Last weekend Yale hosted Vita et Veritas, the first pro-life conference to be held at the University.
Presented by the student organization, Choose Life at Yale, the conference featured speakers and panels representing a wide range of pro-life perspectives on the issue of abortion. Students involved with planning the conference and representatives from sponsoring pro-life groups said they hoped the event helps educate the Yale community about the pro-life stance and encourage students to create a more pro-life campus.
“The dialogue is expanding and not just at Yale, but everywhere,” said Suzy Ismail, a speaker from the Center for Muslim Life who participated in an interfaith panel this weekend.
The interfaith panel, which took place on Friday, discussed the importance of cooperation in the pro-life community between religious and secular groups. Ismail, who spoke for the Muslim pro-life community, said many Muslims do not speak out about abortion despite holding pro-life views. In the past, Ismail said she has been told, “Don’t talk about that,” when she has spoken about abortion at Muslim conferences.
Muslims have a responsibility to speak out on this issue, she said.
Secular Pro-Life President Kelsey Hazzard, who also spoke on the interfaith panel, said her group works to highlight non-religious arguments against abortion and connect non-religious individuals with pro-life views with each other. Raising awareness is the focal point of her activism, she said.
“I think my message was well received [at Yale],” she said, adding that Secular Pro-Life has seen a lot of support at college campuses.
Hazzard said there are currently 6 million Americans who are non-religious and pro-life, adding that this is a function of the current generation being both more pro-life and more secular than previous generations.
During a talk entitled “Refuse to Choose: Reclaiming Feminism,” on Saturday afternoon, Sally Winn, vice president of the organization Feminist for Life, drew from her own experiences.
Winn said she became unexpectedly pregnant while in college and decided to have the baby. Raising a child was difficult, she said, in part because of the lack of support for mothers at colleges. Winn said there are no baby changing stations in college bathrooms or day care opportunities for undergraduates.
Under Yale’s basic health plan, for example, abortions are fully covered, while most delivery costs are not covered, she said. A student could have to pay $400 out of pocket for a delivery even with “Hospitalization/Speciality Coverage,” she added.
Winn said colleges need to improve their resources for mothers in order to give women the freedom to have a child on campus.
“I think the future is really bright if we focus on what women need,” she said. “In my daughter’s lifetime it will be more commonplace for pregnant women to be on college campuses.”
The conference grew over the two days, with many speakers coming from out of state to join. Speakers and attendees ate lunch together on Saturday and mingled in the lobby, exchanging pro-life pamphlets.
Ismail said she enjoyed connecting with people from such different backgrounds.
The last talk of the conference, entitled “The Secret Agenda: A Former Abortionist Speaks Out,” attracted approximately 50 audience members.
Ryan Proctor ’16, a member of Choose Life at Yale, said he was pleased with how the conference went and hopes the conference will be an annual event.
“It was a great turnout for a first year,” he said. “It came together nicely, and we are were looking forward to being able to build on what we’ve done.”
Though most attendees were affiliated with Choose Life at Yale, Dimitri Halikias ’16 said he attended the conference despite not holding pro-life views and found the event interesting.
“They did a really good job trying to attack the issue from different perspectives instead of using stereotypical arguments,” he said.
Still, Halikias said the conference will likely not cause a major change in the way most Yale students perceive abortion.
The conference took place at the St. Thomas Moore Chapel.