Yale Student’s Senior Project: Abortion Art

If you’ve had your eye on the news the past couple of weeks, you might be aware of the recent controversy (to put it mildly) surrounding Aliza Shvarts, an art student at Yale. Shvarts intended to submit a senior art project that she asserts centered upon a nine-month long process of repeated artificial insemination attempts and possible self-induced miscarriages using abortifacient drugs.

I use the word “attempts,” and “possible” because Shvarts never actually knew whether she was pregnant during the process. I say “she asserts” because it still remains unclear whether the project was a “creative fiction” or Shvarts actually did what she claims. (Read an overview here.)

This story points to an entire host of important issues, only a couple of which I’ll touch upon here:

1. The Yale Daily News reported that “students on both ends of the abortion debate have expressed shock—saying the project does everything from violate moral code to trivialize abortion.” As someone with a biblical conviction that abortion is wrong, I would sadly but clearly label Shvarts’ project, if real, as both shockingly tragic and profoundly immoral. In fact, even as a “creative fiction,” I’d be obligated to state the project remains seriously reprehensible. Conversely, it seems much less clear how anyone from a pro-abortion position can decry Shvarts’ actions as anything more than a public relations liability. In other words, from such a perspective, she might needlessly be offending the sensibilities of those on the other side of the issue, but she’s done nothing intrinsically wrong: such actions don’t constitute the taking of a life and individuals, after all, have a right to do with their bodies as they please. As for trivializing the act of abortion, my sincere question is this: isn’t that, in essence, the very thing abortion rights supporters are consistently seeking to do in some measure?

2. The same article quoted Shvarts as saying, “I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity. I think that I’m creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be.” I agree that art is often an effective and powerful means to communicate ideas in both overt and subtle ways. But to consider it solely as a “medium for politics and ideologies”—a perspective that many Christians often share, differing only in the content of the ideology—leaves art indistinguishable from bare propaganda. This perspective forgets that art has worth simply in demonstrating creativity and beauty. These are qualities valued by God himself and, consequently, appreciated instinctively by those he has made in his image. (For similar thoughts, see Lucas Kwong’s “Art, Politics, and Sex Week at Yale.”)

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