Wednesday, August 24, 2005

3D Ultrasound Pushes Boundaries

Last weeks readings highlighted how technological advancements reinforced/displaced boundaries of gender, touching lightly on the area of ‘laparoscopy’ and the ‘critical role it had played in the assessment of foetal development’. This got me thinking about how technology has not only had an effect in reinforcing/displacing boundaries in relation to gender, but also in relation to social issues, especially in relation to the area of foetal development and abortion.

During the 1970’s the widespread introduction of ultrasound in the area of obstetrics lead to a heating of the debate among ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-abortion’ groups about the ethical and moral issues surrounding abortion, as it was used to visually highlight the level of development of foetuses at early stages of pregnancy. This technology was grasped by ‘pro-life’ groups, including the distribution of the video
The Silent Scream consisting of an ultrasound taken during an abortion at 11 weeks gestation in the US. While quite benign by today’s standards, this video lead to intense debate during the time, in some cases swaying the opinions of those on both sides of the issue and is an example of the use of technology to further a group’s stance on a social issue . While this may now all be history, recently with the introduction of 3D ultrasound into the mainstream enabling a real-time 3D view of a foetus(see photo above), technology has interestingly once again stirred the issue of abortion, and is again being used by ‘pro-life’ groups as further evidence of the advanced development of the foetus early in pregnancy.

While obviously everyone has different opinions on the issue of abortion, I think it is a good example of a contentious issue of which debate surrounding it has been heavily influenced by technology over the years, and still is today. It also brings into question the effects that technology has in shaping the direction of debate surrounding all social issues.

Alisdair Hungerford-Morgan


At 10:49 AM, Blogger Mike B said...

I wont debate about abortions, simply cos its an issue which needs an in depth discussion. But you point on boundaries is interesting and the 3D ultrasound is quite interesting too, because it does show how far we have come in terms of technology. More or less technology is surronding us and its quite evident, and always changing and guess in a way that 3D ultrasound is just another developing change from the ultrasound. It does have boundary issues with ethics in terms of abortions, but then again this technology could be used for good. I guess for me its important to keep an open mind.

At 4:45 PM, Blogger mags said...

yep, and learning what we learnt last week in class about technology and gender, and the ways in which medical technology is generally created and used by men and the issues that surround this technology and how it is used on the female body space - its important to remember that when technology is used to create choice for women (althought Im far from believing that women dont have choices these days), but when we see the role of technology (in regards to gender, power etc) reversed like this, that it signifies some kind of shift in the bigger fundamental ways that we are thinking. Im sure that there would be arguments that suggested that this was merely another technological imposition on the female gender, as the article said, that the foetus rather than the woman becomes the primary focus, but really, I believe, that ultra sounds and various technologies are far less problematic than a knitting needle.


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