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Making Fetal Persons: Fetal homicide, ultrasound and the normative significance of birth

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journal contribution
posted on 21.08.2020 by Catherine Mills

The task of this paper is to examine the integration of obstetric ultrasound images in moral and legal debates on the status of the human fetus, particularly through the framework of the constitution of fetal personhood. I focus on the questions about the moral and legal significance of prenatal life and birth as construed through recent shifts in law toward so-called ‘fetal homicide’ laws. Throughout, I argue that the moral status of the fetus has a performative dimension, realised in the operation of obstetric ultrasound and the interpolation of the fetus as a person that it effects. As I show, in regard to the constitution of the fetus as person, obstetric ultrasound operates as a technological means of mediation between the human body and the concept of the person.

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An analysis of foetal imaging and the ethics of the selective termination of pregnancy

Australian Research Council

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