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Re-negotiating reproductive technologies: the 'Public Foetus' revisited

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date06/2009
JournalFeminist Review
Journal numbern/a
Volume92
Number of pages18
Pages54-71
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

In debates over abortion, the foetus and the woman have been continually positioned as antagonists. Given the stakes involved in such debates about personal integrity, individual responsibility, life and death, it is no wonder that many radical feminist authors have concentrated on refocusing the attention on women and away from the disembodied foetus. Such writers have worked hard to decode and deconstruct the public foetus in our midst and have mobilized interpretative tools such as cultural criticism to contextualize the production and consumption of foetal images. Barbara Duden's book, The Public Foetus, is an important and interesting contribution to this effort, which is still taken up by authors writing in this field. Duden's strategy is to seek to remind us (and in particular those who are involved in reproductive medicine) that pregnancy is concentrated in the embedded pregnant woman rather than the disembodied ‘public foetus’ and she attempts to retrieve the embodied woman as the site of pregnancy through what Michaels has termed a ‘fetal disappearing act’. While this may create as many problems for women as it resolves, I would argue that, while the ‘public foetus’ continues to loom large in the politics of abortion and women's positions in relation to the new reproductive technologies remain contested, Duden's work remains important in the continuing debate about how women's reproductive freedom can be continually re-negotiated and re-established.