Potentiality of Life
The current legal attack on women’s reproductive rights with its turn to neuroscience underscores an important aspect of what Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala have called “framed democracy” and its reliance on an objectivist notion of truth and a foregrounding of rationalist science at the expense of any other potential modes or sources of knowledge. By permitting scientific data to replace thought, interpretation, and debate as the adjudicator of the legal limits of human life, fetal pain statutes seek to retrench age-old patriarchal models of gender inequality and subservience under the guise of objective knowledge. What is in fact a deployment of power by a metaphysically and theologically grounded ideology enters political discourse under the guise of scientific truth. Rights that have been wrested from entrenched power through generations of political struggle are represented as subordinate to scientific discovery, and as such subject to adjustment. But science has never determined personhood; the limits of human life have in all places and all cultures been determined by contested interpretations.