by Steve Wagner
Yesterday, Yale University's Daily News published a story on a controversial senior art project in which the student, Aliza Shvarts, claimed to have artificially inseminated herself and induced abortion "as often as possible " in a nine month period.
Late yesterday, Yale officials submitted an official response claiming that the artist had confessed that the whole thing was a fiction created for the purpose of performance art.
Today, however, Shvarts has published her own response to the stories, claiming she really did inseminate herself and use abortifacients multiple times. She further claims that the question of whether she was ever pregnant or ever aborted an embryo is impossible to know. Since she used the abortifacients at the time when her period was to start, the blood flow may have included a conceived embryo, and maybe not. In fact, that's part of the point of her "art" piece, to make comment about who has authority to define things like pregnancy, abortion, and human life. At least that's my cursory reading of her essay. (Like much of modern art, Shvart's art piece is really a philosophical piece, and I'll comment on her philosophical point in a future post.)
As with most news stories, the most helpful thing about this story is that it provides a conversation starter. So, in that sense, Shvarts did achieve her goal. And this conversation starter doubles as an opportunity to build common ground. After all, just as most pro-choice and pro-life advocates agree that it's wrong to use abortion frivolously, most will also agree that abortion shouldn't be used as an art project.
That's common ground.
As I describe in Common Ground Without Compromise, though, this common ground provides a great opportunity to move the conversation forward to discuss disagreements.
My question is, "Why do you think abortion shouldn't be used this way?"
In the news stories I've linked above, we see some responses to this question:
"It discounts the gravity of the situation that is abortion." -pro-choice advocate
"The idea that someone would get pregnant for the explicit purpose of aborting the fetus is simply disgusting." -Christina Saffold, Yale Student
"This 'project' is offensive and insensitive to the women who have suffered the heartbreak of miscarriage." -NARAL Pro-Choice America
"Shvarts’ artwork treats humans as inanimate objects." - Yale student
Don't each of these responses lead to another question, namely, What is the unborn? If the unborn is something insignificant enough that we allow them to be legally killed, even for the sake of making an artistic (or philosophical...you be the judge) point, why be so concerned?
However you navigate the discussion once you're in it, there's no doubt most people think we should avoid using abortion in this way.
(HT: Kristan Hawkins at SFLA)