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

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Mills, Catherine, Seeing, Feeling, Doing: Mandatory Ultrasound Laws, Empathy and Abortion (December 28, 2018). Journal of Practical Ethics, Volume 6, Number 2, December 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3311513

Catherine Mills (Contact Author)

Monash University ( email )

23 Innovation Walk
Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3800
Australia

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