, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 387-400

Foetal Images: The Power of Visual Technology in Antenatal Care and the Implications for Women's Reproductive Freedom

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Abstract

Continuing medico-technical progress has led toan increasing medicalisation of pregnancy andchildbirth. One of the most common technologiesin this context is ultrasound. Based on someidentified `pro-technology feminist theories',notably the postmodernist feminist discourse,the technology of ultrasound is analysedfocusing mainly on social and political ratherthan clinical issues. As empirical researchsuggests, ultrasound is welcomed by themajority of women. The analysis, however, showsthat attitudes and decisions of women areinfluenced by broader social aspects. Furthermore, it demonstrates how the visualtechnology of ultrasound, in addition to otherreproductive technology in maternity care, islinked to the `personification' of the foetusand has therefore contributed to a new image ofthe foetus. The exploration of these issueschallenges some arguments of feministdiscourse. It draws attention to possibleadverse implications of the technology forwomen's reproductive freedom and indicates theimportance of the topic for politicaldiscussions.