Now is a good time to talk reproductive rights.

The Council of Europe, composed of representatives from 47 nations, recently released its first official statement calling for all members to legalize or decriminalize abortion. And although abortion is already legal in many of the countries, it may drastically affect places like Ireland, where the law books still say a woman could be jailed for life for undergoing the procedure.

Back on our side of the pond, the Third Wave Foundation declared the past week the first annual “National Week of Action for Reproductive Justice.” The occasion is one of the many valiant efforts pro-choice Americans are making to thwart the U.S. government’s increasingly conservative reproductive legislation.

Unfortunately, Yale art student Aliza Shvarts and her controversial art exhibit overshadowed this Week of Action. Her exhibit, which is currently deferred by the Yale administration, was a performance art piece with a miscarriage theme.

According to Shvarts, she spent a period of nine months routinely artificially inseminating herself and then herbally inducing abortions. Shvarts intended to display the blood and matter she collected throughout the process and project video images of her in the bathtub undergoing the “miscarriages.”

Although her exhibit was produced and planned long before the Third Wave Foundation announced the Week of Action or the Council of Europe issued its legalization plea, the contrast is chilling.

According to Yale officials, Shvarts’ performance was entirely fictitious and the blood was merely that of her menstruation. Shvarts is adamantly denying this and sticking to claims of authenticity.

Hopefully, for the sake of her health and sanity, she is lying and it is in fact a hoax. But whether or not it was “real,” the exhibit has made its point … which is what, exactly? While pushing the envelope in art and thought is vital for cultural progression, one has to wonder if she had a point at all.

If she meant to make a pro-choice statement, her efforts were terribly counterproductive. Aside from shock value, the biggest thing that can be taken away from this exhibit is that it is harmful to the fight for reproductive justice.

For years pro-lifers have been skewing the pro-choice argument to turn “pro-choice” into “pro-murder” and “pro-killing babies.” These allegations are so far from true that, normally, they would seem foolish. However, in light of Shvarts’ exhibit, they gain a grain of unfortunate legitimacy.

In order for reproductive justice to be fully achieved, it must become common, basic knowledge that abortion is not a method of birth control. That it is not to be abused, misused, or casually executed. “Pro-choice” is exactly that: the movement to uphold a woman’s right to choose, in the right circumstances, the course of her own body’s reproduction.

Just as abortion is not a means for birth control, it is most certainly not a medium for art. If Shvarts was attempting to make a radical political statement, which remains unclear and unachieved, it backfired. Her piece cripples the struggle for reproductive rights and will fuel the fire for anti-abortionists.

Whatever her intentions and whatever the truth about the exhibit’s legitimacy, she was successful in two ways, neither of which are positive. She succeeded in producing “art” that did nothing but induce shock, discomfort and negative portrayals of something many people have worked very hard to decriminalize and de-stigmatize.

Secondly, she succeeded in providing anti-abortion conservatives, religious fundamentalists and right-wing extremists the example they needed to further their cause. Sadly, she will become their shining example of what happens when women are given reproductive freedom.