Yale Student Insists Abortion Art Project Is Real, Despite University's Claims of 'Creative Fiction'
A Yale University student who touched off a campus firestorm with her shocking claims of repeatedly artificially inseminating herself and then inducing miscarriages as part of an art project stood by her story Friday, despite statements from the university that her version of events is "creative fiction."
In a guest column that ran in Friday's Yale Daily News — which first reported her claims in Thursday's edition — senior art major Aliza Shvarts maintained that she had conducted artificial inseminations and carried out what she characterized as self-induced miscarriage procedures, though she never actually knew whether she was pregnant.
"For the past year, I performed repeated self-induced miscarriages," Shvarts wrote in Friday's column. "Using a needleless syringe, I would inject the sperm near my cervix within 30 minutes of its collection, so as to insure the possibility of fertilization.
"On the 28th day of my cycle, I would ingest an abortifacient, after which I would experience cramps and heavy bleeding. ... Because the miscarriages coincide with the expected date of menstruation (the 28th day of my cycle), it remains ambiguous whether the there (sic) was ever a fertilized ovum or not.
"The reality of the pregnancy, both for myself and for the audience, is a matter of reading."
She reiterated that the display, which she herself drew attention to with a press release circulated Wednesday, was meant to provoke discussion about the link between art and the human body.
"This piece — in its textual and sculptural forms — is meant to call into question the relationship between form and function as they converge on the body," she wrote.
Click here to read Aliza Shvarts' column in Friday's Yale Daily News.
Yale officials disputed Shvarts' story, and in a strongly-worded statement Thursday night said the student told several high-level university officials that she did not do the things she said she did in constructing the exhibit.
Shvarts told Yale College Dean Peter Salovey and two other senior officials investigating her claims that she neither impregnated herself nor experienced any self-induced miscarriages, the campus newspaper reported.
"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," Helaine S. Klasky, associate dean and vice president for public affairs at Yale, said in the statement sent to FOXNews.com.
"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."
Shvarts' campus phone has been disconnected, and she did not respond to e-mailed requests for an interview. While she did not explicitly mention Yale officials' version of events in her Friday column, Klasky told various media that Shvarts had indicated what she would do if the university contended her story was false.
"She said if Yale puts out a statement saying she did not do this, she would say Yale was doing that to protect its reputation," Klasky told The Associated Press.
The public affairs official also wrote an e-mail to the Yale Daily News late Thursday night saying that Shvarts "denial is part of her performance. We are disappointed that she would deliberately lie to the press in the name of art.”
Shvarts shot back at the school, claiming her project was “university sanctioned,” according to the paper.
“I’m not going to absolve them by saying it was some sort of hoax when it wasn’t,” she told the Daily News. “I started out with the university on board with what I was doing, and because of the media frenzy they’ve been trying to dissociate with me. Ultimately I want to get back to a point where they renew their support.”
Shvarts said her project had the backing of Yale's Davenport College Dean Craig Harwood, as well as at least two faculty members within the School of Art.
The Yale Daily News' top editor said Friday that the paper stands by all its coverage of the controversy.
"The Yale Daily News stands by its original as well as its subsequent reporting," wrote editor in chief Andrew Mangino in an e-mail to FOXNews.com.
He said there had always been uncertainty as to whether or not Shvarts had managed to get herself pregnant and induce actual miscarriages.
"From the beginning, there was ambiguity as to whether or not Aliza Shvarts had successfully impregnated herself — the original story points out that she did not take a pregnancy test and refused to provide some key details of her self-insemination," he said. "But the fact remains that she might have been pregnant on multiple occasions."
The art major told the paper that Yale misrepresented her explanation of her work to school officials, according to Mangino.
"Although an official Yale statement suggested, though did not outright state, that her project essentially amounted to a hoax, Ms. Shvarts told the News on Thursday that this very statement was misleading and an inaccurate representation of what she had told school officials earlier in the day," Mangino said.
"This story, on one level, therefore amounts to a he-said-she-said with ambiguous language being employed by all parties."
But the editor said the paper's coverage by a team of four reporters and five editors "indicates that Aliza's project is not a hoax."
Yale officials didn't respond to requests for a reaction to Shvarts' column, but did confirm their comments in Friday's Daily News article were accurate.
Before the university contended that Shvarts did not actually perform the acts, the story about the project sparked widespread disgust and outrage, with critics characterizing the young woman as sick, depraved, unethical and attention-seeking. Advocates on both sides of the abortion-rights debate condemned the exhibit.
In standing by her work, Shvarts on Friday provided further details, saying she is the only one who knows how many sperm donors — whom she calls "fabricators" — she used and which herbal drugs she took to induce the possible "miscarriages."
"To protect myself and others, only I know the number of fabricators who participated, the frequency and accuracy with which I inseminated and the specific abortifacient I used," the college senior wrote in her Daily News column. "Because of these measures of privacy, the piece exists only in its telling."
Yale issued its statement several hours after the campus paper first published the story on Thursday, suggesting that university officials had taken the young woman's claims seriously enough to launch a full-scale investigation and question her directly.
"Her art project includes visual representations," said Klasky. "[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."
Whether it's real or fake, the exhibit — which Shvarts has described as a large cube suspended from the ceiling and wrapped in layers of plastic that are smeared with blood samples from the purported miscarriages mixed with Vaseline — is slated to be unveiled next week.
Videos she claims show her experiencing induced miscarriages in her bathtub will be projected on the sides of the cube and the gallery walls.
"The most poignant aspect of this representation — the part most meaningful in terms of its political agenda (and, incidentally, the aspect that has not been discussed thus far) — is the impossibility of accurately identifying the resulting blood," Shvarts wrote.
The exhibit will be on public display from April 22 to May 1 at Yale's Holcombe T. Green Jr. Hall. Shvarts is scheduled to be honored at a reception April 25.
The young woman gave Daily News reporters a tour of her studio and a sneak peak at the footage included in the upcoming exhibit that has stirred such controversy. The campus paper published a photo of Shvarts at work.
"Two News reporters demanded and received physical evidence as well as graphic (and, at times, bloody) photographs in order to confirm that the project indeed has a physical manifestation beyond the shock value of its public explanation," Mangino told FOXNews.com. "It does."
Before coming to Yale, Shvarts was a student at The Buckley School, a Los Angeles prep school for children in kindergarten through the 12th grade. She graduated as valedictorian, according to Buckley's Web site — which by Friday had removed archived references to Shvarts.
Buckley officials did not return calls seeking comment.
During her time at Yale, Shvarts penned an essay about getting her period for the first time in 1999, which was posted on a site called My Little Red Book with girls' writings about the experience.
She also apparently constructed an art installation addressing the same subject as part of a series she called "Disarticulation." Both her written and art pieces about menstruation are titled "The Ming Period."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.