Seeing, Feeling, Doing: Mandatory Ultrasound Laws, Empathy and Abortion
Journal of Practical Ethics 6(2): 1-31
In recent years, a number of US states have adopted laws that require pregnant women to have an ultrasound examination, and be shown images of their foetus, prior to undergoing a pregnancy termination. In this paper, I examine one of the basic presumptions of these laws: that seeing one’s foetus changes the ways in which one might act in regard to it, particularly in terms of the decision to terminate the pregnancy or not. I argue that mandatory ultrasound laws compel women into a position of moral spectatorship and require them to recognise the foetus as a being for whom they are responsible, particularly through empathic responses to ultrasound images. The approach I propose extends the project of a bioethics of the image and highlights the need for a critical analysis of the political mobilization of empathy in discussions of abortion.
Termination of Pregnancy After Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT): Ethical Considerations
Journal of Practical Ethics 6(2): 32-54
This article explores the Nuffield Council on Bioethics' recent report about non-invasive prenatal testing. Given that such testing is likely to become the norm, it is important to question whether there should be some ethical parameters regarding its use. The article engages with the viewpoints of Jeff McMahan, Julian Savulescu, Stephen Wilkinson and other commentators on prenatal ethics. The authors argue that there are a variety of moral considerations that legitimately play a significant role with regard to (prospective) parental decision-making in the context of NIPT, for example, views on the morality of abortion and understandings of the impact of disability on quality of life. The variable nature of such considerations, both singularly and combined, suggests that any approach to NIPT should be sensitive to and understanding of similarly variable parental assessments and decisions. The implications of the approach developed for current and future policies in this area are explored, along with the impact of such arguments on ideas about procreative beneficence.
The Endless Umbilical Cord: Parental Obligation to Grown Children
Journal of Practical Ethics 6(2): 55-72
One might think that parental obligation to children ends with the end of childhood. I argue that if we consider why parents are obligated to their children, we will see that this view is false. Creating children exposes them to life’s risks. When we expose others to risks, we are often obligated to minimize damages and compensate for harms. Life’s risks last a lifetime, therefore parental obligation to one’s children does too. Grown children’s autonomy, and grown children’s independent responsibility for some of their own problems, can sometimes limit what parental responsibility demands of parents but it doesn’t do away with the responsibility. I argue that my conclusions are not as counterintuitive as they might initially seem. I also consider the implications that parental obligation to grown children might have on the oft assumed obligation that grown children have to care for their parents.