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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.

Type

Journal article

Journal

Journal of Practical Ethics

Publisher

University of Oxford, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics

Publication Date

28/12/2018

Volume

6

Pages

1 - 31