The dark skies over Cross Campus were illuminated Thursday night as a campus group lit candles to express their opposition to abortion.

The vigil, organized by members of Choose Life at Yale, began at 8 p.m. with the lighting of 167 luminaries arranged in the shape of a cross, representing what organizers said were the number of abortions performed over the course of one hour in the United States. Students and members of the New Haven community dressed in black and gathered around the luminaries, some standing silently, while others kneeled to pray. Members of CLAY also had representatives on hand to answer students’ questions.

“Our group has been a place for pro-life Yale students to support each other and to promote the pro-life message on campus,” CLAY President Mary Hollis ’06 said. “Hopefully this vigil will raise awareness about the pro-life position and its place in our University.”

While CLAY members said the luminaries at Thursday’s vigil represented the number of children’s lives lost in an hour, members of the Reproductive Rights Action League of Yale said they saw a different meaning in the statistic. RALY, an abortion rights group, focuses on raising awareness on campus of the reproductive options offered by University Health Services.

“It’s important to remember that the luminaries represent the number of women’s lives which are saved every hour precisely because abortion is safe, legal and available to them,” RALY member Rebecca Lemaitre ’05 said. “Abortion will be an option regardless of its legality — what is important is keeping it safe and legal to assure that women’s lives won’t perish needlessly.”

To help raise further awareness, CLAY representatives also distributed literature on abortion as well as information for students who have already had an abortion.

Though Thursday’s vigil was the group’s first on-campus demonstration, CLAY members said they have been active in drawing attention to their cause, attracting speakers to campus, advertising pregnancy resources at Yale and protesting the abortion rights “March for Women’s Lives.”

“The vigil stands in remembrance of children who weren’t as lucky as you and me,” CLAY member Emily Mimnaugh ’07 said. “[It] is a visual reminder: we cannot continue to be blind.”

Lemaitre said RALY members are in favor of abortion rights but are not necessarily pro-abortion.

“No one is pro-abortion,” she said. “This is an issue that’s about much more than reproduction; it’s also about women’s autonomy and freedom.”

In addition to these two opposing groups, passers-by said they had varying opinions as well about the vigil.

“It is good to see people concerned with a cause like the ones at this vigil,” Bruce Pohlot ’07 said as he walked through Cross Campus. “However, I also feel that most students here already have their mind made up one way or another, and I don’t feel like a vigil is going to change that.”

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