Olivarius-Mcallister: CLAY made a bad choice

In 2007, the first time Choose Life At Yale applied to be a residence group of the Women’s Center, I was on the Women’s Center’s Board.

At the time, Peter Johnston ’09 was the president of CLAY and quickly becoming influential in the conservative movement at Yale. Intellectually, I had grown to know him well, due to the fact that we both took Directed Studies and were in nearly every section together, a proof that God, if existent, is not without an exquisite sense of irony.

CLAY was founded in 2003, a few years before Johnston took it over. The public relations problem confronting it was typical of those faced by other “pro-life” organizations, though, of course, harder to solve at Yale. Ronald Reagan and David Reardon first realized in the 1980s that the “pro-life” movement was damaged by the growing perception that it did not care about women. This perception was compounded by the most visible pro-life campaigns of the 1990s, which often portrayed women who’d had abortions as “baby-killers,” and, perhaps, by a spate of clinic bombings. To detoxify their political brand, “pro-life” organizations rephrased their argument in a feminist cadence. Women, as opposed to the unborn, became abortion’s primary victim.

I was very impressed by Johnston’s decision to apply to be a Women’s Center resident group: It was smart politics. Still, the Board voted unanimously to reject its request, on the grounds that the Women’s Center was pro-choice.

Shortly afterward, I ran into Johnston. Ever cordial, he asked how I was, and I asked how he was; briefly, we discussed the Board’s decision. He expressed feeling some disappointment, but no surprise. I told him I thought the political strategy he had tried out was extremely clever, fearfully so.

We were both earnest believers. But what I always enjoyed about Johnston was that our conversations on such matters were professional: there was no pretense that we were anything but partisan students of America’s abortion debate.

Johnston’s application to the Women’s Center was a bet; I respected it. It didn’t cost CLAY anything to place. Though it lost, he, I thought shrewdly, chose not to publicly whine about it.

CLAY’s current leadership apparently lacks Johnston’s acuity.

Last week, Isabel Marin ’12, CLAY’s “Women’s Outreach Coordinator,” authored a column that argues CLAY should be “supported under the Women’s Center umbrella” (“A place at the Center,” March 31). It goes so far as to attack the Women’s Center’s repeated rejections of CLAY’s application as unworthy of its name and contrary to “the spirit of feminism.”

Marin’s column is riddled with distortions. For instance, Marin quotes abstract, carefully selected sections of the Women’s Center’s constitution, choosing to omit the clause that declares the Women’s Center to be a pro-choice organization. Furthermore, Marin’s attempt to ally CLAY with Yale Men Against Rape under the category of “non-stereotypical feminist groups” is disingenuous. The goals of Yale Men Against Rape are feminist in the most conventional sense of the word and the movement; it is she who is doing the stereotyping.

Marin argues that the Women’s Center should unhesitatingly grant CLAY “the appellation ‘feminist.’” Unfortunately, the word “feminist” means something, both to the Women’s Center and apart from it.

The central failing of the column is Marin’s willful misapprehension of this fact. Feminism is an ideology; the women and men who subscribed to it are those who won women the vote, the right to own property, access to education, protection from sexual harassment and legal abortion. Feminism is definitively pro-choice; it defines abortion as a civil right and insists that the withholding of abortion is discrimination. This is the position of the Yale Women’s Center, National Organization of Women and every major 20th-century feminist thinker.

More offensive than Marin’s indifference to history is that the role that she proposes for CLAY — providing pregnant women with help — is already played by a Women’s Center group. The Reproductive Rights Action League, has long labored to address all aspects of sexuality and family.

Marin is right that “the pro-life women in CLAY face glass ceilings and tough choices as do all women.” The Women’s Center merrily fights for all women, including pro-life women. It is possible to be both pro-life and a feminist; pro-life women have certainly made serious contributions on many feminist fronts; I am sure that Marin holds many feminist opinions with which I passionately agree. But the pro-life ideology seeks to limit women’s choices, is opposed to women’s freedom, is itself anti-woman and will always be anti-feminist.

In denying CLAY its support, the Women Center did not imperil the future of feminism, or its relevance, but rescued its life. Feminism is an authorizing legacy. In invoking feminism, pro-life organizations — even pro-life women — seek to steal feminism from its history, and, wittingly or not, reduce it to a meaningless term.

For the pro-life movement, that’s smart politics. Peter Johnston would have known that. Perhaps that’s why I miss him.

Chase Olivarius-Mcallister is a senior in Branford College and the former political action coordinator of the Yale Women’s Center.


  • YC ’11

    Chase, get a life.

  • anon

    I disagree with many of the points here, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t one of the best-written and -argued editorials written in the YDN in recent memory.

  • Presca


  • another YC’11

    I beg to differ. The inclusion of Peter Johnston to argue that CLAY’s application to the Women’s Center is and should remain merely a political stunt, and nothing more, belittles the entirety of the pro-life movement without just cause. This sort of tactic only serves to polarize the readership, and in an ideological defense, which this should be, one must meet the other side half-way to start off any sort of new, useful and mentally stimulating discussion. This argument is weakened by its inability to make the courage leaps necessary to understand the pro-life side. The argument is also weakened by Chase’s inability to include, accept and, perhaps, understand that people with the feminist ideology can and should be able to have differing viewpoints on individual issues. This is just another bunch of pro-choice dribble.

  • Hieronymus

    “Feminism is definitively pro-choice.”

    Um… no it’s not. Broaden your readings, expand your interviews. Various strains of feminism see abortion differently or, to put it in modern parlance, in a more “nuanced” way.

  • Jessica Svendsen

    Excellent editorial, Chase. One of your best.

  • Y09

    “But the pro-life ideology seeks to limit women’s choices, is opposed to women’s freedom, is itself anti-woman and will always be anti-feminist.”

    If Ms. Olivarius-Mcallister insists on defining feminism (and womanhood) in this way, I propose that the Yale Women’s Center be renamed “The Yale Center for Second-Wave Feminism.” And like politically ideological groups at Yale, it should go without University funding and an office on Old Campus.

    The Women’s Center, despite its claims, does not speak for all women.

  • Alan

    And yet another enemy of feminism is vanquished by her sword.

    Long live the Queen.

  • patriarchy

    In the 20th century, women DARED to challenge the patriarchy that held old custom, old definitions, and old culture in place.

    Now, a pro-life organization DARES to challenge the feminists who hold old custom, old definitions, and old culture in place.

    Has the Yale Women’s Center become the patriarchy?

  • Here, Here!

    Chase, this is fantastic. CLAY would be well served to take a history course–perhaps even Prof. Meyerowitz’s, “Women in the 20th century U.S.”

  • i guess i’m not…

    huh, that’s funny! i always thought i was a raging feminist! but wait, i believe that life begins at conception… so clearly i want to oppress women. nuts, i guess i’m not a feminist!

  • Swayed by Chase

    If feminism has won the vote, won property rights, achieved equal access to education (Yale is 50% female), made sexual harassment punishable, and legalized abortion…wherefore its continued existence? The answer is that a change in law doesn’t necessarily constitute a change in culture. The enforcement of rights is subject to outside pressures. Oversight is needed.

    Chase claims that the Reproductive Rights Action League advocates for pregnant women. But what about the women who might want to keep their baby? What about women who wonder if their unborn child is life or not? If being pro-life “is itself anti-woman,” then the answer from the RRAL is resounding. Abort, and you are exercising your rights. Abort, and you are more of a woman.

    The members of CLAY believes that oversight is needed. Chase has convinced me that they’re right.

  • asale

    “But the pro-life ideology seeks to limit women’s choices, is opposed to women’s freedom, is itself anti-woman and will always be anti-feminist.”

    Completely disagree with this statement. I don’t know (or care) why most people are pro choice, but for me in particular it’s because I believe that an unborn child counts as a person (at what point that is, is a whole other topic) and by that logic is protected under the constitution. So PLEASE don’t tell me that ‘I hate woman’ ‘I’m trying to limit their freedoms’ and that ‘I’m anti woman’ because it really isn’t all about you, especially when another person’s rights are at play. (Regardless of whether or not you count a fetus as a person, for other people the argument is in favor of the child as a human being with rights and not as an oppressive statement towards woman).

    By making the statement above, you are only indulging in stereotypes, something which this very same article condemns.

  • y11

    Chase, I’m pro-choice, but I think Marin had a point. I totally understand if the WC doesn’t want a pro-life group under its umbrella, but you never really responded to Marin’s main argument, which is a great one: Providing support for women who CHOOSE not to have abortions is an essential role that the WC should be proud to play.

    That said, I suppose the caveat is that CLAY isn’t a “Pregnancy Support Group,” it’s a pro-life group… would you be open to them joining if they became something more along the lines of “Support women who choose life at Yale?”

  • Two Steps Back

    Isabel Marin’s column raised interesting questions.

    Rachel Achs’ response was pitch-perfect, provided sound reasons for the rejection and inviting productive interaction.

    This column, with its angry tone, undermines the progress made by the two previous writers.

  • YC ’09

    Chase, great piece. Eloquent, forceful, and eminently logical. Incidentally, I agree with you about Johnston. Disagree with him if you (we) like, but the man has dignity.

    YC ’11: clearly you oppose something in the piece. Care to specify what you find objectionable, or are you satisfied with generally lowering the tenor of discussion with your irrelevant whining?

  • Feminst?

    Despite the singular and exclusionary definition of “feminism” in the article, one also wonders is it the “Feminist” Center or is it the “Women’s” Center?

  • Chase

    I do feel some joy knowing for certain that you will read this. I would care to inform you that there is a powerful difference between freedom and license. Freedom, having the option and the power to do the right thing, and license, having a multiplicity of options. The pro life movement limits only license. That is quite a debatable point. Let them into the womens center, since by your own admittance, they may no limit freedom at all but enhance it, depending on your view of the “when is a human alive” question. To wit, I would suggest that you need them there, because noone in the US should be happy with Abortion as it stands. To fit such a complex and nuanced process to a procrustean bed of 3 trimesters is murderous. Surely, we must agree that at some point a fetus is alive. The minute before birth, the point at which it can live on its own? (I use it to appease you). Whatever the case may be, We cannot, as a society, allow even one life to go unprotected. Pro Life and Pro Choice should join, because right now I must believe that the current system is abhorrent to anyone because it is logically inconsistent. It allows murder when a fetus reaches that line of life earlier than it reaches the courts arbitrary standard. In short: Either Abortion is or is not Ok for the US. We must at least agree on a minimum biological standard- say viability outside the womb. Without that, we consign innocents to die. How many innocents varies greatly depending on your point of view. But one is too many, and I dare you to prove that there has not been one.

  • Y

    #7 makes a great point — Does the Women’s Center really receive special Yale funding different from average UOFC funding?

    If so, based on its name, I assume that Yale funds the Women’s Center with the idea that it is a place in support of all women’s issues. If this is the case, it really does seem odd that the Center should be able to adopt a specific ideology…

  • YC ’10

    Pro-lifers and pro-choicers only disagree about one thing: the moment when an embryo/fetus becomes a human life. Please stop pretending that pro-lifers are anti-woman and support an oppressive patriarchy; they just have a different opinion than we do about when life begins. Demonizing them gets us nowhere. I don’t mind that the WC has rejected CLAY’s application for membership, but please don’t spew that same old recycled rhetoric. I thought that, here at Yale, we were smarter than that.

  • Alice

    This is a generous and beautifully written piece. It’s wonderful to see such a well articulated view of actual, activist feminism on this campus.

  • YC ’10

    This is an very well-written article. Adding these open-minded thoughts to the conversation of women’s rights. As a pro-choice women I am also a feminist and I advocate for all women’s rights. While pro-life may currently be associated with taking away choice, your views of bringing the two ‘parties’ together under the umbrella of supporting women’s rights could change the pro-life dynamic into one that is perhaps more moderate and connected to dignity autonomy AND the common good.

  • y12fem

    “Pro-choice” is not “pro-choose to abort”. A pro-choice stance encompasses a lot more women than a pro-life stance does. By choosing to be pro-choice, the Women’s center is simply respecting a women’s life to choose to have full control over her own reproductive rights. If the Women’s center were to protect a pro-choice stance it would be cutting off all women who would choose otherwise. Pro-choice women should still be accepted in the center. Their choice will be respected there.

  • 2011

    hello, crazies.

    feminism is about expanding women’s choices. This includes the choice to abort OR the choice to keep their child. It doesn’t matter which choice a woman makes – having the option is the feminist stance. CLAY is seeking to limit those choices, thus the women’s center can’t support them. Duh.

    NIce work, Ms. McAllister. You always speak the truth, and so very eloquently!

  • ES10

    It appears that many people are conflating “Pro-Choice” with “Everyone should have abortions” and “Pro-Life” with “Abortions should be illegal.”

    There is a difference between both of these dichotomies. One can be pro-choice and still support women who choose to carry an unplanned pregnancy to birth; it is the CHOICE to have an abortion or not that they are supporting, not the abortion itself.

    Perhaps what should be explored more is whether CLAY supports taking away the legal option of having an abortion. If so, then I would agree that they do not have a place in the Women’s Center; that would be taking away a choice that feminists (women and men) have achieved through many fights.

    If CLAY supports a woman’s right to choose, but strongly advocates choosing to keep the child, then perhaps they have more legitimacy as part of the WC.

    Regardless, I find this an excellent article. Thank you, Chase, for writing this and sharing your insight.

  • Pro Choice

    To all who are pro choice. I am partly pro life because I am filled with doubt. To restrict a persons rights is a terrible thing. To kill one person is as well. I can’t be sure that a fetus is not alive as I am today. I believe it is. I am not sure when that happens. Are you all so sure that you know exactly when and that the courts got it right? IF you are not, be very careful, for you are playing with the most fundamental morals of our world – the right to life. If you are sure, please tell me how, bc I am lost and I would not allow abortions in most cases simply bc it is too risky to trade lives for rights when we don’t know how many lives we are trading bc we dont know which are actually alive.

  • unborn baby girl

    but who is thinking about the unborn baby girls who get aborted? who is fighting for their rights? clearly it can’t be the patriarchal, woman-hating, pro-life ppl…

  • yalemom

    Why are Pro-choice activist so threatened by Pro-lifers?

    Why aren’t more liberals appalled at all the babies (partial death abortion) that through abortion have been killed, considering that more innocent lives have been terminated than the lives lost from all the wars put together?

    Why not educate more young women on the options of adoption?

    Where are the rights of the father (sperm donors)? What happens if a man does not want to willfully have his baby killed? Where are his rights?

    Why not set laws that protect everyone with a heartbeat?

    Heartbeats begin at 4 weeks…most abortions are performed after 2 months.


  • TCKS

    Another important point here that contributes to the anti-feminist nature of CLAY is its advocacy. Its very name alone pressures women to choose life, inherently making us feel guilty or icky if having a child is not a viable option. Pressuring women to have a child when it is not necessarily something they would want is, as Chase says, anti-feminist because it limits freedom of women by putting an ideological or moral boundary on how they see fit to live their lives. The point here is a woman’s right to choose–either pro-life or pro-choice (and I don’t think that Chase is advocating that you have to get an abortion if you get pregnant). The pressure to keep an unwanted child as advocated by CLAY and other pro-life associations is not something that The Women’s Center should support–advocating for women’s reproductive rights in either direction, as it does through the Reproductive Rights Association, is the proper role for the center to play.

  • DoodleLover

    “Marin’s column is riddled with distortions. For instance, Marin quotes abstract, carefully selected sections of the Women’s Center’s constitution, choosing to omit the clause that declares the Women’s Center to be a pro-choice organization.”

    So perhaps “Women’s Center” is a misnomer? Should it change its name to “Pro-Choice Women’s Center?”

  • Yale 08

    People like Chase are the best enemies for which the pro-life movement could ever hope. She is so far outside mainstream America, so deep inside the liberal and Yale bubble that every time she speaks another independent voter comes to our side.

    Demographics, demographics, demographics.

  • Yes

    It’s true that Isabel Marin isn’t a real woman and is just a zombie-tool of the patriarchy/Peter Johnston. But then again who isn’t?

  • yalie

    There’s another angle to all of this that I don’t think has been looked at yet. As people have effectively argued, the pro-choice stance is inherent in the women’s center’s constitution, and it’s easy to see on what grounds they could reject CLAY’s membership.

    HOWEVER, there is talk that next year the women’s center will be granted Peer Liaisons by the Yale Dean’s Office, such as what exists this year with the cultural houses. As someone who tries mostly to stay out of this debate, the idea of the university legitimizing in this way an organization that doesn’t respect/reflect women’s views on both sides of the political spectrum doesn’t sit well with me. If the women’s center independently rejects CLAY’s membership that is their prerogative, I think? But I myself would be very intimidated by Peer Liaison’s from the Women’s Center coming up to me as an incoming freshman in their roles as mentors and attacking my philosophical convictions about life. Because after all, it is in the women’s center constitution.

  • @ #26

    I will give you testimony from a fetus’ perspective…..for I too was a fetus once and now an adult woman.

    My mother did not want me, but her decision to NOT terminate my life was her greatest gift to me. She let me live by CHOOSING ADOPTION!

    Thank you to all those mothers who pay for their “mistakes” by carrying their fetus to full term and giving us life :)

  • Reason

    Admission of CLAY to the women’s center would be tantamount to including an anti-Israel organization in the Slifka umbrella or an anti-affirmative action organization to the Af-Am house. These conservative whackjobs need to get a life and stop making a big stink all the time. What would they prefer? 5,000 deaths from coat-hanger abortions a year as is the case in Portugal??

  • SY ’10


    CLAY supports eliminating the legal right to an abortion. Which means, as you accurately determined, that they have no business in the Women’s Center.

  • Raja Pillai, CLAY secretary

    To all those who align Pro-Choice with feminism, I must bring up the fact that most feminists who were fighting for the right to vote and work were actively against abortion. Susan B. Anthony was actively against it, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton stated that “it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.” Even Jane Roe changed her mind, saying that her actions were wrong.

    To those who point us towards history, I think it proves beyond anything else that feminism is not a rigid template of demands and rules that every feminist must follow. It is a dynamic system that strives to do the best for women everywhere. Often, abortion doesn’t do this; at the March for Life, there were hundreds of grieving women who have never forgiven themselves for aborting. This is the point Ms. Marin was trying to make. We are not arguing that Feminism should be pro-life; we are saying that it should be open to all ends of the spectrum, that it should not be limited to Pro-Choice. This article is very well argued, but I feel that rigidity is not always conducive to women’s rights.

  • Yale 08

    …and the evidence about whether anything happened between Chase and Peter continues to mount (no pun intended)…

  • @Yalemom

    Because the structures that would have to exist to enforce this would be so utterly harmful to women in any society that they would damn them to second-class citizenry forever.

    As someone who had to grapple with some concern with the ‘fetus’, this was quickly overwhelmed by the fact that I do not want to live in a society where WOMEN are effectively a subject class, their bodies FORCED to carry what is effectively a parasite (if they don’t want it, it definitely it is. I’m using this as a biological definition) for a duration of nine months while their whole physical and emotional well-being is challenged and their status in society is further weakened.

    FURTHER, on top of all of this, is the blatant disregard of most in the pro-life movement (they do vote republican, after all) for the life of a child immediately after birth: let’s privatize schools and defund them, allow insurance companies to mess with small children and let’s reify a ‘free-market’ mentality that does nothing to help children in poverty.

    Why do poor women abort their children? Growing up in South Texas, I learned this too well: because it would guarantee their children a life of poverty as well.

    That is why I defend the right for women to choose when or how they choose to carry a child to term.

  • Benjamin Flores ’10

    ES10 (comment 25) makes an excellent point, which is that there is a fundamental question about CLAY’s political viewpoints that must be answered in order for Olivarius-Mcallister’s argument to be sound, and that question goes unanswered (or the answer is merely an assumption) in the body of her article. Though I certainly disagree with the typical pro-life stance, I wonder (and should do my own research) whether the phrase “Choose Life” is more than a mere semantic distinction. To me, that phrase reflects CLAY’s position as a group that urges women not to abort, as a group that argues abortion should be made illegal. My own opinions are as pro-choice as can be, and I identify as a feminist, but I think the inclusion of the verb “choose” in CLAY’s very name suggests that they might be willing to work their opinions into what Olivarius-Mcallister views as a mutually exclusive feminist framework.

  • Goldie ’08

    I read that worldwide, far more female babies are aborted than male babies. YWC?

  • Y11

    I believe in protecting unborn children so therefore I am not a feminist? Thanks for clearing that up. I’m saddened to know that a center that could be a resource for all women on campus chooses to alienate us by taking a partisan stance.

  • Recent Alum

    Every campus organization should have the right to choose its members or what other organizations it will associate with. I abhor abortion, but I respect the Women’s Center’s (as an openly partisan left-wing organization) decision to associate only with other openly partisan left-wing organizations. I would expect the Yale College Republicans and the Yale College Democrats to do the same.

    It seems that the question here is how Yale should allocate its resources. Why does a purely partisan, ideological organization gets its own space from Yale, while the majority of student organizations do not have their own space? If left-wing alumni want to purchase property for the Women’s Center, that’s all fine — same goes for alumni of, say, the Conservative Party doing the same. But Yale itself certainly should not give the Women’s Center resources that are not available to other student organizations.

  • Recent Alum

    “Pressuring women to have a child when it is not necessarily something they would want is, as Chase says, anti-feminist because it limits freedom of women by putting an ideological or moral boundary on how they see fit to live their lives.”

    Of course, the same can be said for laws against theft, murder, etc., all of which by definition limit people’s (including women’s) choices.

  • Andrew, CLAY Member

    To address #4’s comments: CLAY’s number one reason for applying to join the Women’s Center has always been to help women facing crisis pregnancies. While CLAY is not ignorant of the politics involved, this has never been a political stunt. I was a member of CLAY in 2007, when we first applied to join the women’s center. Before applying, we carefully considered whether membership in the Women’s Center would actually help us towards our mission of providing resources to pregnant women. When our application was rejected, we were not dismayed because a “political stunt” had failed; rather, we were disappointed because we would not be able to assist those pregnant women who might turn to the Women’s Center for help.

  • yc ’11

    first, the women’s center is a feminist space, and it never has claimed to speak for all women. there are over 2,000 undergrad women on this campus. to think any body can speak for all of them is silly.

    second, it says chase is a former member of the women’s center. considering, rachel achs’ article on friday, it doesn’t seem like the women who run the women’s center now feel the same way chase does.

  • Mariama

    Chase is correct. With respect to Marin’s “feminist” lament, we, the intelligent, see that the word feminism is once again paraded at the most convenient moment without regard to its implications or context.
    It’s simple stupidity, which isn’t necessarily surprising. It is more than slightly oxymoronic for Isabel Marin (’12) to argue on the grounds of expansion of options for the inclusion of an institution which is inherently limiting. Well, it’s also just stupid, and that’s funny too.

  • KO

    This is the best article to come out of the YDN, and indeed Yale, for a long time.

    Chase is eloquent and correct in the deepest ways. Well done for providing rationalism to this debate.

  • unborn baby

    I am an unborn child, but thankfully I have reached far enough into term to have the dexterity to type out this message: I am more important than the well-being of women. I am fetus, hear me roar!
    Thanks to my supporters: yalemmom, unborn baby girl, and other fine folk.

  • Yale 12

    Great Article. People who don’t like it are trashy.

  • Yale ’10

    “Feminism is an ideology; the women and men who subscribed to it are those who won women the vote, the right to own property, access to education, protection from sexual harassment and legal abortion. Feminism is definitively pro-choice; it defines abortion as a civil right and insists that the withholding of abortion is discrimination. This is the position of the Yale Women’s Center, National Organization of Women and every major 20th-century feminist thinker.”

    If, as the author claims, the Yale Women’s Center promotes a particular ideology, why should Yale give the Women’s Center its own place (right in the center of campus)? Yale hasn’t seen fit to give the Yale Democrats or Republicans a house.

  • @49

    99% of abortions are chosen by women who do not want their babies…not women with health complications….

    But we are a nation of throw aways….so if it’s not convenient for us….lets just KILL the fetus!

  • The other party

    Colonizer and colonizee? No choice or pro-choice? Perhaps. Maybe next year.

  • @ yale 12

    I love your comment
    “People who don’t like it are trashy”
    You have only been here a year, yet I wager you are not 25% a Yalie yet. Play catch up – learn discourse, you have a long way to go, but I’m sure you will make it.

  • @#47

    #47: You just said “we, the intelligent”…really? it is impossible for a pro-life person to be intelligent? for all the insults pro-lifers receive for their closed-mindedness, it is the other side who is most closed-minded in the context of yale.

  • @Yale 10

    because yale didnt hate on yale democrats and Yale Republicans for like a million years

  • no

    people that DO like it are trashy

  • Mixed race feminist alum

    To Raja, (37).

    Choice means “not being limited to Pro-Choice”? That’s the whole point of the pro-Choice movement – it argues for genuine choice to carry a foetus to full term, or to abort – it’s not pushing an “always abort” agenda. (It’s in the name). Maybe CLAY is so used to pushing a ‘never abort’ agenda that you can’t understand that your opponents are not. Your very comment about “grieving women who regret abortions” demonstrates that you don’t believe in “choice” at all, because you don’t believe that women can be trusted to make decisions without regretting them later. Instead, you’d like the law to make their decisions for them.

    I’ve rung Pro-Life helplines in the past for research, and any woman who admits to having had a termination is told that she has committed murder, but her only chance of salvation is to repent. With such emotional blackmail of vulnerable women, is it any surprise that CLAY is able to rally up unhappy and tormented women? And yes, this is the approach of CLAY – I’ve been told by several members of CLAY that my grandmother is in hell for having an abortion.

    As for the people who argue that the Women’s Center shouldn’t have its own space, because it promotes a particular political approach – the Af-Am house promotes a particular political approach, the belief that African-Americans face particular difficulties at Yale and in America, and deserve additional support. Now, I, and I hope, the great majority of Yalies, agree with this principle – of course the Af Am house should exist – but I do know of Conservatives at Yale who do not (arguing that it promotes self-segregation, that affirmative action is overdone at Yale, yadayadayada). The fact that there were people who supported the “Old South” Freshman Screw last year, and argued that the Af-Am house shouldn’t complain, demonstrates both (a) the need for the Af-Am house (b) that not everyone shares it’s perspective. So Yale shouldn’t fund any spaces that promote progressive social change?

  • mk

    good work, chase.

  • hmmmm

    What is life anyway? Just a thermodynamic blip of improbability. Get over it and just enjoy the essential meaningless of it all. We humans are much too self-obsessed with our silly notion of being special.

  • Raja

    To #58

    I feel you are gleaning more from what I wrote than I had intended. As far as regrets go, I am not by any means saying women cannot be trusted. I said that abortion is not always what’s best for women, using what I myself had seen as an example. And, as a member of CLAY, I freely admit, I would rather no abortions occurred. However, I would never condemn a woman for aborting a child. It’s a tough enough decision as is, and it grieves me that there are those in the Pro-Life movement who would say such things about your grandmother. I certainly do not agree, and I offer apologies for the pain such words much cause.

    And for those who make comments about right-winged religious zealots, I am left of center, usually vote democrat, and am not religious, per se. Certainly my position is not religiously based. I am for healthcare reform, and support most of feminism, with exception of the abortion issue, if that is feminist (which, as noted by previous writers, is not a black-and-white matter).

    What we want to work on with the Women’s Center is thus: if a woman does not want to have an abortion, make it easier for her to access other options, such as adoption clinics, counseling, and financial help centers (ones that will not accuse you of murder). This is not anti-feminism. This is an expansion of choices. I am told women at Yale are given abortion information, but little else in the way of pregnancy; representatives from the Women’s center themselves have made the same sentiment. CLAY and the Women’s Center can work together to do what’s best for women, ideologies aside. And I look forward to the opportunity.

  • James Joyless

    There once was a femmie named Chase,
    who refused to stay in her place.
    She wrote an Op-Ed
    -oh! the things that she said-
    even friends couldn’t keep a straight face.

  • CL

    Former boardmember here.
    1. What is WC residency? Access to a small annual stipend ($100). The ability to hold regular meetings & events in the WC. A requirement for group members to staff the center for a few hours each week (this may have changed). Storage space in the back room. Advertisement (in WC space & newsletter).

    In 2007, CLAY didn’t want to meet in the WC. They’d never asked for special funding, special event space, or inclusion in the newsletter, so why now? So CLAY wanted a physical presence in the center (staff, storage space for Baby Lucy) and the pleasure of seeing their name on a list. As these goals hardly benefited their group, but hugely benefited their cause, we were wary of granting them residency.

    2. CLAY wants a decrease in women’s rights, and RALY wants adjustments to the status quo. A pro-life woman walks into the WC and feels morally superior. A pro-choice woman walks into a CLAY-staffed WC and sees someone trying to take a right away from her.

    Everyone should just shut up already about supporting individual pregnant women because we’re only qualified to “support”(attack) collective pregnant women. The Women’s Center is often mistakenly believed to provide support to women in case of rape or pregnancy. If a raped or pregnant woman walks into the center, staffers will of course try to direct her to the appropriate place, but they are trained in neither counsel nor comfort.

    (I’ve long believed that it is irresponsible for the WC to fail to deny, that they provide individual support. During my tenure when, out of the blue, several girls made it known that they had been raped and wanted to speak to the WC, it was an extraordinary event for which we only felt prepared because some of our friends had been raped and we thought we knew the right words.

    In fact an excellent use of the WC would be as a location for UHS-facilitated female support groups, for assault, eating disorders, and so on. However to be fair to students more comfortable at UHS these groups would have to be ancillary to existing groups.)

    Let me reiterate: if you are a pregnant woman at Yale, do not go to the WC seeking help. There is not an operating table in the back room, nor can we hook you up with some nice Yale Feminist-emblazoned maternity wear. Go to UHS. Obviously. If I ever see a RALY girl counsel someone to have an abortion anywhere other than “Friday Night Lights” I will eat my ovaries.

    The Women’s Center was right to deny residency to a group that desired to wield residency as a forceps-like instrument to extract babies from the bellies of unwitting frosh. Center: stop being so surprised that CLAY keeps knocking on your door, it’s publicity without the humiliation that its usual antics ought to cause. CLAY: if you really want to be a residence group, then do it right. Weasel your way in by getting on the staff, in the newsletter, and on the board.

  • Valerie

    Chase’s article is not only brilliant but coherent.

    Many commenters have questioned whether the pro-life position is, in fact, anti-feminist. They have argued that the belief that life begins at conception does not preclude the belief-holder from being a feminist.

    Here’s the rub. If everyone in the world – both men and women – could have a baby and therefore an abortion, then yes, one could say that the question of when life begins is unrelated to one’s feminism. However, the essence of feminism is to equalize the two sexes’ ability to survive and excel, by means of promoting the rights of women. A mere biological argument is all that is necessary to see that women’s role as birth-givers – though at times wonderful – has also been the main cause of historical gender inequality. Even if the pregnancy was not caused by rape, or even if it will not endanger the life of the mother, it will still significantly affect the life of the woman – assumedly negatively, if she is in favor of aborting it in the first place, with her only concern being the normative moral one. (Though of course it is possible for her to change her mind in the long-run, but in the short-run, she would be bringing something to life she would rather not.)

    The Women’s Center is a feminist organization. The few commenters who were surprised by this should not be. It was established when women were new to Yale, to ensure that they would have equality with men, which requires force, sometimes radical, to achieve. To let women choose not to bring a regret to fruition, is to let women stand one step closer to men. To allow CLAY to be a Women’s Center residence group is to consign to obscurity the definition of feminism that demands this choice for women.

  • 20th Century History

    Please see “Further Reading” for recent works on Pro-life Feminism:


    The New Right exists and existed for a reason–it resonates and resonated with the deeply held values and life circumstances of many women. While I’m not pro-life, I have the good fortune to know several intelligent pro-life women (mostly from back home in the South) who are feminists in all the senses that mattered before the 1980s.

  • @Valerie

    Here’s the rub – The historical role of the woman as “birth-giver” is indeed biological. Yet, if biology itself has been the “main source of gender inequality” in history, then I fret your movement may be for naught.

    The notion that “biology is all that is needed to see that the woman’s rule as “birth-giver” has been the main cause of gender inequality,” is, in fact, devastating the feminist cause.

  • Yale 08

    Her final sentences give it all away. Chase is political and sees everything through that very gruesome lens.

  • Laura

    the ydn should ask chase to be a staff columnist. nobody thinks or writes like her.

  • lear

    I am really glad that somebody wrote this column. the women’s center didn’t defend abortion, or explain why women need it.

    also, clay should cheer up. chase o-m could have saloveyed you.

  • @#66

    It only devastates the feminist cause if you buy into the naturalistic fallacy.

  • @70

    You must be out to lunch if you think that’s a fallacy

  • Egalitarian

    To #35: For your information, according to Gallup, 42% of Americans oppose affirmative action, including 21% of liberal African-Americans and 35% of liberal whites. We’re not all right-wingers. Also, while a large portion of anti-Israel sentiment is driven by anti-Semitism, there are people who are anti-Israel for other reasons, and some of them are Jewish.

  • Yale 08

    In the Archdiocese of New York, for example, it was announced publicly on Oct. 15, 1984, and has been repeatedly announced publicly ever since, that any girl or woman, of any religion, race, color or ethnic background, from anywhere, who is pregnant and in financial need, can come to the archdiocese and be provided medical care, hospitalization, legal and counseling help and related assistance. If she wishes to keep her baby after birth, she is given EVERY means to do so. If she wishes to have the baby adopted, arrangements are made accordingly.

  • for the last time.

    for the last time, chase is a FORMER member of the Women’s Center board. i know the women on the board now and they do not share her views. so stop talking about her like she’s their spokesperson. read rachel achs’ article if you want to know how the CURRENT WC feels about the issue.

  • y09

    And if after that ‘counseling’ she desires to have an abortion, she will be called a filthy whore who will burn in hell for all eternity.

    But judging from your history of comments, I think you’re OK with that.

  • Yale 08


    I would NEVER call anyone a filthy whore, nor do I ever condemn anyone to hell.

    You can take your strawman and leave.

  • @for the last time

    I would not put too much distance between Chase and the WC board. She remains the undisputed queen of feminist activism on campus, and well-liked. PLus this column both smart and brave. The WC should being trying to take credit for Chase and her views, not trying to cover their asses.

  • Jeffrey L, ’08

    There was once a feminist named Chase,
    Who drank, partied, and frolicked apace.
    Though she looked like an Austrian princess,
    She could always convince us,
    To make Yale a more feminist place.

    To her enemies, she’s a monster, and like Lady Macbeth.
    But to her fans, she’s just a damsel, so often in distress,
    While also a young knight, in shining armor,
    Come to save us all, with her strength and ardor.

    Her mind is the weapon she wields with such grace,
    Killing the dragons, redeeming our race.
    Lady, please slay on: it electrifies your feminist base.

  • y09

    Oh, sorry, are you not the Yale 08 who consistently posts politically/culturally/religiously conservative (which are also at times, variously, racist/homophobic/misogynistic) comments?

    If you’re a totally different Yale 08, I apologize. Otherwise, look in the mirror a bit and see if that strawman looks back.

  • cairo and counting

    I only just saw this fabulous piece of thought. so from egypt, and yale VPN: bravo!!!!!!

  • How is it possible to say this is well written?

    Regardless of your position on the pro-choice vs. pro-life issue, how is it possible to say that this column is well written?

    In one paragraph the author states, “Feminism is definitively pro-choice; it defines abortion as a civil right and insists that the withholding of abortion is discrimination.”

    Two paragraphs later, she says, “It is possible to be both pro-life and a feminist;…”

    Following that statement (in fact, in the same paragraph), she reiterates that “the pro-life ideology…will always be anti-feminist.”

    You can be pro-choice, or you can be pro-life, but please… don’t be pro-stupid.

  • seriously

    author should try living anywhere else in the world…then return and stop the quotidian whinefest

  • mosel

    killer column.

  • Yale 08

    @#79, y09,

    I am he and he is me.

    I repeat: I would never condemn anyone to hell, nor do I refer to others as “whores.”

    Racist? I could care less what race you are. Weren’t the Irish considered another race 100 years ago?

    Homophobic? I find homosexuality intrinsically disordered, but I have no reason to fear homosexual individuals.

    Misogynistic? HA! Tell that to my mother and sisters.

  • @How is it possible to say this is well written?

    I am agnostic on the issue of abortion, but enthusiastically pro-literacy.

    It looks like the point of Chase’s exquisitely written argument eludes you. Readers are impressed by the quality of the sentences that you cite because they differentiate the ideology of “feminism” from the identity of “feminist.” This distinction is vital to her (compassionate) refutation of CLAY’s attempt to call itself feminist, and an original point (or at least one that was new to me).

    Clearly, I couldn’t have drawn it as humanely or as concisely as she did. Forgive me for doubting that you could either.

  • @#85

    If that’s the distinction she’s arguing, then she’s tripping over her own words. Read her carefully son.

    Feminism is inhrently anti-choice.
    A pro-lifer can be feminist.
    Pro-life is inherently anti-feminist.

    Maybe you can reoconcile the first two, but add the third and it ain’t so clear anymore.

  • @78

    Your meter is truly dreadful.

  • @86

    Your characterization of her argument is incorrect; in claiming to misunderstand it, you do not make it less powerful.

    1) Feminism is inherently pro-choice, or pro-legal abortion. (evidence…)
    2) People who are pro-life can do feminist work and in fact be feminist in many regards. (generous clauses…)
    3) Being pro-life, or opposed to legal abortion, can, itself, never be feminist, and is in fact anti-feminist. (exclamation points…)

    If you honestly disagree with her so intensely that it makes you misread her argument, you have got to calm down. also, you aren’t going to convince anyone that this column isnt great by merely asserting that you don’t get it.

  • @86, p.s.

    in fact, i encourage you to commune with the people more. i mean, maybe your mistakes were honest. but see what we see. hear what we hear.

    this would be best for you too, since if you did that, you could tell us why you disagree with her. i mean, her argument, to me, is nuanced but clear. it is also within the average person’s ability to understand. so don’t misstate it. i mean, there is a slim chance that you honestly don’t get what she’s saying. if that is the case, maybe go into more detail about why you think her logic doesn’t work.

    but i really do think that you are misstating it on purpose. cut that out. instead you should make an honest argument for what you think. but misconstruing her is like deleting her, which is dumb because it wont work. its also bad, and mean. its like you think wishing her distinction away and making it seem confusing will make it unhappen.

    in the name of full disclosure: i am reading orwell right now. maybe that’s coloring my reaction to you, which, if true, is awkward of me.

  • student

    I actually think she is right in saying that feminism is inherently pro-choice. The key difference that people need to grasp is that pro-choice is not the same as pro-abortion. It is perfectly acceptable for a feminist to be against abortions and to choose not to have one herself, but it is anti-feminist to deny each woman the right to make her own decision.

  • PC ’07

    Excellent column, Chase. Full-throated defenses of legal abortion come so few and far between. It’s a messy subject, but there is no need to abdicate the moral and rhetorical absolutism that the right seems to take for granted. Abortion, in so many ways, is simply ethical.

    Also, lol at: “I’ve been told by several members of CLAY that my grandmother is in hell for having an abortion.” Good job, guys!