Seeing, Feeling, Doing: Mandatory Ultrasound Laws, Empathy and Abortion
Journal of Practical Ethics, Volume 6, Number 2, December 2018
31 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2019
Date Written: December 28, 2018
In recent years, a number of US states have adopted laws that require pregnant women to have an ultrasound examination, and be shown images of their foetus, prior to undergoing a pregnancy termination. In this paper, I examine one of the basic presumptions of these laws: that seeing one’s foetus changes the ways in which one might act in regard to it, particularly in terms of the decision to terminate the pregnancy or not. I argue that mandatory ultrasound laws compel women into a position of moral spectatorship and require them to recognise the foetus as a being for whom they are responsible, particularly through empathic responses to ultrasound images. The approach I propose extends the project of a bioethics of the image and highlights the need for a critical analysis of the political mobilization of empathy in discussions of abortion.
Keywords: Practical Ethics, Medical Ethics, Abortion
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