Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 7–19

Ultrasound: A Window to the Womb?: Obstetric Ultrasound and the Abortion Rights Debate

  • Joanne Boucher

DOI: 10.1023/

Cite this article as:
Boucher, J. Journal of Medical Humanities (2004) 25: 7. doi:10.1023/


This paper explores the rhetoric of obstetric ultrasound technology as it relates to the abortion debate, specifically the interpretation given to ultrasound images by opponents of abortion. The tenor of the anti-abortion approach is precisely captured in the videotape, Ultrasound:A Window to the Womb. Aspects of this videotape are analyzed in order to tease out the assumptions about the (female) body and about the access to truth yielded by scientific technology (ultrasound) held by militant opponents of abortion. It is argued that the ultrasound images do not offer transparent confirmation of the ontological status of the embryo and fetus. Rather, the “window” of ultrasound is constructed through a complex combination of visual and verbal devices: ultrasound images, photographic images, verbal argument, and emotional appeal.

obstetric ultrasoundfetal imageryabortionontology

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanne Boucher
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PoliticsUniversity of WinnipegManitobaCanada