Published April 17, 2008
A Yale student's stunning claims of repeatedly artificially inseminating herself and then taking drugs to induce miscarriages for her senior art project aren't true, the university said Thursday night.
The student, art major Aliza Shvarts, told several high-level Yale officials that she did not do the things she said she did in constructing the exhibit, according to a strongly worded statement issued by the Ivy League school and sent to FOXNews.com.
"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 S. Klasky, associate dean and vice president for public affairs at Yale. "Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art. Her art project includes visual representations, a press release and other narrative materials."
"She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art," Klasky said in the statement.
Before the university announced that Shvarts didn't actually perform the acts, the story about the project — first reported earlier Thursday by the Yale Daily News — sparked widespread disgust and outrage.
"It’s clearly depraved. I think the poor woman has got some major mental problems," National Right to Life Committee President Wanda Franz said. "She’s a serial killer. This is just a horrible thought."
The timing of Klasky's statement — more than 10 hours after the school paper published the report, which was picked up by several Web news outlets — indicated that Yale officials had taken Shvarts' claims seriously enough to launch a full-scale investigation.
"Her art project includes visual representations," Klasky wrote. "[Schvarts] 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. ... Had these acts been real they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns."
The stomach-turning display will be showcased next week — complete with depictions of blood samples and videos purportedly from the terminated pregnancies.
Critics on campus have said the display sounded like a shock-and-awe look at the highly sensitive issue of abortion and called it a sick stunt to get attention. The abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America also condemned the exhibit.
"This 'project' is offensive and insensitive to the women who have suffered the heartbreak of miscarriage," NARAL's communication director Ted Miller said in a statement.
Shvarts said the goal of the display was to encourage debate and discussion about the connection between art and the human body.
"I hope it inspires some sort of discourse," the college senior, whose age was withheld, told Yale's newspaper. "Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it, but it's not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone."
The young woman's campus phone has been disconnected, and she did not respond to e-mailed requests for an interview.
Shvarts told the Yale Daily News that she inseminated herself "as often as possible" and her sperm donors, whom she declined to identify, were not paid for their participation — but she did require them to be screened for STDs.
The drugs she claimed to have taken to induce contractions and miscarriages were legal and herbal in nature, according to Shvarts — who didn't specify what they were. The art major also insisted that she wasn't concerned about the effects of her research on her own body.
Had she impregnated herself, ob-gyn Dr. Manuel Alvarez said the young woman should have been worried because such actions are extremely unsafe. Alvarez, FOXNews.com's health managing editor, described forced miscarriages as "playing Russian roulette" with one's life.
Shvarts described her project to the Yale paper as a huge cube hanging from the ceiling and swathed in plastic sheeting smeared with her blood from the reported miscarriages. Videos taken of what the college student claimed were self-induced abortions in her bathtub will be projected both on the cube's sides and on the gallery walls.
The exhibit will be on public display from April 22 to May 1 at Yale's Holcombe T. Green Jr. Hall. Shvarts will be honored at a reception April 25.
Alvarez, who reacted to the project before the university had announced it was a work of fiction, said a real endeavor of this kind in the name of art would be offensive, harmful and insensitive, especially to women who face difficult choices about pregnancy or who aren't able to conceive.
"Anybody who trivializes a woman’s choice to terminate a pregnancy is really not contributing anything positive to these matters," he said.