Choose Life at Yale, a campus pro-life activism group, will participate in the annual “March for Life” on Thursday.
The march, described by organizers as the “largest pro-life event in the world,” has received consistent Yale support since 2002. According to former CLAY president Courtney McEachon ’15, while only 15 CLAY representatives are attending this year, as many as 25 have gone in the past.
The march occurs nine months after CLAY was denied full membership to Dwight Hall — Yale College’s umbrella organization for community service — and the Women’s Center’s refused to support the group. McEachon said the decisions showed a lack of tolerance for students with controversial opinions.
“Despite shared goals like working for social justice and providing for women, CLAY has been excluded from both umbrella organizations in the past,” she said. “Such marginalization makes it difficult for students who do question the legitimacy of legal abortion to step forward.”
McEachon, who has attended the rally for the past three years, said members of CLAY are aware that their political position is countercultural and unpopular. However, she added that the march is also a demonstration of how the demography of the pro-life movement is changing, including and incorporating more college students.
Former CLAY secretary Elizabeth Tokarz ’17 said she hopes nationwide discussions raised by the march will increase CLAY’s visibility on campus and generate constructive debate between students.
“We feel like life issues are often pushed under the rug, which may be why they aren’t prioritized, so we like it when one of our events sparks conversation,” Tokarz said.
She added that, while she knows the pro-life stance is underrepresented on campus, the only time she felt her opinion was unwelcome was when Dwight Hall denied the group full membership. She said that, while Dwight Hall’s decision did not necessarily impact the finances of the organization, the group did miss out on some of the resources offered by the organization. For example, being able to partake in the car-sharing program would have been particularly useful, she said.
Former Dwight Hall co-coordinators Teresa Logue ’15 and Sterling Johnson ’15 declined to comment on the April 2014 decision.
CLAY member Evelyn Behling ’17 said the organization is no longer pursuing Dwight Hall membership, but the possibility of reapplying may resurface in the future.
Olivier van Donselaar ’17, who identifies for pro-choice, said Dwight Hall was justified in its decision to deny CLAY membership, adding that the umbrella organization should not associate itself with the negative messages he associates with CLAY.
“Dwight Hall is about social justice, and I think that denying women to choose what they want to do with their own bodies does not fit into their agenda at all,” he said.
Van Donselaar pointed to the Reproductive Rights Action League and the Women’s Center as alternative groups where students could engage in pro-choice discussions. While CLAY and RALY groups have similar levels of membership, van Donselaar said they are important regardless of their sizes.
The March for Life will not be the first pro-life demonstration with which Yale students have been involved. Tokarz said many CLAY members have attended other local demonstrations and organized “Vita et Veritas” — an annual pro-life conference that invites students from other Ivy League schools — at the Saint Thomas More Center for Catholic Life at Yale. According to the conference website, the event hopes to unite students engaged with pro-life organizations that have felt their opinions “marginalized or condemned” on large liberal university campuses.
Behling, who was the co-director of last year’s conference, said she was pleased with the attendance of the conference and that she hopes to extend invitations to more schools in 2015.
Jim McGlone, president of Harvard Right for Life, a pro-life organization similar to CLAY, said his organization has been able to receive funding from different Harvard groups, allowing the organization of 20 members to participate in events like the “March for Life,” to continue their service projects and to host guest speakers.
“We definitely are in support of CLAY and their efforts,” he said. “We hope to walk with them at the March on Thursday to promote solidarity among the Ivy League schools.”
The first “March for Life” took place in 1973.