Prenatal diagnostic data and testing provides a similar function, and profoundly affects a pregnant woman's experience of her pregnancy and her fetus. Casper (1995) has argued that amniocentesis transforms pregnancy into a "tentative" event, contingent on the outcome of testing. And what kind of knowledge does this prenatal diagnostic data ο ffer pregnant women? Most significantly it will tell them whether or not their fetuses are genetically defective or monstrous. Yet, as Casper points out, "because there are currently very few treatment options for genetic diseases, prenatal diagnosis leaves pregnant women with only two "choices": abort or carry a potentially "defective" baby to term, often with significant clinical and social ramifications" (p189).
We are, after all, a culture that values "perfect", rather than "monstrous" babies. While these technologies can be viewed, and indeed are surly experienced as empowering for pregnant women which offers many social and economic benefits, Stabile has persuasively argued that paradoxically, prenatal diagnosis is able to function like this only because "the maternal space has, in effect, disappeared and what has emerged in its place is an environment that the fetus alone occupies. " (1992, p180) Ultrasound images, for example, are used to detect birth defects and "see" how many fetuses are inside the womb.
It does this by transforming an embodies fetal entity into a series of photographic images on film, allowing clinicians to focus on these images in forming diagnoses and eschew the more traditional forms of fetal diagnosis which involve direct contact with a woman's body. The ultrasound image does not "show" the mother, but rather symbolically and visually dissects the embodied fetus from her body, an in the domain ο f medical decision making, these techno-visual representations replace the organic fetus inside their mother's bodies (Casper, 1995, p188).
These foeto-centric practices that can be seen as threatening the pregnant woman's embodied agency and blurring the distinction between the physiological event of pregnancy and a woman's subjective experience of it is perhaps most strikingly represented in the practice of PMV (Post-Mortem Maternal Ventilation). In PMV brain-dead pregnant women are kept alive via intricate life-support or ventilation technologies in order to sustain the fetus until it grows to viability, at which point it is delivered.
These fetuses are not transformed by any outside technology, rather it is the dead mother who is transformed into the technology that keeps the fetus alive, described by surgeons as "the best heart-lung machine available" (Casper, 1995, p196). Hartouni has argued that the discourse surrounding PMV sustains the view that motherhood is a "natural condition and a state of bodily being, rather that a deliberate social activity", in which women are reduced to "biological tissue and process" (1991, p32). In this context, PMV could be seen as simply the most vivid reflection ο f the processes of recuperation also familiar to genetic reproductive technologies and prenatal diagnostics that are targeted at positioning reproduction within disciplinary structures, and are organized towards functionalizing women's reproductive power in line with the economic needs of contemporary society.
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