Achs: Choice at the Center

The Yale Women’s Center is a feminist organization that seeks to broaden the opportunities, choices and freedom of all women at Yale. According to our constitution, one of the Yale Women’s Center’s fundamental goals is to “ensure women’s right to independence through reproductive freedom.” We are a wholeheartedly pro-choice organization. We support women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term and women who choose to abort their pregnancies. As such, our Board felt that we could not host Choose Life at Yale as a residence group within the Center.

We applaud any effort that CLAY makes to provide support for pregnant women. But supporting pregnant women is not the sole purpose of CLAY. Opposing abortion is central to its mission. According to the group’s Web site, they believe that “every abortion represents a failure on the part of society to provide nurturance for a woman in a difficult situation.” As such, they engage in political activity that seeks to prevent women from having abortions and from having reproductive choice. In the fall of 2009, they held their “Baby Lucy” campaign — a postering initiative which showed the development of a fetus over time — and they attended the National March for Life in Washington, D.C. — a political rally to protest Roe v. Wade. Although CLAY sometimes expresses that they are not a political organization, they carry with them political baggage that is counter to the Women’s Center’s own political goals. Therefore, we cannot assume their organization into the Center itself.

We certainly want to be welcoming to all women at Yale, including pro-life women. Any pro-life woman can be a member of the Center and a member of our many residence groups. In fact, we want pro-life women to be members of the Center and active in Center life. This does not mean that we must adopt or support the political goals of the pro-life movement, or any movement that seeks to limit women’s choices. Accepting individuals into the Center is different from funding and housing organizations in the Center. All individuals are welcome, but organizations with political goals in opposition to ours are not. We hear the concerns of Isabel Marin ’12 (“A place at the Center,” Mar. 31) and women like her, and we want to be very explicit in saying that while we cannot support the pro-life movement, we want Isabel and other pro-life women in the Women’s Center. And for that matter, men are always welcome at the Center, too.

Because we want to be welcoming to all students, when CLAY applied to be a residence group last month, we invited them to meet with us. We had a tremendously productive discussion with CLAY representatives in which we were able to find common ground: Both groups want to see much more support for Yale women who choose to carry pregnancies to term. We agreed to work on this issue together. We’re excited to begin collaboration with CLAY as part of our historic effort to provide support and resources for pregnant women at Yale.

Issues of motherhood and childbearing are not new items on the Women Center’s agenda. In the past, we have worked to broaden childcare opportunities for Yale graduate students, and we have hosted many undergraduate discussions and events on topics related to motherhood. Reproductive Rights Action League at Yale, already a residence group of the Women’s Center, has always supported all choices for pregnant women. RALY’s efforts to raise awareness about reproductive health have always included information on neo-natal care, and many of RALY’s members have received training from Planned Parenthood in supporting young mothers. RALY’s focuses are reproductive rights and reproductive health — the two are intimately related — which means that they concentrate on family planning and pregnancy, as well as sexual health more generally.

In accordance with our long-standing dedication to these issues, the Women’s Center is looking forward to working together with CLAY to add more comprehensive information on pregnancy, parenting and adoption resources to our resource guide on student sexual health. We hope that is just the beginning of our collaboration. Much would have to change in order for an undergraduate to be comfortably pregnant on campus. The Women’s Center is committed to being a resource for all students on campus. We are actively looking for opportunities to broaden our constituency while still upholding the core tenet of our Constitution: “Women ought to possess a complete range of choices with the ability to fully direct their own lives.”

Rachel Achs is a junior in Branford College and the public relations coordinator of the Yale Women’s Center.


  • y12

    a pitch perfect response

  • Dale

    I would encourage the “Women’s Center” to reread the second sentence in this article. You declare that you are a WHOLEHEARTEDLY PRO CHOICE organization. That you support women who choose to abort their child and also those who choose not to abort, to carry to full term (and not aborting in the mostly illegal practice of delivering a full term baby but leaving the head inside the mother and piercing the child’s brain and pulling it out after it has been killed). Yet you go on to
    declare that you do not support the pro life organization at Yale which supports women who choose to carry the pregnancies to term.
    Does it not occur to you that you are only pro choice if the choice is to abort. You do not support the choice to not abort the baby because you say you refuse to include the organization that supports a woman’s right to choose to carry her child to term at the Yale Women’s Center. It is that simple.
    I would be very interested to see how you can explain how your statements are not conflicting.

  • Chase Olivarius-McAllister

    Wonderful column.

  • Yale 08

    Nice words. Lots of hope. Promises to work together.

    Yet, another bunch of children were just murdered in the womb.

  • Y10

    Well said Rachel.

  • BR’10


    You are ignoring that being ‘pro-choice’ in the context of that paragraph was made in context towards a political situation: ie, the laws towards abortion.

  • @Dale

    Did you read the column? She points out that CLAY works to deny women the CHOICE to abort. RALLY on the other hand works to give women the choice to abort or to carry their babies to full term. It’s that simple.

  • anon

    Shouldn’t they change the name to the Yale Feminist Center? If the Center has a non-negotiable ideology, then it can’t honestly claim to speak for all women.

  • 2014

    Great article.

  • @anon

    the women’s center never claims that it speaks for all women. it is simply a space for all women. how can one organization attempt to speak for 2,000 female undergraduates, much less half of the world? that’s just foolish.

  • dialogue

    Both Isabel and Rachel have presented thoughtful and well reasoned arguments that address a fundamental dilemma for our society. You can see that they and those who think similarly to them are capable of a productive dialogue. The woman’s center decision to invite CLAY women as individuals to work with them falls right in that central space where the dialogue is taking place. Isabel’s article has sparked a discussion that has brought to the surface the full spectrum of opinions on the matter and indeed some very strong feelings. As I read the comments to Isabel’s article and now to Rachel’s, it strikes me that there are comments, perhaps at times reflecting passing and not hardened positions, that are at either one or the other extreme of spectrum while there are other comments that reflect the central core set of issues in a manner very close to both Isabel’s and Rachel’s position. I will not quote the former but some of the latter ones include (Isabel #13) “There are a ton of things that combined the two groups could accomplish for the good of women, such as having the university make it more feasible to be a mother and a student.” (Isabel #16) “I don’t understand why we can’t recognize that there are intelligent, well-intentioned and well-informed people on both sides of this issue.” (Isabel #18) “We all want women to have equal opportunities and to have real choices to be both mothers and career women if they choose to.” We should work together towards these goals when we can.” (Rachel #10) “The women’s center never claims that it speaks for all women. It is simply a space for all women.”
    It would be difficult for the Women Center to contain both RALY and CLAY under the same umbrella. It defies logic to be for choice and to support a group that believes some of those choices are morally wrong even if that same group wants to work with you. If the Women Center were to accept CLAY, it would be providing a home for a very intense conflict. Its walls would have to be very strong. If it did it would be a historical moment in the history of feminism.

  • yet

    I think some of these Women Center regulars would be a lot happier if they mended their troubled relationships with dad!

  • really?


    You state that the Women’s Center is “wholeheartedly pro-choice organization” at the constitutional level. Yet at the same time you declare that you “want pro-life women to be members of the Center and active in Center life.”

    Think about what you are saying. Would you, as a pro-choice woman, want to be a member of a center that had a constitution declaring it was a pro-life organization. Would you want to be active in that center’s life? Or would you say: “Hmm…this group seems constitutionally opposed to me. I think I’ll look elsewhere.”

    How can you honestly expect pro-life women to feel comfortable at a center that is constitutionally-opposed to their viewpoint? If you want to be a pro-choice organization, that’s perfectly fine. Be a pro-choice organization. But don’t claim that you’re welcoming pro-life women at the same time. That’s intellectually dishonest, and does no one a favor.

  • Yale Woman ’11

    A lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    At the end, a group that will not even begin to evaluate its principles or open the gates to discussion is a group of cheerleaders rather than a group of serious thinkers.

    This article reveals the shallowness of the Yale Women’s Center and its pathetic attempt to stay relevant in a post-feminist world.

  • @ really

    It’s not intellectually dishonest for Rachel to say that the Women’s Center is welcoming to pro-life women. The Women’s Center is open to all women, regardless of their political views, even if the Center is pro-choice.

  • @#13

    There’s a crucial difference between the two situations you describe. Pro-choice women accept the choice to keep a pregnancy as a legitimate choice that should be supported. Pro-lifers do not accept the choice to abort as legitimate. Thus, a pro-life person can work for the goals Isabel claims that CLAY has (making it easier for women to carry pregnancies to term as Yale students) within the context of a pro-choice Women’s Center. Someone who is pro-choice could not work to ensure that women have control over their own bodies in a pro-life organization.

  • 2011

    Wonderful work, Rachel. Your argument could not have been sounder, your tone more reasonable.

    It is just pity that there are so many posts that refuse to listen, and embrace the polemic, rather insane rhetoric of the pro-life movement. They are great at villianizing and alienating women, and terrible at seeing the importance of OPTIONS.

    When people can’t see your argument because they are too filled with hatred for the Women’s Center, and go as far as to tell you that mending a relationship with Dad is the issue, it seems as if a conversation isn’t even worth having. But thank you for trying.

  • Isabel

    #12, you don’t deserve to be heard. You don’t deserve the right to speak. Keep your bigotry to yourself.

  • Hieronymus

    Wow. Just… wow.

    #18’s words, no doubt unintentionally, give great insight into today’s campus atmosphere.

    Some deserve to be heard; some deserve the right to speak. Others do not. Eff the Constitution. F* the Framers. Freedom be d-mned.

    Thank you for your honesty; you speak, I sense, for a significant portion of the Yale “community.”

  • anon

    @ #10

    The organization DOES claim to speak for all women. The name is an obvious indication. Moreover, Yale has given it its own residence on campus, and the administrators accept that it is the official voice of Yale women (consider the fraternity photo incident).

  • @ #18

    Was definitely not Isabel. Stop pretending to be somebody you’re not, and stop slandering other people over the internet.