Fetal Subjects and Maternal Objects: Reproductive Technology and the New Fetal/Maternal Relation
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. 1996 Oct; 21(5): 515-535.
This essay examines three tendencies nurtured in the practices of reproductive technology -- tendencies with profoundly disturbing implications for us as individuals and as social beings. They are: 1) the increasing subjectification of the fetus (that is, the increasing tendency to posit a fetal subject), 2) the increasing objectification of the gestating woman, leading to her representation as interchangeable object rather than unique subject, and 3) the increasing tendency to conceive of the fetus and the mother as social, medical, and legal antagonists. Considering the construction of fetus, mother, and the fetal/maternal relation in earlier (Western) historical periods, a contemporary work of literature, a government report, and the popular press, I argue that as the fetus is increasingly being understood as a subject, the mother is increasingly being reduced to an antagonist, an obstacle to fetal health, and an object. The essay concludes by offering some tentative conclusions about the general process of fetal subjectification in the United States and Europe.
Advisory Committees; Diagnosis; Embryo Research; Embryos; Ethics; Feminist Ethics; Fetal Development; Fetuses; Genes; Government; Government Regulation; Health; Health Facilities; Historical Aspects; In Vitro Fertilization; Killing; Literature; Mothers; Pregnant Women; Prenatal Diagnosis; Regulation; Reproductive Technologies; Research; Social Control; Socioeconomic Factors; Technology; Viability;
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