LETTER: A truly open and honest abortion dialogue

Re: “For an Open Abortion Dialogue,” (Sept. 20): I should start by saying that, though I personally am fervently pro-choice, I think it is a pity that Elizabeth Henry feels that pro-choice students have been intolerant toward her beliefs. I completely agree with Henry that an open dialogue about abortion is important.

Yet I think that there are two major points in Henry’s column that were misleading or outright untrue.

First, Henry (a sophomore) writes, “Women like me are horrified during Freshman Orientation when abortion is promoted as a means of birth control.” Her statement is either a grave error or a blatant lie. During this year’s Freshman Orientation, abortion was never promoted as a form of birth control. Never. In fact, I hardly remember abortion mentioned at all. The author should apologize for such a serious, false charge against Yale.

Second, Henry writes, “Women like me who oppose abortion are forced to support a health plan that provides unlimited abortions to all Yale women.” That, again, is horribly misleading. No one is forced to pay for Yale’s health plan; for example, I am not on Yale’s health plan. In this same disingenuous vein, Henry writes, “Yale Health should accommodate pro-life students in the health plan by offering policies that do not cover abortions — just as Yale Dining accommodates vegetarian students by offering tofu in the dining halls.” As far as I know, Yale does not offer a vegetarian dining plan and a non-vegetarian dining plan. There is just the option to not eat meat. Those morally opposed to abortion have the same freedom. Meat is a valid choice in the dining halls, and abortion is a perfectly legal medical procedure. What Henry seems to misunderstand is that, just as no one is forced to eat bacon, no one is forced to get an abortion.

Henry’s supposed premise was that abortion should be discussed in an open and tolerant way. I completely agree. But her obvious dishonesty is far from conducive to this dialogue. Abortion should be discussed, and it should be discussed frankly, but within the realm of fact.

Arguing about abortion is not my goal here; rather, I want to facilitate the truly open dialogue about abortion Henry claims to seek. The issue of abortion, with both sides fundamentally in disagreement, is difficult enough as it is. Lying to make a point certainly doesn’t help.

Scott Stern

Sept. 20

The writer is a freshman in Branford College.


  • BR2012

    Somehow I seriously doubt she was being intentionally misleading. The tone of her piece and my general faith in human honesty aside, women like her, who quote Jeremiah, usually take quite seriously the injunction, “Thou shalt not lie.” She may have gotten a bit carried away, but that’s not the same thing by any means a “lying to make a point.”

    As far as the Yale Health Plan goes, there is a big difference between being on it and simply choosing not to get an abortion and going to the dining hall and choosing not to eat meat. If one truly believes abortion is murder, one does not want to have to pay for a health plan that includes the ability to get abortions. Henry may or may not have realized that one can totally opt out of the Yale Health Plan, but I believe what she was suggesting was that Yale Health should have two available plans: one that provides abortions, and one that does not.

    • GeoJoe

      Yo – vegetarians often think that meat is murder. I still think that a proposal to have two meal plans would go NOWHERE, which is understandable. Also, abortion is covered under the part of the Yale Health Plan that is free for all undergraduates. You want a different free plan that doesn’t include abortion? Just don’t get an abortion; that’s equivalent.

  • CrazyBus

    I also don’t think she was being intentionally misleading, simply that she did not properly fact check her article. She let her passion get control of her writing, and maybe got a little carried away with her rhetoric

  • Defenestrator

    “If one truly believes abortion is murder, one does not want to have to pay for a health plan that includes the ability to get abortions.”

    What if I’m a vegan who truly believes that killing animals for meat is murder (or if not murder, at least severely morally objectionable). Do I have the right to demand a meal plan that does not pay for the preparation of non-vegan foods?

    • BR2012

      I am actually a vegan. Mostly for health reasons, but I do also think the way animals are treated is morally offensive. Additionally, I have environmental objections, etc., which have to do with the way eating meat affects other people, rather than just animals. However, there’s a big difference between having to support what one considers to be the murder of innocent children (if you pay for the Yale Health Plan, of course) and having to support the cruel mistreatment of animals by getting the Yale Meal Plan. I believe Henry’s point was that if the school can take differing views into account with something like animal rights (and nutrition), it ought to be able to take into account differing views on abortion, especially given that those who oppose abortion tend to feel VERY strongly about it.

      • BR2012

        Oh, and I would, in fact, prefer not to have to pay for a meal plan that supports the meat and dairy industry. But it’s just not the same thing, and the school can’t be expected to differentiate to that degree with meal plans. Health care and abortions is another story.

  • Yale12

    Thank you for exposing that ridiculous abortion/tofu metaphor.

  • ShaveTheWhales

    So we’re in agreement, then? Excuse her lies published in the YDN and gloss over them, only picking at the information in her article that we want?

    • roflairplane

      Let me rephrase ShaveTheWhales’ point: “Wah wah wah, I want to kill fetuses, but some people think that’s wrong. Wah.”

      • xfxjuice

        What an incredibly constructive and profound response.

  • Branford73

    Your point about Freshman Orientation and her (and others’) defense of her claim abortion was promoted there appears in the comments section below her original essay.

  • RexMottram08

    Best decision ever: When I skipped Freshman Orientation. I just laughed at my sad-faced Froco when he wondered why I wouldn’t want to attend.

    • jnewsham

      And look at where you are now! Sure showed him.

      • RexMottram08

        I had an extra hour of my life back. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about reading your columns.

  • ElizabethGrayHenry


    I appreciate your willingness to engage in debate about abortion through your letter to the editor of the YDN. My article called for open, tolerant dialogue about the issue, but I feel that your use of words like “lying”, and “dishonesty” closes that dialogue rather than opening it. I am upset that you would accuse me of blatantly lying just to make a point. You have a right to disagree with me and point out how you believe I’m wrong, but you do not have a right to accuse me of lying without a foundation in fact. I firmly believe the information I presented in my article was factual, and I wish you would look again at my facts.

    First, let’s consider Freshman Orientation. I may be a sophomore, but I too went through Freshman Orientation. The sex education talk that I attended did, in fact, promote abortion as birth control. I’ve also talked with members of your class who’ve said that abortion was promoted as a legitimate form of birth control at the talks they attended during Freshman Orientation as well. I do understand that not all freshmen attend the same talks during Freshman Orientation, and I recognize that your particular talk may not have mentioned abortion, but let me assure you that others did. My discussion of Freshman Orientation was neither a grave error nor a blatant lie. On the contrary, it was a statement made based both on my firsthand experience during Freshman Orientation and on eyewitness accounts I’ve received from other students.

    Second, according to the Yale Daily News, “under the Yale Health Plan’s basic coverage afforded to every student, any female student is entitled to unlimited, free abortions”. (Source http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2004/nov/11/abortions-are-covered-by-plan-but-still-rare/) Like you, I am not on the Yale Health Plan since I have private insurance. However, as a Yale student, I am covered by YHP’s basic coverage, which includes abortions, whether I like it or not.

    I was not “lying to make a point”. I truly do want open, factual dialogue. Specifically in my article, I called for love and education, not one side vilifying the other. I hope that the dialogue on Yale’s attitudes about abortion can proceed in a dignified, honest manner.