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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Why we should embrace abortion art

    Two weeks ago, Yale art student Aliza Shvarts announced her senior art project: a scandalous work documenting a series of artificial inseminations, home-performed abortions and what might have been the resultant stillbirths.

    The display media was to contain blood from the process, and videos of the progression of the project. Unsurprisingly, people of all social persuasions became very upset, very quickly. The work was soon discredited as a hoax, or rather, as a reaction-provoking work of art in its own right. Shvarts, however, has claimed that explanation to be a cover-up, despite the fact that nobody has seen evidence of her project’s existence. Whether or not it happened, the response shows the level of hypocrisy that we tolerate in our culture. If the project is real, its images should not be limited to a one-time art exhibition. Rather, the content should be force-fed by broadcast into each and every American home.

    Many people, both for and against abortion, have claimed that Shvarts’ art concept is repugnant and degrading of humanity. Since when is the American public so squeamish? As a culture, we are first-rate consumers of violent video games, gang-themed rap, pornography, YouTube fight clubs and gritty sensationalist journalism. Our love-hate relationship with these media is an ongoing orgy of offense. To dismiss a depiction of abortion as “”offensive”” contradicts the social acceptability of many other artistic media that could arguably give offense. We, the voting public, are ultimately responsible for abortion’s legal status. As such, we have no right to demand that proof of the practice be swept under the rug for the sake of our comfort.

    Artificial inseminations are not prohibited by law. Abortion is legal in the United States – though doubtlessly limited to “”clinical”” settings. Stillbirths have been around as long as there have been mammals, and they are no great target of legislation. Because the opposition to this project could not reasonably be based on the illegality of the acts displayed, a value judgment must be involved.

    People with varying abortion stances oppose the art exhibit – a noteworthy Yale pro-choice students association denounced the project in a recent letter to the Yale student newspaper. Meanwhile, Yale has also been hounded by pro-life protestors. Why single out an art display centered on abortion? After all, according to most abortion supporters, it is just a choice, devoid of any rightness or wrongness. Since when does the depiction of a morally neutral act develop an identity of right or wrong? By assigning a morality to this art display, the public assigns a morality to the act displayed. If Yale should threaten to ban such a presentation, it implicitly claims an anti-abortion stance.

    Nowadays, taking a stance like that is to be avoided at all costs. Yale threatened to ban the display based on its inclusion of bodily fluids (a health and safety issue), or because it was not directed to the proper authority for approval (an administrative issue) or because it puts Yale’s students and staff in danger (a security issue). The school picks and chooses when to close these loopholes – remember, this is the same university that admitted Taliban spokesman Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi in 2006. The rejection of Schvarts’ controversial artwork is simply an example of the “”see no evil”” mentality that we Americans love. By dissociating the concept from the offensive act, we can tolerate the former without acknowledging the latter.

    If Shvarts’ abortion art project is indeed real, and as offensive as both Yale and the general public have claimed, we have a social responsibility to show it to the country. We already broadcast pictures of Abu Ghraib abuse, DUI- and meth-related mugshots and starving children in Haiti. By showing these uncomfortable images to the public, we are trying to confront the offensive root of these depictions. A great number of people, both those who support and those who oppose abortion, have been offended by the notion of Shvarts’ project. By ignoring, censoring or banning images such as Schvarts’, we elevate abortion to pure theory while divorcing it from its practice.

    The photos, videos and blood of Schvarts’ claimed project are needed to construct opinions about abortion, fertility, art and free speech at their most extreme limits. Rejecting reality for the sake of comfort leads us to ignorance (three cheers for the Ivy League, Yale.) So, pro-lifers, pro-choicers and anyone not yet aligned: If you can’t handle the image, confront the issue behind it.

    Mike Hathaway is a senior majoring in geography and Spanish and Portuguese. He can be reached at

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