On Wednesday, the Dwight Hall Cabinet will meet to vote on, among other things, whether to grant member status to Choose Life At Yale, which bills itself as Yale’s undergraduate pro-life club.
CLAY is petitioning to join the Social Justice Network, one of four constituent networks in Dwight Hall, an independent nonprofit that is home to more than 90 service- and social justice-oriented student organizations. As the Chair of the Yale chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a Dwight Hall organization and member of the Social Justice Network, I will be voting not to admit CLAY into Dwight Hall.
This vote is not a question of free speech; Yale students have an incredibly diverse array of backgrounds and opinions, and the range of student organizations on campus rightfully reflects this. Groups like CLAY play an important role in promoting a constructive dialogue on campus about some of the most divisive political issues of our time. Members of CLAY already have every right to express their opinions loudly on campus, and have a number of channels through which they can attain funding. They do not, however, have a claim to membership in Dwight Hall.
To allow CLAY into the Social Justice Network would signal that we consider its work social justice, and would compel Dwight Hall to divert funds away from groups that do important work pursuing actual social justice and helping communities in New Haven and around the world. Social justice means fighting injustice and discrimination, and working to provide everyone with the chance to live a full and enriching life. It is about the equal provision of political, economic and social rights, and it means opening doors and breaking down barriers so that opportunity exists for all people, not just a lucky few. A necessary component of any coherent definition of social justice is bodily autonomy and the ability of all people to make decisions about their futures safely and free of stigma — this means the protection of reproductive rights.
The pro-life, anti-choice agenda stands in the way of gender equity, and thus in the way of social justice. Through legislation, deception and stigma, it seeks to limit reproductive freedom and the ability of women to control their own futures. I believe that these goals are antithetical to the concept of social justice and if fulfilled, would undermine the push for a free, just and equal society.
To see the effects of today’s pro-life ideology, one need only look to the multitude of state governments that are using all means possible to shut down clinics and place burdensome and intrusive regulations on abortion. Around the nation, protesters outside abortion clinics stigmatize a decision that should be left up to a women, her doctor, family members and loved ones. So-called “crisis pregnancy centers” mislead and deceive women, under the guise of impartiality, about the consequences of abortion. In my mind, those advocating to legally and socially limit reproductive choice are working against the goals of social justice.
I do not seek to impose my own definition of social justice onto anyone else. Members of the Yale ACLU gave significant thought to our decision not to support CLAY’s entry into Dwight Hall — that discussion was healthy and productive. I urge leaders and members of other Dwight Hall groups to consider what social justice means to them and make an informed, conscientious decision on Wednesday. If you, like we did, come to see the importance of the movement for gender equity and reproductive freedom in any larger pursuit of social justice, then vote no on CLAY.
Andre Manuel is a sophomore in Pierson College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .