Yale’s Reproductive Rights Action League has planned a series of events this week to celebrate the 34th anniversary of the landmark United States Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortions.
Roe v. Wade Week at Yale, which is co-sponsored by Yale Nursing Students for Choice and the Yale Medical Students for Choice, features several events including a forum of women who have had abortions, a Master’s Tea on the new rhetoric of the pro-life movement and a workshop by medical students on an abortion technique. The week kicked off Monday night with small gathering at the Women’s Center for a screening of the film “The Education of Shelby Knox,” about a teenage girl who campaigns for comprehensive sex education in her conservative Texas town.
Coordinators said the anniversary is a good opportunity to reflect on progress made in the women’s reproductive rights movement and the challenges the movement still faces.
“It’s not just about celebrating; it’s about moving forward, it’s about examining what’s going on today, and it’s about reflecting and taking action for the future,” RALY co-coordinator Rebecca Levi ’07 said.
Law School professor Reva Siegel said she believes the anniversary of Roe v. Wade should remind Americans of the importance of respecting people’s family planning choices, especially in light of the recently defeated South Dakota abortion ban. Siegel will speak at Thursday’s Master’s Tea about a new pro-life argument — that abortion harms women as well as the embryo or fetus they are carrying — which was used as the rationale for the proposed South Dakota ban.
“It’s important to listen to the concerns that women are raising with this argument, but I am not persuaded that the concerns they raise are reasonably remedied by criminalizing abortion,” Siegel said. “Instead, other forms of social support may be warranted.”
Levi said she hoped that at Tuesday’s abortion “speak out,” women who have had abortions would feel safe and comfortable in sharing their own experiences. But self-described pro-life supporter Edward Dunar ’08 said RALY’s statement about the event in its publicity materials — “Telling the truth about abortion without political rhetoric is a powerful way of underscoring the need to protect a woman’s right to choose” — could have alienated some students.
“In the description of the speak-out event, it is suggesting that there is one common experience of women who have had an abortion,” he said. “It is excluding and discouraging the point of view of women who have had an abortion who have been hurt by it and regret it now.”
On Wednesday, there will be a screening of three documentaries that follow three pro-choice Yale students as they interview the pro-life “sidewalk counselors” that protest outside of Planned Parenthood and Women’s Health Services. Emma Clune ’07, one of the filmmakers, said while she still believes these “sidewalk counselors” are “misguided,” she empathizes with the strength of their convictions.
“If you feel like abortion is a genocide in America, you better be out there on the sidewalk, you better be protesting on the sidewalk because what else can you do?” Clune said. “I admire their willingness to step up to what they see as an evil even though I fundamentally disagree.”
On Thursday, the Yale Medical Students for Choice will host workshop on manual vacuum aspiration for medical students, using a papaya as a uterine model. Manual vacuum aspiration is a surgical abortion method that uses a syringe to remove the fetus from a woman’s uterus. Merritt Evans MED ’09 said she thought it was important to have the workshop because the procedure can be used for a variety of different purposes — including miscarriage management and the treatment of a failed medical abortion or ectopic pregnancy — and is inconsistently taught in medical school.
While the workshop is targeted towards medical students, undergraduates are also invited to attend.
“The reason I wanted to include other people is that it is such a simple procedure, but the media attention around it … makes this an emotionally traumatic and a complicated thing,” Evans said. “It’s just to be like, ‘Here is what actually happens, here is what the medical procedure is like, this is what an aborted yolk sac looks like.’ It looks like a piece of cotton.”
Friday’s event will feature a question and answer session with Planned Parenthood representative Susan Yolen.