The big story in the blog world today is about a Yale art student whose senior thesis involves repeatedly artificially inseminating herself and then aborting. The student’s stated goal is to “inspire some sort of discourse.”
What I find interesting, though, is that even at ultra-left MetaFilter, almost all of the commenters find this project distasteful, with frequent statements such as this one: “I’m pretty darn ‘liberal’ when it comes to abortion and all that, but this rubs me the wrong way, though I’m not entirely sure of the reason why.”
The discussion went on for a good 80 comments before someone posted something similar to what I’ve been thinking, which provide a reason for the commenter quoted above:
This art is shocking and provocative but that is not to diminish it. It is not an empty shock to me. It is filled with real and legitimate questions on how abortion and pregnancy works in our society. The way I see it is it is sort of a completly unspoken truce where most Americans don’t really like abortion but they get that women generally don’t take the decision lightly, they wouldn’t get an abortion unless they thought it was really important.
Now in this case a women is getting pregnant and ending the pregnancy for its own sake. The abortion is the point rather than a means to an end (which is vaguely agreed to be having a child later when you can take better care of it) She is asserting and questioning her own right to do this. She is pointing out that this right which is nearly absolute is in a way contingent on the reason behind it. At the same time though, where is the harm? The fetuses were not developed, the body sometimes rejects a fetus. This is a part of life. And what about her feelings, pregnancy is supposed to have a deep bond between the mother and child what is necessary for this to occur? Is this absolute? Is there something wrong when that isn’t there? What does she feel about these children, is she a monster for not thinking what we expect?
We have taken a biological reality and built this mythology around it and it might be that the mythology is an important and necessary part of what it is to be human or it might not be, and this art, I think, actually helps us answer this question.
There’s your hoped-for discourse right there.
UPDATE: Yale now says that this project never happened; it was a ‘creative fiction.’ If so, the artist still achieved her stated goal.