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.