The story of Yale University art student Aliza Shvarts who claimed multiple self-induced abortions and using the blood in her project swept the news outlets and the blogosphere. The story was picked up by the Drudge Report, The Washington Post, Fox News, Gateway Pundit, and Indigo Red.
"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," said Helaine Klasky, spokesperson for Yale. According to Klasky, Aliza Shvarts did not impregnate herself and did not induce abortions. The entire stunt was "performance art." Klasky said, "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."
Shvarts defended her project saying the Yale statement was "ultimately inaccurate." She continued to claim "she repeatedly use a needleless syringe to insert semen into herself. At the end of her menstrual cycle, she took abortifacient herbs to induce bleeding, she said. She said she does not know whether or not she was ever pregnant," wrote The Yale Daily. Shvarts was quoted saying, "No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen, because the nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties."
In rare agreement, the anti-abortion National Right to Life Committee and the pro-abortion NARAL released similar statements. NRLC said, "It's clearly depraved. I think the poor woman has got some major mental problems. She’s a serial killer. This is just a horrible thought." NARAL said, "This ‘project’ is offensive and insensitive to the women who have suffered the heartbreak of miscarriage."
No matter the intent, it was rude, foolish, and ultimately unoriginal. We saw, in 2003, Chinese performance artist Zhu Yu, "who displays photographs in which he washes a stillborn child in a sink and then consumes it." That, too, was a hoax.
J. Bottum wrote "Eating Babies" for the Jan 1, 2003 Weekly Standard. He wrote,
"We need a word for things that are so wrong, it is wrong even to report them--actions to which we somehow lend countenance just by entering into a discussion of why they are beyond all countenance. We saw some of this when Princeton University's Peter Singer proclaimed that a baby is less important than a pig and that we ought to have a twenty-eight-day trial period before we decide whether or not to let newborns continue living. The problem wasn't that we'd ever agree as a culture with Singer. The problem is that his position at Princeton made for a season the slaughter of the innocents a debatable moral question rather than an undebatable moral principle--the touchstone by which we are able to judge other moral propositions, like "eating the corpses of stillborn children is evil."2008, when a Yale University female art student can make a bogus claim in a college rag of repeated pregnancies and abortions and no one can conceive that it's a hoax. Our first reaction is not horror and dis-belief. No. Our first impulse today is horror and immediate, unquestioning credence in the abhorrent claims of a secular, liberal art student. That is how low we have descended from the heights of academia into the pit of depravity. We don't trust our own children to know the bounds of propriety because there are no bounds.
A few years ago, the London Daily Telegraph reported that "doctors at the state-run Shenzhen Health Centre for Women and Children hand out bottles of thumb-sized aborted babies to be made into meat cakes or soup with pork and ginger. Zou Qin, a doctor at the Luo Hu Clinic in Shenzhen, said the fetuses were 'nutritious' and that she had eaten one hundred herself in the last six months. 'We don't carry out abortions just to eat fetuses,' said Qin. '[But they would be] wasted if not eaten.'" And what--apart from vomiting--is the answer?
PRO-LIFE ACTIVISTS would certainly relate all this to abortion, and it's hard to say they're wrong. Once upon a time, we built hedge after hedge of protection around the deep things about life and death a culture must maintain. The hedges themselves are not all that important, but when they fall they weaken our defenses--however much those people who knock them down insist they are only clearing away a single hedge.
A prominent ethician once observed to me that back in the mid-1960s, when he first started in the field of what would come to be called bioethics, a standard discussion in medical ethics was about whether it was licit to terminate an ectopic pregnancy, in which the fetus was incapable of developing and its presence in a fallopian tube would quickly kill the mother. His point wasn't that we shouldn't allow the removal of an ectopic fallopian tube. It was, rather, that we used to assume even this life-saving procedure required a sophisticated and delicate argument before we permitted it. Hedge by hedge, that old sophistication and delicacy was bulldozed down until,
I wonder, if the Marquis de Sade were alive today, would he be proud that our oh-so-modern licentious society has come so far in realizing his ideal of extreme liberty and pursuit of personal pleasure unrestrained by all legal, moral, and religious bonds? Or would he merely think the insane asylums to which he was often sentenced had simply lost their walls and become the common world?
The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.