At 29, I lost my virginity in a one night stand with a drummer. He played for one of my favorite local Denver bands, and from his first set to his last, threw out a beat that rocked my body. I wanted him even though I was scared of what sex would actually feel like, even though I worried about STD’s and possible pregnancy. These things didn’t matter in my quest to have sex before I turned thirty. I had grown up in an evangelical home where I was taught to wait for marriage before having sex. But even that didn’t matter. I wanted him on top of me, in me. I wanted proof that I existed. I wanted proof I wasn’t dead inside. I had just finished my PhD comprehensive exams. I had been out of therapy for a year and had broken up with my conservative Lutheran boyfriend—my first boyfriend ever except for a two-week trial run in college. That college boyfriend refused to even kiss me because he didn’t want the relationship to get “too physical too quickly.” My sexual experience up till then would have made Andy Stitzer from The 40 Year Old Virgin look like a porn star.
There was no love between me and the drummer. He was engaged to his longtime girlfriend. I was manic, hyped up from an antidepressant that wasn’t curing my death wish. One night in between sets he told me he wanted to be my first. I told him I wanted him to be my first. That night he came over and asked again if I was sure. I brushed the golden lock of hair that fell over his eyes and said yes. Then our clothes were in a heap on the floor and my legs were thrown over his shoulders. I had wanted to use protection. He had wanted to try the pull-out method. I am obstinate enough I could have made him do what I wanted. I was manic enough I didn’t give a fuck.
The next day—terrified that I could be pregnant even from that brief encounter—I drove forty minutes to the nearest Planned Parenthood and got the morning after pill. It’s not actually one pill but two, or several birth control pills that will inhibit implantation or delay ovulation—either way, whatever might have gotten started would stop. And I prayed. I grew up in the evangelical church. I was, and still am, a Christian. I prayed for forgiveness, even as I cramped up, even as I got a little queasy. Was a person being erased? I will never know. I have no idea if an egg had even been fertilized and had now completed its first division. But that morning, I, the evangelical Christian, terminated whatever journey that Schrödinger’s egg might have taken. I didn’t tell anyone except for a couple of graduate school friends who I knew wouldn’t judge me, wouldn’t call me a whore or a murderer.
It’s no secret that one of the key issues that won Trump the evangelical vote, if not the issue, was with a promise of a more conservative Supreme Court, one that would help trip abortion laws back into the hands of state control. The debate between pro-life and the pro-choice sides is a weary, cliche ridden one. I remember learning all the verses that alluded to a sense of Personhood within the womb, including the most popular Psalms where King David praises God for his creation: “You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (139:13-14 New American Standard). I remember when God tells Jeremiah "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1:5).
I remember looking at picture after picture of aborted fetuses, cut up from a D&E. I remember being told how women discarded their pregnancies without any thought to an actual baby. I wouldn’t discover till I was in my late twenties that no woman ever wants a D&E, that it is harrowing experience. I comforted one of my friends as she told me how the doctors had to perform one in order to save her life. I cried with her. I made her laugh. I remember thinking that my only job was to be there for her the way I wish someone had been there for me.
It’s a tricky business, deciding when a peanut turns into a person. If a woman says she is expecting a baby a mere two weeks along, no one in their right mind is going to shout out, “That’s mass of cells for now. Call me when you’re at ten centimeters and someone sees a head crowning.” No, we all say congratulations, because that person has declared they have another person inside of them, despite the fact that there is no heartbeat. Many women don’t even tell people they’re expecting during that first trimester because so much can happen even during implantation that they wait until the danger period is over.
In fact, embryos are by their very nature interstitial, always in process, yet static, residing in a rhetorical and physical purgatory. According to the Office of Population Affairs, “there are more than 600,000 cryo-preserved embryos in the United States,” which is one rather large People Popsicle City. At five days, that embryo is still a bunch of dividing cells that can be frozen for another possible pregnancy. From four to six weeks, a heart is beginning to form and beat. And here, yes, if an embryo is aborted, a living organism dies. It doesn’t look like a human yet. If you saw it on the street, you wouldn’t scoop it into your hands and take it home. You wouldn’t even recognize what it was. And yet—-we’re stopping a heart at this point, and this is why no woman celebrates this choice. That is why abortion rates have been declining since 2004 and were at a historic low in 2013 according to the CDC.
Here evangelicals will demand that there should be no choice at all, that killing is killing. But they are looking at the issue through the wrong end of a telescope. By trying to regulate a woman’s choice rather than expanding women’s health care and access to birth control in all its forms they have ensured that more deaths will incur. By electing a man who is already dismantling our current healthcare system before he even takes office, they have sent a clear message to women that, in fact, no life truly matters to them in the concrete. The evangelical right might be concerned about a right to life, but after a child is born, their belief in God’s wonderful predestination for that child, as well as mother, is forgotten. The mother who can’t afford to keep her baby and puts it up for adoption is seen as irresponsible and undeserving of a child. The welfare and foster care system, which could help alleviate such stresses, continues to receive either condemnation from the evangelical right, or is ignored all together. That baby who was “fearfully and wonderfully made” quickly morphs into “those people” who are trying to cheat their way through life. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau estimates that there were 427,910 children in foster care in 2015, with 111,820 waiting for adoption. Where are the signs and marches to give those children the best life possible, to enable them to be the next Albert Einstein, Sonia Sotomayor, or Martin Luther King, Jr.?
The core issue surrounding abortion might be best described as the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat, a thought experiment about superposition, or multiples states of being. A cat, trapped in a box, is thought of to be simultaneously alive and dead until physically observed. Embryos and fetuses might reside in a similar rhetorical space, in a state of being both alive yet undead until birth, when their reality collapses into the former, and they are forgotten by politicians and pastors alike. Yet Trump basically promised evangelicals who believe that life begins at conception a conservative Supreme Court that would overturn abortion laws. This exchange is not the fulfillment of love because it discards so many other lives that will be impacted by Trump’s presidency. Indeed, it is the worst betrayal, much like when Judas sold Jesus to the high priests because he hoped for a cultural revolution. The evangelicals, in wanting to protect such deeply ingrained beliefs instead of exploring their socioeconomic, spiritual, and emotional complexity, let Trump buy their vote for no less than thirty pieces of silver.