Rita. She was immensely confused. “What are you talking about? I am having a girl.” Rita pointed to her belly. “What do you mean ‘keep trying?’ The ultrasound showed…”
Dr. Jorgensen sighed; he placed his MediPalm on the table next to Rita. He gave her a sympathetic look, but his voice did not waver when he replied.
“Rita,” he said coldly. “This pregnancy is being terminated. I thought you knew that.”
“What?!?” Rita screeched. The young mother felt as if she was impaled by a hot iron. Her chest was tight, and her breathing became irregular. “What? What do you mean? This is a mistake!”
“It’s no mistake, Rita,” said the doctor. “Our final exams of the fetus showed that it has a 47% chance of early heart disease, breast cancer, and depression. StarChild parameters dictate that this pregnancy is to be terminated immediately. Did you read the UniSys message we sent you? This appointment is for…”
“I didn’t read any message!” exclaimed Rita. She clenched her teeth and buried her head in her small, soft hands. Her nails scratched at her forehead and cheeks.
Tears filled Rita’s bloodshot eyes. Her breath was ragged, and her face contorted. “Please! This can’t happen!” She screamed, wishing for the sound of her voice to crush the heartless doctor’s head.
The readout was incorrect. It had to be. There was no history of any kind of illness in her family.
Rita pleaded with the doctor, “It was wrong! You are wrong!” she pleaded. The world fell away. Her heart accelerated. Each pounding thump crushed her dream of motherhood.
The doctor spoke to Rita as if she was a young, naïve child. His tone was calm and firm like an elementary school teacher: “Rita, I understand how you must feel, but remember, City-State requires us to share the sacrifice if we are to remain a civilized society.”
“What? A civilized society? The StarChild Program is far from civilized!” Rita launched her fists wildly at the doctor’s face.
Dr. Jorgensen dodged the infuriated woman’s blows. “There is no appeals process for this, Rita. The computer makes the call. It’s never wrong.”
Rita finally connected her fist to the man’s face with a satisfying “crack”. Dr. Jorgensen hurried out of the room and shut the door. Rita heard it lock behind him.
Rita ran to the door, and she pounded it with solid, repetitive blows. She screamed uncontrollably for several minutes with deep, guttural, raw, primordial sounds. “I hate you! I hate this place! I want to go home!”
A few minutes of sobs followed the screams. Rita heard the door unlock. Immediately, she backed away like a frightened child. The young mother expected the doctor, but four agents from the Federal Economic Advisory Board (FEAB) entered the room with stun batons.
Her fear boiled into rage; she charged at the agents with her fists closed, trying to save her child, but she was outnumbered. The stun batons found their mark on the side of her head, her chest, and her neck. The room went black.
When Rita awoke, she stared at the harsh, fluorescent lights of the recovery room. She could hear the gentle sobs of other women around her, and her vision was blurred.
After a few moments, Rita shook her head and rubbed her eyes. She placed her hand on her stomach. It had decreased in size, and it was soft – it was empty. She fully comprehended the situation: they took her baby.
A wave of unfathomable sorrow swept over her as she joined in the quiet weeping around her. Rita’s heart was broken; she could not breathe. After a few seconds, she gasped for breath. Her bloodcurdling screams pierced the silent, white halls of the clinic.
A representative from the hospital’s administration staff approached Rita with a MediPalm. “Hello, Rita. I’m from records. Can you please sign this termination acknowledgment? It’s normal protocol.”
Rita violently slapped the communication device out of the hospital representative’s hands. The crash startled Rita’s nurses.
“Please, Ms. Stowell,” said the unsympathetic staffer as she recovered the MediPalm. She held it out to Rita with shaking hands. “You have to sign. It will be alright.”
The staffer paused, looked at Rita, and hesitantly continued, “Why do you cry, Ms. Stowell?”
Rita snatched the MediPalm from the staffer. “Fine! I’ll sign it. Murder by decree – it is still murder!”
“Ms. Stowell, technically it is just a fetus, and it…”
Rita’s icy stare silenced the rest of the staffer’s sentence. Her bloodshot eyes betrayed madness. “You killed my baby.”
Rita ripped two IVs out of her right upper forearm and snatched the MediPalm from the hospital worker. With an unsteady hand, Rita began to sign her child’s death certificate.
“Goodbye, Gracie. Mommy loved you so much,” Rita sobbed uncontrollably as she finished her signature. “I will never forget you, baby.