Ultrasound technology often carries with it a positive connotation for expectant mothers and fathers, who eagerly want a glimpse of their first son or daughter.
With more children, the process becomes more matter-of-fact than unique, but parents generally have a favorable outlook towards it, posting pictures to social media and sharing 4-D video imaging with family and friends.
An ultrasound image is a central part of gender reveal and stoking excitement for a new pregnancy, but to one pundit, they are a tool of the political right meant to disenfranchise women from the birth process by discouraging the option of abortion.
In a piece for the Atlantic entitled, “The Politics of Ultrasound,” columnist Moira Weigel argues that the technology has been used to create sped-up videos that “falsely depict a response to stimulus.”
Weigel’s piece is well-researched, tracing the history of ultrasound technology and its impact on the public back to a January 1965 Life magazine article entitled “A Sonar ‘Look’ at an Unborn Baby.”
Weigel argues that the “heartbeat flicker” found on those original ultrasound images is really “not a change of state but a threshold of the imaging technology.”
— Republican For Trump (@_Political_News) January 24, 2017
She calls out Swedish photojournalist Lennart Nilsson for his “dramatic color photographs” of an unborn fetus from a separate Life magazine article, reminding readers that Nilsson admitted he “staged his photographs using aborted material” and that this “was how he had been able to manipulate the position and lighting of the embryos to such dramatic effect.”
The thrust of Weigel’s criticisms are not against the viability of ultrasound technology, but of how it is often used by right-wing politicians in the U.S. to tell a narrative that removes a woman’s choice from the childbirth process by exhibiting the fetus as an independent vessel, or as she puts it, “The framing of the ultrasound image was notable for what it excluded: the woman.”
“In order to make the fetus visible, it made her disappear,” Weigel added.
Abortion rights continue to be contentiously debated among left- and right-wing political ideologies almost 50 years after the historic U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized the procedure nationally.
The nation received a reminder of that this week with the Women’s March and Right to Life March events within days of one another.
With President Donald Trump speaking out against abortion and promising to look for pro-life U.S. Supreme Court Justice picks, the issue is likely to continue dominating headlines for the next four years.
But ultrasound technology is not usually a centerpiece of these discussions, which makes Weigel’s piece all the more compelling.
Of course, what the article does exclude are the realities of an unborn fetus. Medical professionals and scientists are in unanimous agreement that embryos and fetuses are living organisms, but they often depart in the nuance of what that means.
Those on the pro-choice side observe the organisms are living but not viable, thus they should not be granted the same rights. Those on the pro-life side disagree with this logic and believe that life either begins at conception or when the heartbeat is distinguishable as some state-to-state “Heartbeat bills” attest — legislation that Weigel calls out by name.
Meanwhile, abortions are at the lowest point they’ve been since 1971, a reality that Weigel blames on the political push to require showing ultrasound imaging to expectant mothers before allowing them to terminate a pregnancy.
Regardless of how one defines fetal viability, however, right-wing pundit and strict anti-abortionist Matt Walsh argues that if viability, as in “can the child survive on its own independent of the mother?,” is the criteria for which “life” is defined, then under liberal logic, you should be able to terminate a child long after it’s born, up to three and four years of age.
Walsh does not believe this point himself, but frequently uses it as pushback against the viability argument.
— Gail Finke (@gailfinke) October 9, 2015
But what do you think, readers?
Is the push to show ultrasound imagery to expectant mothers unfair to pro-choice advocates? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Featured Image By Africa Studio/Shutterstock]