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Politics of Fetal Ultrasound

Who thought that there was anything controversial about posting a fetal ultrasound image on your refrigerator or on Facebook, or even framed on your mantle? A new book with the astonishing title Feminist Surveillance Studies, edited by Rachel E. Dubrofsky and Shoshana Amielle Magnet, explains that these images can fuel the movement to declare the fetus a person:

Many scholars of reproductive technology…have long argued that obstetric ultrasound technology has created a “cult of the public fetus.” The fetus becomes a fetishized figure….Established as a separate visual identity outside the mother, the fetus becomes a public persona in the U.S. cultural imagination, used for agendas that range from selling Volvos to promoting anti-abortion campaigns. In the words of Paul P. Brodwin, “Laparoscopy and fetal photography…furnish ever more invasive and naturalized depictions of the fetus, which performs the crucial ideological work (in the context of new Right politics in the United States) of visually separating mother and fetus, asserting fetal autonomy, and reducing women to passive reproducing machines.”