Thursday, April 17, 2008

Abortion performance art

A Yale senior's art project has come under criticism from the left and right:
Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.
Members of campus pro-choice and anti-abortion groups are repelled by the project. I'm curious about how reactions would differ were this project the product of a series of involuntary miscarriages. I understand that many women with fertility problems miscarry repeatedly. If one such woman began recording her experiences and saving the blood, how would we interpret that? What if the woman was aware that she was certain to repeatedly miscarry and intentionally became pregnant each time? The deliberate choice to abort is the pivot point here.

I'm also curious about which "legal and herbal" drugs Shvarts used. There's a reason most women go to Planned Parenthood and not GNC with an unwanted pregnancy. Herbal supplements are unlikely to reliably cause miscarriages, and the danger and uncertainty increases as the pregnancy progresses. Was she taking supplements to bring on a week-late period or self-aborting several weeks into a pregnancy? (The description of the project makes it sound like only there was only blood collected, which would suggest the former.) This seems like a fraud of some kind, or at least a misrepresentation.

UPDATE: The university states that there were no actual pregnancies:
Statement by Helaine S. Klasky — Yale University, Spokesperson

New Haven, Conn. — April 17, 2008

Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art. Her art project includes visual representations, a press release and other narrative materials. She stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages. The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman’s body.

She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art.

Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns.
UPDATE 2: Shvarts raises serious mental and physical health concerns, claims that university statement was inaccurate.
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