The Vita et Veritas conference, held at St. Thomas More Church on Park Street, was co-sponsored by several national pro-life organizations and drew at least 85 attendees. Whereas CLAY centers on larger bioethical questions, the conference focused specifically on the issue of abortion, according to Evelyn Behling ’17, co-director of the event. Behling said she believes the discussion is an important one that should be happening on Yale’s campus.
“When the idea was first conceived, we weren’t certain we would have any success,” said Courtney McEachon ’15, director and founder of Vita et Veritas.
Several guest speakers at the conference related their personal reasons for not supporting the medical practice of abortion. Director of the Canadian Center for Bio-Ethical Reform Stephanie Gray said that it is not only the lives of pre-born children that she is concerned for, but also those of adults who should consider that their lives could have potentially been affected by abortion.
Serrin Foster, president of the national Feminists for Life group, unveiled a website that provides pregnancy planning resources for college students. Planned Parenthood noted a 30 percent drop in the abortions of college-aged women in the past 10 years, Foster said, attributing that decline in part to the work of pro-life organizations.
Foster also addressed the issue of terminating pregnancies that result from non-consensual sex, stating that even in instances of pregnancies from rape, she is against the idea of a violent response to a violent act.
“Nothing challenges our pro-life beliefs more than when we talk about the issue of rape,” Foster said.
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, mentioned in her keynote address at the conference that the Yale Basic Health plan for students covers contraception and abortion, but does not cover things like prenatal care, obstetrics and delivery-room fees for students who may wish to carry their pregnancies to term. Behling also expressed her unhappiness with the Yale Basic Health plan, saying that it is not really a neutral policy and that there is no support on campus for a pregnant student who chooses to go through with her pregnancy.
Organizations that co-sponsored the conference, including Consistent Life and Christian Union, displayed information about their respective goals at tables outside the event.
Behling said that because abortion is such a divisive issue in the United States, a lot of the speakers at Vita et Veritas were used to being controversial.
At Yale, the abortion issue is so sided with pro-choice amongst most students that people do not tend to consider it as a major issue, she said.
According to Behling, though most members of CLAY have religious backgrounds, the organization is officially a secular one. The group meets every Tuesday to discuss abortion and other issues in bioethics.
“We don’t think you need to adhere to a particular morality to believe there is human life in the womb and that there might be a better way to address the problems that women are facing in society,” she said.
One attendee of the conference, Anthony Tokman ’16, said the event caused him to think for the first time about the pro-life side of the abortion debate, since the Yale community is generally pro-choice.
Attendees at the conference included students from Harvard, Cornell and Columbia as well as local students from Yale.
CLAY was founded by Yale undergraduates in 2002.