Health Care Analysis

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 387–400 | Cite as

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

  • Ingrid Zechmeister
Article

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.

abortion debate biomedicine feminist theories foetal `personhood' ultrasound technology in antenatal care visualisation 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Adams, A. (1993) Out of the Womb: The Future of the Uterine Metaphor. Feminist Studies 19, 269-289.Google Scholar
  2. Annandale, E. andClark, J. (1996) What Is Gender? Feminist Theory and the Sociology of Human Reproduction. Sociology of Health & Illness 18(1), 17-44.Google Scholar
  3. Annandale, E. (1998) The Sociology of Health and Medicine: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  4. Baille, C. andMason, G. (1997) The psychological impact of obstetric ultrasound scans and soft marker screening. Imaging 9, 117.Google Scholar
  5. Bazin, A. (1980) The Ontology of the Photographic Image. In: A. Trachtenberg (Ed.), Classic Essays on Photography. New Haven: Leete's Island Books.Google Scholar
  6. Callahan J.C. andKnight, J.W. (1992) Women, Fetuses, Medicine and the Law. In: H.B. Holmes andL.M Purdy (Eds.), Feminist Perspectives in Medical Ethics. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Campbell R. andPorter, S. (1997) Feminist Theory and the Sociology of Childbirth: A Response to Ellen Annandale and Judith Clark. Sociology of Health & Illness 19(3), 353.Google Scholar
  8. Davis-Floyd, R.E. (1994) The Technocratic Body: American Childbirth as Cultural Expression. Social Science and Medicine 38(8), 1125-1140.Google Scholar
  9. De Jong, M. andKemmler, G. (1999) Kaiserschnitt-Narben an Seele und Bauch. Ein Ratgeber für Kaiserschnittmütter, 3rd ed. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer.Google Scholar
  10. Der Standard (2000) Abreibungsdebatte nicht den Ideologen überlassen. Der Standard 12 December 2000, 30.Google Scholar
  11. Derrida, J. (1981) Positions. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  12. Enkin, M. et al. (1995) A Guide to Effective Care in Pregnancy & Childbirth, 2nd edn. Oxford: University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Evans, F. (1985) Managers and Labourers: Women's Attitudes to Reproductive Technology. In: W. Faulkner et al. (Eds.), Smothered by Intervention. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  14. Firestone, S. (1970) The Dialectic of Sex. New York: Bantom Books.Google Scholar
  15. Foucault, M. (1982) The Subject and Power. In: Dreyfus/Rabinow (Eds.), Michael Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics.Google Scholar
  16. Franklin, S. (1991) Fetal fascinations: New Dimensions to the Medical-Scientific Construction of Fetal Personhood. In: S. Franklin et al. (Eds.), Off-Centre. Feminism and Cultural Studies. London: Harper Collins Academic.Google Scholar
  17. Franklin, S. (1997) Fetal Fascinations: New Dimensions to the Medical-Scientific Construction of Fetal Personhood. In: S. Kamp andJ. Squires (Eds.), Feminism. Oxford: University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Harraway, D. (1991) Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Hubbard, R. (1989) Personal Courage Is not Enough: Some Hazards of Childbearing in the 1980s. In: R. Arditti et al. (Eds.), Test-Tube Women. What Future for Motherhood?. London: Pandora-Press.Google Scholar
  20. Hunter, D. (1994) From Tribalism to Corporatism: The Managerial Challenge to Medical Dominance. In: J. Gabe et al. (Eds.), Challenging Medicine. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Johnson, M.H. andEveritt, B.J. (1995) Essential Reproduction, 4th ed. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  22. Keller E.F. andGrontkowski, C.R. (1983) The Mind's Eye. In: S.G. Harding andM.B. Hintikka (Eds.), Discovering Reality. Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar
  23. Kilby, M.D. (1998) Prenatal Diagnosis. The Way Ahead? Hospital Medicine 59(10), 752.Google Scholar
  24. Krieger, V. (1995) Der Kosmos-Fötus. Neue Schwangerschaftsästhetik und die Elimination der Frau. Feministische Studien 2, 8-24.Google Scholar
  25. Lukes, S. (1974) Power: A Radical View. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  26. Lupton, D. (1994) Medicine as Culture. Illness, Disease and the Body in Western Societies. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  27. Matisons, M.R. (1997) The New Feminist Philosophy of the Body. The European Journal of Women's Studies 5, 9-34.Google Scholar
  28. Mitchell, L.M. andGeorges, E. (1997) Cross-Cultural Cyborgs: Greek and CanadianWomen's Discourses on Fetal Ultrasound. Feminist Studies 23, 373-401.Google Scholar
  29. Morris, J. (1991) Pride Against Prejudices. Transforming Attitudes to Disability. London: Women's Press.Google Scholar
  30. Oakley, A. (1984) The Captured Womb. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  31. Overall, Ch. (1987) Ethics and Human Reproduction. A Feminist Analysis. London: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  32. Palumbo, M.L. (2000) New Wombs: Electronic Bodies and Architectrual Disorders. Basel: Birkhäuser. 400Google Scholar
  33. Petechsky, R. (1987) Foetal Images. The Power of Visual Culture in the Politics of Reproduction. In: M. Stanworth (Ed.), Reproductive Technologies, Gender, Motherhood and Medicine. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  34. Piercy, M. (1976). Women on the Edge of Time. New York: Fawcett Crest Books.Google Scholar
  35. Proud, J. andMurphy-Black, T. (1997) Choice of a Scan: How Much Info DoWomen Receive before Ultrasound. British Journal of Midwifery 5(3), 144-147.Google Scholar
  36. Rapp, R. (1990) Constructing Amniocentesis. Maternal and Medical Discourses. In: F. Ginsburg andA.L. Tsing (Eds.), Uncertain Terms. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  37. Rich, A. (1977) Of Women Born. Motherhood as Institution. London: Virago.Google Scholar
  38. Roseneil, S. (1999) Postmodern Feminist Politics. The Art of the (Im)possible? The European Journal of Women Studies 6, 161-182.Google Scholar
  39. Rothman, B.K. (1994) The Tentative Pregnancy. Amniocentesis and the Sexual Politics of Motherhood, 2nd ed. London: Pandora.Google Scholar
  40. Rudinow S.A. (1997) Ultrasound Discourse. Contested Meanings of Gender and Technology in the Norwegion Ultrasound Screening Debate. The European Journal of Women's Studies 3, 55-75.Google Scholar
  41. Taylor, J.S. (2000) Of Sonograms and Baby Prams: Prenatal Diagnosis, Pregnancy and Consumption. Feminist Studies 26, 391-418.Google Scholar
  42. The Science and Technology Subgroup (1991) Feminism and Abortion: Past, Present and Futures. In: S. Franklin et al. (Eds.), Off-Centre. Feminism and Cultural Studies. London: Harper Collins Academic.Google Scholar
  43. Tymstra, T.J. et al. (1991) Women's opinions on the offer and use of prenatal diagnosis. Prenatal Diagnosis 11, 893-898.Google Scholar
  44. Waldenstrom, U. et al. (1988) Effects of Routine One-Stage Ultrasound Screening in Pregnancy: A Randomised Control Trial. The Lancet 2, 585-588.Google Scholar
  45. Wertz, D.C. andFletcher, J.C. (1993) A Critique of Some Feminist Challenges to Prenatal Diagnosis. Journal of Women's Health bf 2(2), 173-188.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ingrid Zechmeister
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social PolicyVienna University of Economics and Business AdministrationViennaAustria

Personalised recommendations