I need to have experienced pregnancy to avoid being hypocritical.   7 comments

I am going to have to say that I feel like such a hypocrite having formed such strong opinions on situations such as those Rapp has given in her text…but I really just can’t help it.  I can’t imagine what this is like for all the guys in the class….

Every single section of every single chapter, I keep returning to that notion of female responsibility – motherly responsibility – caregiver responsibility.  In Chapter 4, she states that, “Most obviously, scientific knowledge assigns each parent a 50 percent contribution to the hereditary materials of a fetus at the moment of conception…” but later brings to light the reality that, “The widespread, popular accountability of women for the ‘quality control’ of fetuses and children contrasts with notions of male responsibility” (86-87).

This overwhelming scale tipping weight of responsibility on the woman or mother in Chapter 5 gives me a second thought on even entertaining the notion of becoming pregnant.  As much as pro-choicers like to give women the autonomy to choose life or abortion, in the case of the amnio test, the woman not only has a responsibility  to a fetus (or life), but also to her commitment to carry out a preganacy (and especially if there is a disability involved due to the shift of the sociocultural view on protection of disabled persons in heavy contrast with those views less than a century ago).  If she has already told friends, family members, facebook – and most importantly shared this information with her partner – how much of a let down/stage for disappointment will be reflected upon her as she vocalizes her desire to abort the fetus based on a disability?  Not only does she have expectations of responsibility for herself- so do others in her life and the society she lives in.

Rapp states that, “Ending a pregnancy to which one is already commited because of a particular diagnosed disability foces each woman to act as a moral philosopher of the limits, adjudicating the standards guarding entry into the human community for which she serves as normalizing gatekeeper” (131).  As insincere this may sounds, brought to mind here is the notion of natural selection and survival of the fittest in nature at large.  As we place the responsibility of life or death of the disabled lions, birds, tigers, etc. in the wild on nature itself (I hear myself saying as I watch National Geographic, “That’s just the way it is, they wouldn’t have been able to survive and the mother can’t look after that baby forever because she has to survive and live as well”)….as humans the value of life is too great to view reproduction in this manner, primarily due to ethical discussions such as these in Rapp’s text.  So while we place no responsibilities on mothers in the wild for adjudicating the standards guarding entry into their communities, there is such a heavy weight for mothers in the human community.

So, I guess my questions that revolve around ethical responsibility are:

By performing amnio tests, who’s best interests are really at mind – mother or fetus?

Also, I question the intentions of this test – is it really designed as an informational tool for parents – or is it designed really to turn mothers into these so called gatekeepers, forcing them to assume the responsibility of sole permissor for life in this world – perpetuating that male responsibility is just a “creative spark”…after all – it IS all about a woman’s choice – right (sarcasm in its heaviest here)?

Posted September 28, 2010 by terieleawatkins in Uncategorized

7 responses to “I need to have experienced pregnancy to avoid being hypocritical.

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  1. In my attempt to take a philosophical approach, I don’t think there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer when it comes to the ethics of prenatal decision-making, only what we personally affirm or deny according to our own individual or collective worldview, belief system or circumstances. Even saying that though sounds luke warm to me — I’m wondering if it might just be easier to lean into my subjectivity these days. I don’t think not having been pregnant is a valid basis for not feeling like one is entitled to having or voicing a point of view about the matter. I know that, as a man, I would be very vocal in every aspect of the decision-making involved in bringing a child into the world, especially concerning potential risks. I don’t believe for a second that a woman is ever the ONLY one making the decisions surrounding the child she carries (I think there are going to be many factors, seen and unseen). But, it is an interesting issue to debate, and I look forward to hearing others’ perspective on this.

    • Kevin says,”I know that, as a man, I would be very vocal in every aspect of the decision-making involved in bringing a child into the world, especially concerning potential risks. I don’t believe for a second that a woman is ever the ONLY one making the decisions surrounding the child she carries (I think there are going to be many factors, seen and unseen). But, it is an interesting issue to debate, and I look forward to hearing others’ perspective on this.”

      We have read about tons of factors that affect women’s opinions regarding pregnancy at any stage. . .family life, age, culture, and religion are the ones that stick out to me. When it comes to a partner (regardless of gender. . .”as a man”) weighing in on their partner’s pregnancy, I am all for it! That kind of participation is good for the whole family unit; however, we do still have to keep in mind the reality that men can and do abdicate responsibility for children in a way that women rarely do.

      When men weigh in on the big picture, i.e. what women can or should be able to do with their pregnancies, it can be frustrating because most men making policy are not taking into consideration the “stand point” and circumstances of many women.

  2. Hi All:

    I imagine one purpose of the test is based on the assumption that all pregnant women will respond the way a detached doctor responds to a positive (bad) result. Eliminate the biological error and start again.


  3. It certainly is difficult for the men in the class to feel empowered to comment on this book. Apart from having a role as a potential father in dialog with his pregnant partner, we are for the most part spectators and commentators. I can say, for instance, that I have a friend with a Downs child, and have seen the joys and sorrows. I know they wanted a child at almost any cost; I don’t know if they had the amnio test. Etc.

    One theme that we can discuss as texts and technology theorists as how the amnio test in particular represents a case where biomedical technology confounds rather than assuages this life process, due to the fact that the test must be done so late into pregnancy that interpellation has already made a baby out of a fetus. After the sonograms, baby showers, Facebook announcements, and other preparations, as so many of us noted. And confounded even further by the long wait for results, and finally the complexity and pain of the abortion procedures.

    • Certainly, John, we should talk about what you mention because it is central to understanding the thematic issues many of us are trying to get our heads around.
      The “myth of progress” is valuable to invoke for this discussion.

  4. In Terie’s connection to “natural selection and survival of the fittest,” I have to remind us, as Rapp does in Ch1 that eugenics is a slippery slope, and it depends on our interpretation of “fitness” to survive. Also, noted by Rapp, in cultures where girl children are not valued as highly as boy children, selective abortions are happening on the basis of a “gender diagnosis.”
    If survival of the fittest were to rule the human jungle, we would “eliminate” all kinds of less fit individuals: the old, the deaf, the sick. . .creepy, right.

    I just want to advise against this kind of conflation because the terms are not at all similar.

    • Jen I totally get where you are coming from – and that list that you give are considered “disabilities” to an extent dependent on who you are talking to and in what context you are referring to them.

      While not all disabilities (as Rapp discusses over and over and over) are visible – the *handicap* is really what I think Rapp is getting at in her chapters…especially when she talks about embedded issues.

      I just think that “disability” is such a loaded word…and not to mention a very misunderstood and broaaaaaaad term in itself….and Rapp herself conflates some of these terms often….making what I think for a more compelling argument in some places…and in others an attempt at an emotional appeal and nothing more.

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