Pro-life group struggles to find place on liberal campus

Members of Choose Life at Yale took part in the March for Life in Washington on Friday.
Members of Choose Life at Yale took part in the March for Life in Washington on Friday. Photo by Baobao Zhang.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Outside the U.S. Supreme Court, speakers blared with the frantic strums of guitars and the voices of four young men singing gospel songs — rock and roll style. Donning shaggy beards and seated on a makeshift stage, the four were among thousands of pro-life activists protesting the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

Out on the streets, a small band of Yale students led a different chant.

Former CLAY President Peter Johnston ’09 said fellow protesters were surprised to see a group from Yale at the march, but group members take pride in dispelling the Yale stereotype.
Former CLAY President Peter Johnston ’09 said fellow protesters were surprised to see a group from Yale at the march, but group members take pride in dispelling the Yale stereotype.

“Glory, glory, hallelujah! In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the sea,” the Yalies’ voices sang in harmony, drowned out by the yells of other protesters who arrived here at the Capitol.

“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was the anthem for 21 members of Choose Life at Yale (CLAY), an anti-abortion organization of Yale students, as they participated in the annual March for Life last Friday. Unlike many of the other protesters, the Yalies were dressed up for the occasion: slacks and ties for the men, peacoats and leather boots for the women. After all, they had been invited to meet with Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito LAW ’75 and hear him speak that afternoon.

But while the CLAY members found companionship with peers from Princeton, the Elis came to the march to show solidarity with the other members of the anti-abortion movement, who, former CLAY president Peter Johnston ’09 said, were pleasantly surprised to see Yalies marching alongside them because it dispelled the image of the aloof ivory tower.

“I think there’s a growing national divide between the educated elite and those who are less educated,” he said. “[We show that] Yale is once again accessible to the people.”

Interviews with five CLAY members showed that while the group is welcomed by the nationwide anti-abortion movement, it has struggled to find its place on a predominantly liberal campus. CLAY members said their organization is often misunderstood by their peers.

“In general, Yale is mostly pro-choice, so people can just not understand why I hold these opinions,” former CLAY president Margaret Blume ’10 said. “They can get very defensive.”


Soon upon arriving here after carpooling all day Thursday, CLAY was set to attend a private session with Alito, alongside Princeton Pro-Life, said Lauren Kustner, president of Princeton Pro-Life.

On their walk to the Supreme Court building, the CLAY students walked with Princeton Pro-Life, beating the crowd so as to arrive at their appointment with Alito on time. The group arrived at the court at 1 p.m., met with the justice and emerged at 3:30 p.m., later declining to comment on what was discussed during the meeting.

Afterward, they rejoined the crowd of protesters that had assembled at the base of the Supreme Court building. They seemed hardly surprised by eclectic array of protesters, although at first they did not mingle much with the crowd, mainly interacting with the Princetonians. The Yale group then rejoined the other mass of protesters to march down East Capitol Street. Blume said she thinks all pro-life supporters should be able to express their views in their own way.

Eva Duong, a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, saw differences from the Yalies and other protestors, saying she was puzzled to hear Yale students had had a special meeting with Alito.

Still, Kevin Gallagher ’11, a past-president of CLAY (and a staff columnist for the News), said the group was well-received by the other individuals at the protest. Many often see the academic world as a wildly pro-choice environment, he said, and the other individuals at the protest were glad to see pro-life representation from a school like Yale.

In their formal attire, the Yale students served as a marked contrast to their fellow protesters, many of whom donned elaborate signs. A woman, dressed in all white, carried a seven-foot tall cross covered in sparkled plastic tassels. Five people stood in a row, carrying placards that together read: “God is Punishing American for Abortion.” An elderly woman on the street corner yelled at passersby, waving her finger in the air.


While the Yale students may have appeared a bit different from the other protesters this past weekend, they regularly feel different at Yale, where they are among a small minority who oppose abortion.

At Yale, the group said, it has run up against difficulties because the campus largely disagrees with them. While CLAY applied for funding in spring 2007 from the Women’s Center as a “resident group” that can meet in the center’s space, Johnston said, the group was denied funding without explanation, he said.

A member of the 2007 board could not be reached for comment. Isabel Polon ’11, a former board member of the Women’s Center in 2008, said the Women’s Center is a pro-choice organization.

“The Yale Women’s Center believes in women’s right to choice,” she said Sunday night. “CLAY is explicitly against that right.”

Blume added that CLAY’s widespread Baby Lucy poster campaign — which documented the development of an imaginary fetus named Lucy over a span of nine months — was ridiculed: Other posters popped up beside CLAY’s posters showing the development of the fetus of a farm animal.

“That’s fine if they’re trying to show something, too,” Blume said of the parody posters. “I just don’t know what it did or what purpose it served.”

Since its founding in 2003, CLAY has held weekly discussion meetings and organized awareness campaigns. CLAY’s Web site says the organization’s mission also involves other “life” issues, such as capital punishment, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and cloning and human genetic engineering, all of which they oppose.

Correction: Jan. 25, 2010

An earlier version of this article contained several errors. First, it should not have suggested that all the participants in last Friday’s March for Life in Washington were Christian or that the event was religiously affiliated, which it was not. Second, 21 members of Choose Life at Yale participated in the march, not 13. Third, Choose Life at Yale applied for funding from the Yale Women’s Center in fall 2007, not 2009. Fourth, the News failed to contact any members of the current board of the Women’s Center, as the article initially stated it had. The News regrets the errors.


  • ProfBob

    All the arguments seem to be the self-centered ethical basis of the primacy of a woman’s choice versus the unprovable opinion that humanness (read soul) starts at conception.
    The debate on abortion is merely opinion. Moral values are based on either self-centered, God-based or society-based non-provable basic assumptions. For the Catholic viewpoint let me excerpt from the free ebook series “And Gulliver Returns” ( The Abortion chapter in Book 4 elaborates the pros and cons of the 3 ethical assumptions. Let me attempt to summarize the changing Catholic position. From the 13th Century the views of St. Thomas Aquinas, that male embryos got their souls about 4 weeks after conception, females somewhat later, were the standard. His was a Christianized view of Aristotle’s ideas.
    The crux of the modern idea, that the soul is infused at conception, might be traced to St. Paul (Romans 5:12) who started the ball rolling on ‘original sin.’ 500 years later St. Augustine popularized the idea. But the Blessed Virgin was born without original sin, her Immaculate Conception. Pope Pius IX declared this in 1854. Then in 1870 he decided that popes were infallible in church doctrine. So was his pronouncement retroactive?
    Recent popes have generally followed Pius’s idea that the soul enters the zygote at the moment of conception. This brings with it some theological problems. Since many fertilized ova never implant in the uterus what happens to these little souls?
    If you are really interested in the question, see the aforementioned chapter. It is done in detail.

  • DPort ’08

    This is why I never volunteered at the Women’s Center. They absolutely refuse to consider and accept that pro-life women can be feminists. Keep up the good work CLAY.

  • Hieronymus

    A serious question:

    IF, as pro-choice folks remind us, the fertilized egg is merely a “collection of cells” and thus available for non-judgmental excision,

    THEN why are (many) pro-choice folks vehemently and vociferously against proposed rules advocating or requiring an ultrasound of the cell collection prior to removal?

    I mean, theoretically isn’t it just informational? A sort of “here’s a pic of the growth/cells/thing we are going to remove today” rule?

    I look forward to cogent and rational response to this serious question.

  • anonymous

    “Yale is once again accessible to the people.”

    …to what does that “again” refer? The good old days when Yale denied admission to women, Jews, and people of color? It is clearly more “accessible to the people” than it ever has been; just look at the financial aid statistics.

  • 2011

    Totally fails to convey what a big deal the March for Life is. Last year it was attended by upwards of 300,000 people. This year estimates hover around a quarter of a million. It’s a huge deal and the **largest single-day protest in the world** each year. This article is well-written, but, like every other one covering the March for Life, utterly and intentionally misportrays the March. All media coverage (national and local) attempts to portray the March as a fringe movement of a few misguided (albeit perhaps well-intentioned) souls instead of an enormous movement.

  • Anonymous

    Meanwhile, the newly formed atheists group is funded through the chaplain’s office.

  • y10

    I don’t really like (or agree with) CLAY and the people in it, but it’s nice to see Yale’s double-standard when it comes to treatment “minorities” on campus get a little attention. Nice article.

  • Interesting

    Profbob, your point is moot.

    The discrepency between St. Thomas and the later popes is a difference of specifics, not essence: both agree that no abortion should take place as soon as life and individuality is present. St. Thomas just didn’t have the technology to see that the zygote was alive, whereas later theologians did.

    So the real question is, should we legislate according to the pro-choice perspective, which follows morality based on 13th century science?

    As for me, I’ll take theology based on 21st century technology, that sees genetic continuity, and support life from natural conception to natural death.

  • J. Serrato

    Great job CLAY!

  • PC ’10

    the assumption that an overwhelming majority of Yalies support abortion (or at least are pro-choice) goes unquestioned yet unproven. Do we have any statistics about this? Would simple statistics even answer the question? There are some die-hard pro-lifers, as featured in this article, and some die-hard pro-choicers, the women’s center board, for example, but i think most of us fall somewhere in the middle with more complicated views of the subject. If I abhor abortion but believe it should be legal to protect women from dangerous back-alley “coat-hanger” abortions, what would you call me?

    And since when did Choose Life at Yale become Choose Christ at Yale?? Are there no pro-life Jews, Muslims or, god-forbid, even atheists? Look harder and I think you’ll find Yale is a more diverse place than either CLAY or the article’s author is giving it credit for.

  • PC09

    Well, DPort, because revoking a woman’s self-autonomy is generally considered an anti-feminist position.

    If you want to make your own life decisions about your own body, great. You believe a 4 celled mass is a human. If you allow other women to make their own choices, then I believe that’s called being pro-choice and is definitely acceptable at the Women’s Center. Cool? Great.

  • a missing adjective

    “I think there’s a growing national divide between the educated elite and those who are less educated,” he said. “[We show that] Yale is once again accessible to the [stupid] people.”

  • yale female 09

    I agree with DPort ’08. How can the Women’s Center claim to represent me (and the rest of the pro-life women at Yale) when it explicitly excludes us? Nice work there-some of us actually would have been involved with the Women’s Center.

  • Don Pepino

    re 4: If you believe it’s just a bunch of cells, why would you waste time and money taking a picture of it? The question Hieronymus raises denies any intent. Apply the same rule to any situation–it’s illegal to remove that cyst without an ultrasound; it’s illegal to get a haircut without a dna test of the hair; it’s illegal to flush your excrement without a nutritional analysis of your feces. If you are going to try to make such a proposal in pro-choice terms then what you are proposing is cost ineffective and invasive. Your argument would do better on your own terms.

  • PC ’10

    Apologies to CLAY. Matt’s comment had not been posted yet when I wrote mine regarding religious diversity in the organization. That makes me really happy that there are pro-life atheists in the group.

  • a female child’s rights

    Hey #13 – Advocacy for the life of the female child being aborted is also a “feminist” position. In certain societies like China and India, female children are aborted at much higher rates than male children. Feminists have failed to recognize this issue. Furthermore, when does a mother’s self autonomy triumph over a child’s right to life after birth? A child is heavily dependent on the mother even after birth for nutrition, nurture, protection and affection. Are feminists advocacting the killing of babies even after birth because of self autonomy and the baby may not be “convenient” for the mother? The current feminist position is losing in the marketplace of ideas because it is inane. Young people and Americans with a conscience are increasingly becoming pro-life.

  • Yale 08

    The deliberate killing of fetal human life is wrong. What culpability does the fetal child have? What wrong has he/she committed that would justify his/her death?

    A woman’s bodily autonomy ends at the umbilical cord.

  • Yale 10


    Surely you can differentiate between the intentional targeting and killing of a child in utero vs. the natural death of an embryo that fails to implant or a miscarried pregnancy or a child who dies of natural causes shortly after birth.

    If you can’t, then you have no place in this debate.

  • President of the Yale SSA

    @#7 Anonymous
    “Meanwhile, the newly formed atheists group is funded through the chaplain’s office.”

    Not quite. We have a friendly relationship, do service projects together, and they give us food sometimes. We aren’t funded at all.

    I’m curious where that came from.

  • Hieronymus

    Don Pepino:

    You sidestep the question.

    Duly elected legislative bodies pass absurd rules daily. Why would *this* absurd rule garner so much more outrage than others?

    I would think an honest answer would be “go ahead; it makes no difference.” I find it hard to argue that women deciding whether to have an abortion should be shielded from accurate scientific information with regard to the status of the uteran contents.

    On the bright side, perhaps such a law would have the unintended consequence of reducing the future population of regretful but zealous converted anti-abortionists?

  • @19 SSA

    I’m a different observer than above, but I think the problem was not an issue of funding, as one of the CLAY commentators points out.

    Even if the Secular Student Alliance doesn’t get funding from the Chaplain’s Office (I don’t actually think many groups are.. aside from fellowships which your group would definitely be eligible for), it is undeniable that the the Chaplain’s Office makes overtures to the SSA and loves their presence at events. And that’s great!

    The point CLAY was trying to make was that it would be nice if the Women’s Center held to that same standard. Yale sometimes seems to have a double-standard about these things, in that it denies that a pro-life woman can be a feminist.

  • Hieronymus

    In news specific to the article: I, too, am interested as to why all anti-abortionists seem always to get lumped into the Christian camp. Either it is some strange, knee-jerk assumption or, worse, an active attempt to cause the audience to immediately dismiss these “fringe” elements.

    One could just as easily employ a favored PC technique, i.e., “equality of outcome.” (In that it is minority babies that are overwhelmingly aborted, ironically in line with the initial impetus to Planned Parenthood, through which founder and eugenecist Margaret Sanger could implement her overtly racist/classist ideas. One need only look at the strategic locations of Planned Parenthood facilities–often in heavily minority districts–to observe Ms. Sanger’s success.)

  • Hieronymus

    Another question: I wonder how many pro-life advocates transform over time into pro-abortion advocates?

    I know it certainly goes the *other* way, e.g.:
    “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade fame is now an outspoken anti-abortion activist

    More recently, Abby Johnson, Director of the Bryan, Texas PP resigned. Why?

    “I just thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ and it was just like a flash that hit me and I thought, ‘That’s it.'”

    Johnson had been affiliated with Bryan’s Planned Parenthood facility for eight years, and worked as its director for two. She said she began to feel uncomfortable with Planned Parenthood’s business philosophy after the organization, suffering from the economic downturn, told her to try to bring more abortions in the door.

    “The money wasn’t in family planning, the money wasn’t in prevention, the money was in abortion and so I had a problem with that,” said Johnson.

    I wonder what the ratio is of folks shifting in the *other* direction?

    Campus “choicers”: are you able to project ahead and wonder if, some day, you too might come to reconsider or even regret your current stance? Why do you think others do?

  • Born In ’76

    Although it’s nice to at least see the March For Life get some press coverage (as should a protest of its size), I wish the article could have gone on without negatively stereotyping the crowd. There were something like 300,000 people there, but the reader is treated to protestors with gaudy signs, who can’t spell, or who are just a little bit crazy: “In their formal attire, the Yale students served as a marked contrast to their fellow protesters, many of whom donned elaborate signs. A woman, dressed in all white, carried a seven-foot tall cross covered in sparkled plastic tassels. Five people stood in a row, carrying placards that together read: “God is Punishing American for Abortion.” An elderly woman on the street corner yelled at passersby, waving her finger in the air.

  • Y09

    I was at the March as a non-pro-life observer. And while the majority of the crowd was vocally Christian-Conservative, there were also atheists, Democrats, Jews, etc. If anything, the protesters were more surprised at the presence of the Yale/Princeton group. People were coming up to the banner-bearers all day, thanking them for being there.

  • Rachel Achs – Women’s Center Board

    Thanks for correcting those errors YDN. In fact, it is not just that the current Women’s Center Board “could not be reached for comment,” but that no attempt was made to contact us at all.

    CLAY has not applied to be a residence group this year. If they did, we would certainly consider their application.

  • Pro-Choice

    There’s a lot of variety within those of us who are ‘pro-choice’, just as there is a lot of variety in the ‘pro-life’ camp. I’d hope most pro-lifers would distance themselves from those who shoot abortion doctors, just as most pro-choicers whom I know distance themselves from the sentiment that abortion is a quick, simple decision and you go out, have one, then have popsicles while you laugh about it. Yet that seems to be the care-free picture often painted from the other side.

    Abortion is a last resort. A recognition that maybe it wouldn’t be ideal, for myself or others, to bring a child into the world right now. And that, yes, right now that’s a choice I can make because right at conception the fetus is not yet what I would call human – there is no feeling, no memory, no emotion. Am I against an 8-month pregnant woman getting an abortion? Absolutely (unless her life is in severe jeopardy). If she’s one month in? Not a decision to be made lightly, but I don’t have a moral problem with that.

    Isn’t that how it should be? An informed decision, left to the people involved? I’m reminded of the story of the girl from Brazil, all of nine years old and a victim of rape, pregnant with twins. This pregnancy was a clear threat to her life. Instead of understanding this difficult situation, the Vatican excommunicated the doctors who performed the abortion, and the local archbishop excommunicated the mother… but did NOT excommunicate the rapist. How is that justice? How is that moral?

  • Rachel Achs – Women’s Center Board

    CLAY has not applied to be a residence group this year. If they did, we would certainly consider their application.

  • alum

    Maybe one of the reasons CLAY doesn’t receive more acceptance on campus is their history of alienating and offensive ad campaigns. When I was an undergrad a few years ago, CLAY members chalked the question “Aren’t you glad your mother didn’t have an abortion?” in front of SML. There were even smiley faces with the questions. Why is this offensive? Because many of our mothers DID have abortions at one point or another.

    I know that CLAY thought it was being cutesy with that question, but that’s my point–they were apparently completely oblivious to the offense that question might cause. If CLAY actually wanted to persuade non-pro-life students to join the pro-life camp, it would use tactics that didn’t shame and/or offend those very students. Instead, CLAY seems to purposefully alienate those who aren’t already solidly pro-life.

  • Kathryn

    This article was written particularly badly. 4 corrections? Really? Was this piece written so close to deadline that it couldn’t check even basic facts?

    That is truly absurd, even for a student newspaper and it made the Women’s Center sound prejudiced WITHOUT EVER EVEN SOLICITING A COMMENT FROM A CURRENT BOARD MEMBER. That is just weird YDN.

    Also, why is everyone shocked that the WC denied CLAY’s residency? The Women’s Center is an body that advocates for women to have control over their bodies and to have the right to choose. The WC would never say that you couldn’t get an abortion, only that it is your choice, and they will defend that right to choose no matter your personal choice would be.

    CLAY seeks to limit the rights women have over their bodies. Their whole mission is anti-choice, so it doesn’t even make sense that they would want to be in the WC at all.

    And like Rachel said, CLAY hasn’t even applied to be a resident group this year. Maybe they should wait to do that before complaining to the YDN about how the WC is limiting their rights.

  • Natural Law Dude

    Finally, occurences of “Lux et Veritas” OR “Truth and Light”…….Yale University not only living up to its 17c. clergy rooted motto, but even inadvertantly/ostensibly turning the assertions of God, Man & Yale (WFB Jr./RIP) on its head; surely aforementioned former YDN Editor would not mind in the least……These folks led by Kay Gardner have weighed in….Out of curiosity, what are the sentiments of visiting Professor PM Tony Blair?

  • JMcH.

    @ prima facie, Elihu’d be proud….(i.e. in E. Yale)……..

  • anotheralum

    well put #27. It really really bothers me that so many anti-choicers think that those of us who are pro-choice merrily go around having abortions or encouraging abortions without any thought or feeling. Just because I’m pro-choice doesn’t mean that I would necessarily CHOOSE to have an abortion – it just means that *I* want to have control over my body. If you support a woman’s right to an abortion during cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life then actually, you’re at least partially pro-choice too. I would sincerely hope that NO Yalie would condone what the Catholic Church did to that poor 9 year old in Brazil. If anti-choicers want to be seen as less fringe and more normal (and it seems like many of the posters are sensitive about this), how about you counsel (not yell at or judge) rape victims? How about you spend some time talking to single mothers? How about you go into Planned Parenthood and actually make a genuine effort to see why women go there? Marching is all well and good, but I could care less how many people were in your parade. Numbers don’t matter – ACTIONS do. And I’m sorry, but most anti-choice people I’ve met (all Christian) are complete phonies and hypocrites when it comes to when they’re “pro-life” or not.

  • Hieronymus


    “It really really bothers me that so many anti-choicers think that those of us who are pro-choice merrily go around having abortions or encouraging abortions without any thought or feeling.”

    Um… the much-celebrated Aliza Shvarts leaps to mind…

    Extra credit: the % of abortions related to rape and/or incest is…? Anyone? Bueller?

  • staffer

    CLAY actually began as a member group of the Women’s Center in the early 1980s. I think Isabel Polon’s comment is outrageously reductive of the multiplicity of views held by Women’s Center constituents. I have met many pro-life women at the Women’s Center and last year attended a cosponsored event on faith and reproductive rights.

  • worthy cause

    Anyone know when and where CLAY holds its meetings? This is an organization that I am joining.

  • @ worthy cause

    CLAY meets on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm in the Saybrook Athenaeum Room. The meeting lasts for 45 minutes and is followed by dinner.

  • @#35

    You mean when Benno had to intervene to demand that the Womyn’s Center allow a pro-life group to have office space there?

  • @ Hieronymus

    Hieronymus, Aliza Shvarts is ‘much-celebrated’ on the pro-choice side just as Scott Roeder, the murdered who shot and killed Dr. George Tiller, is ‘much-celebrated’ on the pro-life side. There are vocal supporters, and thankfully they’re in the minority.

    To answer your extra credit, not very many abortions are from rape. Are you conceding that a woman who was raped has a valid reason for an abortion, though? What about a woman whose pregnancy threatens her health? What about a woman who is pregnant with a baby who has a genetic condition all but ensuring he’ll die before he’s two years of age? You’re looking for easy answers to complicated, multifaceted questions. I prefer to let people whose lives are actually in the balance make these decisions.

  • Interesting

    Hieronymus…and others:

    FYI, according to the pro-choice polling group, Guttmacher Institute, rape and incest cases account for less than 1.5% of abortions.

  • if bosch can do it

    so can i. I would like to propose a question. Prof bob was quite right. The right to choose is real but it would surely be trumped by the right to life. The big question is when life starts. I bet we can all agree on that if the fetus can live outside of the womb without dramatic mechanical intervention, then it is alive and it would be questionable to abort it. So, we have to draw a line. The question for me is one of odds. The closer one comes to banning abortion, the closer one comes to being able to declare that society has never condoned the killing of an innocent (for clearly aborting the fetus during birth would be murder). So those are the two extremes. One cell vs undeniably human baby. Put a line down somewhere or let people choose individually. Noone can as of yet really say when life starts. How wrong are we willing to be?

  • FailBoat

    Half of all abortions are repeat abortions. Less than 1% of abortions are related to rape and incest – they are exceptions to the rule, not the rule themselves.

  • @ comment #2

    I heard there’s going to be a Feminists for Life group that will try and stop that problem.

  • Raja Pillai, CLAY secretary

    I’ve seen, even on this page, a lot of women regretting that the Women’s center considers the Pro-Life position as diametrically opposed to feminism. Some members are forming, as has been mentioned, Yale Feminists for Life. I’m also starting Yale Democrats for Life, and Yale Atheists and Agnostics for Life; I’m not Republican, and neither am I religious. I feel it’s time to break these stereotypes that pervade the arguments of abortion.

  • @37

    CLAY please participate SWAY.

  • Go Bulldogs

    I am happy to see so much dialogue about the right to life. This is way more than I’m finding on CNN, NBC, and even local newspapers.

  • Hieronymus

    @#39 Please do not project because, actually, no, I do not offer knee-jerk support of abortion in cases of rape and/or incest. Indeed, even in the cases of less-than-perfect babies, I support adoption.

    Indeed, now that contraception is mainstream, now that single parenthood is mainstream, now that orphanages are a thing of the past (in the US), now that there are couples shopping for babies overseas, couples that would love (gasp!) even an imperfect baby (e.g., one with Downs), I believe support should shift to adoption services.

    Where the actual health of the mother is concerned, i.e., where either the baby or the mother is going to die, then it may be that the mother has the greater claim.

    Now, whether I would *legislate* all that is a different story and, frankly, were I a politician I do not know whether that would be my stance.

  • @ #41

    I agree with you, and for those who would put the line down at one cell, I’m reminded of an old thought experiment:

    A wing in a hospital that houses a fertility clinic catches fire, and inside a family is visiting – an infant, two young children, the parents and the parents’ grandmother, a 97-year old woman on life support. Oh, and a number of fertilized eggs… this is a fertility clinic, after all. If you’re the fireman, who do you save first?

    Given that you could easily carry a container with multiple embryos, in terms of ‘saving the most lives’, the container should clearly be the first priority, but I’ve not yet met anyone who rushes in, ignores the baby and children, and saves the cells.

    In short, we all make judgement calls. And further, we evaluate those calls based on our own experience and beliefs – if the above situation had three adults and the elderly woman, many of us would save the three adults first. But what if one of them was a child molester? Would we still save that person before the elderly woman? What if the elderly woman was our own grandmother and the adults were strangers? Foreigners?

  • @ Rachel Achs

    “The Yale Women’s Center believes in women’s right to choice.”

    If this is true, then you can’t consider CLAY’s application.

  • sarcasm

    First, I demand that Slifka give over meeting space to the Jews for Jesus. After all, they’re Jews — who cares if they actively oppose the core of what Slifka stands for and aim to undermine it.

    Similarly, the Af-Am House should definitely have to give over space to right-wing zealots who run “affirmative action bake sales” and think there should be fewer blacks at Yale (as long as the right-wing group in question includes at least one black member).

    And of course, the Thomas More center should have to provide meeting space and funding for a group of Yale students for gay marriage — or heck, for a group of Yale students against the authority of the Pope — as long as some of the group’s members happen to be Catholic.

    And THEN this CLAY group should get to join the Women’s Center. Because then the rule will be “all large campus umbrella groups have to let in smaller groups who oppose everything they stand for, as long as some of the smaller groups’ members share certain relevant demographic characteristics with the large umbrella groups.” Until then, let’s not get all self-righteous about the rights of CLAY to be supported by a group, the women’s center, whose essential purpose is fundamentally, deeply at odds with theirs.

    I’m sorry, but the mission of a group like the women’s center is not just to provide support to any group at all that some Yale student with female anatomy decides she wants to organize. History lesson: there were plenty of right-wing women who opposed coeducating Yale in the first place. The women’s center was not built for those women. It was built to OPPOSE them and their views!

    There are plenty of places on campus for a group like CLAY to flourish, and I’m sure they will. They should get student activities funding like every other Yale group. But I don’t understand why they should get to commandeer the Women’s Center.

    (Note: these are just my views as a crotchety, and male, alum. Not the views of the women’s center.)

  • Goldie ’08

    I’m pro choice but I don’t think Yale should be in the business of paying for its female students’ abortions.

    And I can understand getting one abortion, but multiple? Come on, get with the program and use birth control

  • Y09

    CLAY belongs in the Women’s Center like the Klan belongs in the Af-Am house.

  • Recent Alum

    #39: “I prefer to let people whose lives are actually in the balance make these decisions.”

    Evidently, the only people “whose lives are actually in the balance” are not in a position to make the decision, and won’t be until at least a few years after they are born.

  • Pierson90

    For those who are honestly struggling with their conscience over when life truly begins – at conception? at “viability” (whatever that means)? – here is another thought: According to the ancient scriptures, life actually begins BEFORE conception. I will not quote at length here, but if you are honestly seeking the truth, you may look up the references yourself in the Psalms of King David, the letters of St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. John. You may also find some of the references chiseled into the stone on some of Yale’s oldest buildings.

  • @ Pierson90

    If we went by everything ancient scriptures said, we’d be selling slaves, smashing babies against rocks, etc. Maybe instead of referencing nameless ancient scriptures, you read up on the history of abortion – in and out of the churches. For example, St. Augustine didn’t believe that early abortion was murder, and St. Thomas Aquinas didn’t think it was abortion until the ‘quickening’ – no, not that bad Highlander stuff, but when the fetus would begin kicking and moving.

    Here are two links to Wikipedia pages, which will have more links as well:

  • @ Recent Alum

    And thus we see the difference in opinion that some of us have – you see the fetus as a life, whereas I do not, at least not at the early stages. I understand your position, certainly, I just disagree with it because of how I define ‘life’. So, to me, the people whose lives are actually in the balance refers to the parents, not the could-be child.

    Given the fire in a hospital scenario above, who would you rescue? I’m genuinely curious.

  • John ’10

    I’ve twice been to open and friendly discussions held at the Women’s Centre, where members of the WC discussed abortion with CLAY.

    If CLAY are claiming the WC has blacklisted them, then they’re outright lying – cos I’ve been at the co-hosted events (one in Fall 2007, one in Fall 2008).

    And it’s unsympathetic tactics like that, and the poster campaigns, that mean that I, as a pro-life male, have never joined them.


    Nobody KNOWS.

    That’s the fact of the matter: Not the Supreme Court; not the Pope; not the Pro-life folks; not the Pro-choice folks.

    As a culture, the uncertainty of NOT KNOWING that abortion is NOT ENDING A HUMAN LIFE has resulted in tens of millions of acts committed since Roe- v.Wade became law which we do not KNOW are NOT MURDERR.

    The question is, can any culture bear such a weight of uncertainty without paying a debt of terrible guilt in the collective unconscious?

    Isn’t that the question of the Waste Land and the twentieth century itself: the bloodiest century in human history?

    Or is history a groteque vampire?

    Paul Keane

  • wrt The Fire Question

    I think the difference in the fire scenario is that you actually have to choose between lives. Likewise, a birth that would kill the mother is always aborted.

    The issue with most abortions is that the mother usually won’t die because of it. So, if you place any value on the life, or even potential life, of the baby, it becomes very unbalanced; the baby dies even though the mother’s life wasn’t at risk. And that just seems wrong.

  • @ John ’10

    I would like to point out that there was nothing in the article that pointed to CLAY saying it was blacklisted and painting the Women’s center as evil. It just says they were denied funding, which is a simple fact.

    But tell me; if you are Pro-Life but won’t join them because of their tactics, what could change that? Is there something else they could do that would make them more inviting?

  • @ #59

    I agree that the situation isn’t exactly the same, but my central point is that you’re making a judgement call as to the value of a life. This isn’t surprising, it’s something each and every one of us does every day.

    For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, millions of children die from a lack of simple, cheap immunizations. According to some data (if you want, I’ll post it), you could immunize a child for as little as $5 – $20, thereby saving a life. In other words, in about two weeks’ time, instead of spending $60 on some flowers which will fade quickly for Valentine’s Day for a loved on, you could -save several lives-. But who amongst us does that? Sure, we may do something, but who amongst us spends every penny earned savings lives in this manner? Not many of us, I’m sure. And why? Perhaps because it’s easy on paper to say all lives are equal in worth, but the sad reality is that our own choices don’t reflect that.

    I don’t think these are simple issues, but I know that it would be hypocritical of me to judge abortion, something I don’t like at all, when I’m typing this on a laptop I bought with money that could’ve fed a child, protected him from some dread disease, etc. If you view the unborn as a life, then the only difference is that the path above will indirectly result in a death via inaction, rather than a direct act of death via action. But if you believe a life is lost, does that really matter? And if you aren’t sure that the fetus is a life, isn’t the loss of millions of lives to malnutrition a more pressing concern?

    I make my choices and prefer to let others make theirs, with as little judgement as possible. I certainly don’t have all the answers.

  • wow

    i cant believe someone referenced wikipedia in an article to establish both the complicated history of early Christian Thought-(a subject few theologians and historians are qualified to parse) or the nature of abortion. I think life / death issues should have higher sourcing standards than yale classes.

  • Wow back

    Wikipedia is a fantastic ‘first glance’ place to refer to – it’s online, easily accessed, and has references to plenty of other sources. Having just pulled up the “History of abortion” link, it has 87 references, a handful of links for further reading and even direct links to things like the text of Roe v Wade. What, specifically, is bad about that? And what would be a better source to refer someone to?

    I think life & death issues should be accessible to anyone, not just the few theologians / historians who might wish to tell someone otherwise. ;-)

  • * Is there a Collective Societal Unconscious?

    #61 says:And if you aren’t sure that the fetus is a life, isn’t the loss of millions of lives to malnutrition a more pressing concern?

    My point is that there is an Societal Collective Unconscious which is wounded by 20 million acts of UNCERTAINTY about whether or not they constitute murder.

    Even today’s New York Times Magazine has an article whose title acknowledges the possibility of such an unconscious reaction, albeit to the environment:

    “Is There an Ecological Unconscious?
    A branch of psychology says that there is — and that ignoring it puts not just the planet but also our minds at risk.”

    And what about the risk to our minds from the number of possible “deaths” which triples or quadruples the number of victims of the WWII death camps?

    Paul Keane

  • @ #64

    Paul, perhaps the best response to that article comes from its own text, on page 2:

    “But ecopsychology embraces a more revolutionary paradigm: just as Freud believed that neuroses were the consequences of dismissing our deep-rooted sexual and aggressive instincts, ecopsychologists believe that grief, despair and anxiety are the consequences of dismissing equally deep-rooted ecological instincts.”

    Now, go find a bunch of reputable psychologists and ask them how many feel that Freudian notions are on the right track.

    Some Buddhists believe that killing even insects is wrong. Some Jains even wear masks over their faces in an attempt to not even kill germs. To these people, a loss of ANY life is bad, and leads to bad karma. Have you killed any insects lately? Maybe rolled over some ants while driving? Flattened a spider in your home? If so, do you feel the negative karma you’ve created, according to that world-view?

    I imagine you don’t, and I feel similarly with regards to your notion of a collective unconscious that feeds negatively off the possible deaths from abortion.

  • Tedjazz

    As a practicing and devout Catholic I need not tell you where my position stands in terms of my position on abortion. That being said for those who typically inject religious into the abortion debate, there is another avenue that one can put forth: that of scientific in nature. For the time being and for argument sake put religion aside and focus on those who do not wish to include or subscribe to any religious beliefs and include scientific argument that is in fact life. After a few weeks of conception we know that there is heart beating in the fetus, or in truth a baby, that is literally sustaining life and helping in the development. We also now know, whereas before advanced medical technology, that we see hand and feet forming, and well as brain development within the womb. We also now know through scientific research and conclusion that the fetus has feelings (i.e. feel pain) and can react to outside stimuli. How can one say otherwise that this is not human being. Scientific evidence would say otherwise. I applaud the efforts of CLAY and wish them all the best in their peaceful transformation of speaking out for those who cannot speak.
    Ted Jastrzebski

  • Further unknitting the ravell’d sleeve of care

    To @ # 64:

    I appreciate your thoughtful ideas.

    “There are no accidents in the life of the mind”. This is the Freudian axiom which more adequately explains human “being” than any other axiom: theological, biological, psychological.

    Whether or not current fads in professional psychology and psychiatry
    endorse Freud or reject Freud, is irrelevant to me.

    My own many decades now of life intersecting with thousands of people confirm that axiom as the operative dynamic in human behavior.

    As Lincoln said “For every drop of blood from the lash, a drop of blood from the sword” to explain “Providence” permitting the bloodshed of the Civil War, so too our epoch may conclude: for every possible life from the scalpal, a possible day of guilt and anxiety (O full of scorpions is my mind).

    That’s 20 million days and counting.

    Macbeth hath murdered sleep.

    Paul Keane

  • “PK” is anti-abortion?

    “for every possible life from the scalpal [sic], a possible day of guilt and anxiety.”

    So…….. given that embryonic blood is shed in an abortion, this means…?

  • blackwood

    paul keane,
    you must widen your gaze. At midday tomorrow, the theoretical world as you know it shall end.

  • Ugh


    It has already ended. I am recapitulating a lost world: in recherche du temps perdu.

    The world of tomorrow is Beyonce and Oprah and Ellen and Dr. Oz and Entertainment Tonight 24/7 on your ipad.

    It is text messaging $10 to 900999 Haiti while you fail to notice your Toyota accelerator pedal sticking to the floor;
    it is climate change turning Old Campus into New Haven Harbor with Harkness Hall as a lighthouse.
    It is the apotheosis of Science and Math and the death of the Liberal Arts.

    It is the world we made for you. Ugh.

  • @ PK (Re: #67)

    Paul, an off-the-cuff analogy would place Freud’s relationship to psychology as somewhat akin to Aristotle’s relationship with physics. That is, it was a profound step towards our understanding of the nature of the field, but has been (thankfully) superceded by newer ideas that are far closer to reality.

    And, with respect, the notion that your life experience confirms your axiom about human nature is no more accurate than (say) the life experience of a friend of mine, who believes in earnest that every facet of human nature is driven by money, confirms his theory. In both cases, I think it’s fair to assume there may be an element of truth, but it’s far from the whole picture.

    In fact, determinism is an interesting choice for you, since if every ‘action’ in the mind has a deterministic precursor, then where does free will fit in?

    Finally, it might be worthwhile to consider the idea that the ‘guilt and anxiety’ you may feel from possible deaths due to abortion is self-inflicted. Similar in many ways to the guilt some Catholics feel about premarital sex. If you’re taught to feel it, you do, but if you’re not, you don’t.

    And not to inflict more guilt upon you, but I’m curious where your 20 million number comes from? The statistics I’ve seen show far higher numbers.

  • @ Ugh (#70)

    Assuming you are PK again, I think I now see the problem – you see the glass of the world as half-empty rather than half-full. Or, maybe more accurately, some error in vision lets you see the glass as almost entirely empty whereas many others see it nearly overflowing.

    I certainly won’t convince you otherwise, but I for one find it tremendously impressive that (to take one example) in the face of disaster, millions of people can help send much-needed relief supplies simply by entering a few digits on their phone. What can you possibly dislike about that? Is it that it ‘feels’ impersonal? If so, I understand the sentiment – it seems so trivial, doesn’t it? But I would think it’s balanced out by the idea that the people receiving aid care more about their meals, shelter and medical aid than they do about how a person hundreds or thousands of miles away ‘feels’ about the manner in which such aid was donated.

    In cases like this, I think it’s usually better to think of the end result rather than the manner in which it was reached.

  • History: The grotesque vampire

    Catholic guilt? Hardly. Purely secular. You must be a lot younger than I am or you slept through the last five decades. We were sytematically schooled in the guilt and shame a society should feel for its complicity of silence over; the Nazi death camps; Jim Crowe discrimination; insitutional racism and institutional sexism; country-club anti-semitism, etc.

    It’s not just MY life experience: Take two fsmopus cases; the deaths of Princess Diana and JFK Jr. The former a death wish if there ever was one(the laws of pshysics do not apply to pincesses; I need not fasten my seat belt), the latter the epitome of the oedipal battle (I must outdo my father’s world-wide-attention-rivetting death),

    Not determinism. One can analyze and predict the behavior of the mind and outwit it. Most of us are sleepwalking from our childhood until a death, divorce, unrequited love etc. wakes us from our slumber. What we do with that awakening is free choice. Most of us resume sleepwalking, including princess Diana and JFK Jr.

    I just guessed at 20 million.

    History is a grotesque vampire, n’est-ce-pas?


  • Rhetorical coccoon

    Believe me, every fiber of my being sees the glass half full, NO MATTER WHAT!( A little bout with removing half a cancerous kidney last year taught me that.)

    I just got a little intoxicated with my own peose and couldn’t resist the image
    of someone risking his/her life and other’s lives by texting and driving while simultaneously engaging in a philanthropic act.

    Forgive me.I do tend to go on . . .




    This is supremely egotistical I know, but I do consider the effort I put into jousting with these posts an act of generational philanthropy. It would be easier to let you all live in the solipsism of your own generation’s rhetorical coccoon (sp?)

    I am sure this bit of self-indulgence on my part will engender some raised eyebrows if not more.

  • * Nine Jars; Free speech or desecration?

    Remember those nine jars on display in Yale’s open-to-the-public Peabody Museum in the 1950’s (two blocks from the 24/7 Rosary being recited by kneeling Roman Catholics on the sidewalk in front of the Orange Street Planned Parenthood as Griswold was making its way through the courts)? The recipe for explosion was clear.

    Nine jars. One for every month. From tiny to football sized. Each jar had on display a gestating human, from zygote to
    embryo to fetus.

    The display disappeared. If the Daily News had a flair for history and an eye for imagery as well as their excellent nose for News it would find an investigative reporter who could uncover photos of that display, and then trace whatever ever happened to it. Is it on a shelf in the Peabody Store Room still?

    Has it been destroyed in shame? Or fear of litigation?

    Was it an act of terrorism of women?

    Paul Keane
    M. Div. ’80

  • PS to Nine Jars

    Talk about “skeletons” in a closet!

  • Ugly subject

    Yale has a skeleton in its closet. Actually, it may have nine .

    Fifty-five years before Alyssa Schvartz was denied the right to use her own reproductive body fluids as a piece of art in a Yale exhibit, The Peabody Museum used the reproductibe body fluids of nine women as part of its own artistic “exhibit”.

    I support Schvartz right to grotesque art. I ask for a belated explanation of Peabody’s.

    I saw it with my own eyes several times as a child. Once at the hand of my mother. It consisted of nine glass jars–one for each of the nine months of a pregnancy — filled with formaldehyde. It was spooky and fascinating.

    In each jar–from tiny tube to football sized
    glass enclosure –was a the reproductive result of conception: from zygote to embryo to fetus.

    I remember asking my mother what happened to the babies and she said in words a child could understand–“They died.”

    Simple, stoic words for my mother who had lost two children to miscarriages before I was born two months prematurely.

    Now that I reflect on it 50-plus years later, one of those jars could have been my genetic sibling. I was born in Yale-New Haven Hospital (then called Grace-New Haven Hospital)and I believe my mother’s miscarriages were treated there.

    I call for an explanation of the “conception, birth and death” of that exhibit.

    What has become of it? Was it trashed , or is it now simply nine skeleton’s in a Yale closet somewhere?

    If it was disposed of, was there a religous interment for the nine organisms?

    Was it such a service conducted according to the religious affiliation of the sponsoring organisms (AKA “mothers”)?

    Did Grace-New Haven provide the “subjects” for the exhibit?

    Was permisssion granted by the sponsoring organism (mother-to be)? Or were the “parts” supplied, as many organ donations are supplied today, on a black market, without the donors’ consent.

    It is ironic that three blocks from the Peabody Museum exhibit to which I refer, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week vigil was mounted in front of the Planned Parenthood office which while Griswold v. State of Connecticut was making its way through the courts.

    The vigil consisted of devout Catholics kneeling on the sidewalk in front of Planned parenthood reciting the Rosary as protest of artifial means of preventing conception from occuring, AKA contraception.

    Did they not know of the Peabody exhibit? And what did it represent anyway: Spontaneous abortion? “Death in the womb” as Sophocles calls it? Or what my grandmother referred to as a “D and C”?

    I would like to know if the Peabody Museum gave the mothers of the organisms in the nine jars the right to grant the same permission—or was this a back-alley black market hack job by my birthplace, Grace-New Haven Hospital and The Peabody?

    I respectfully request answers.

    Paul D.Keane
    M. Div.’80