Identity Under Construction
DEIRDRE MOIRA CONDIT
VISUALIZE THE FETUS! -- Right to Life bumper sticker
We stand poised at an extraordinary moment in time: As we watch, fetuses are becoming persons within our social, political, and legal culture. For the first time in' human history, as if by magic, images of fetal bodies are appearing before our eyes. Fetal images seem to be everywhere: at the doctor's office, on television, at the movies, at the toy store, on political placards displayed on the sidewalks of our streets, and on the billboards that line our highways. Conjured from within the bellies of pregnant women by the sorceries of science, technology, and art, these once hidden and little known fetal bodies are becoming ever more familiar.
In this chapter, I argue that we are increasingly experiencing the fetus as a member of the human community. The fetus now seems more "human," more like a "baby," and more of a "person" than ever before. But visual familiarity alone is not sufficient for us to construct fetuses as persons. The humanity of fetal images is not always self-evident but has to be explained and pointed out by those who ascribe meaning, value, and context to the fetus and help us conceptualize it as a person. This process of anthropomorphizing the fetus is driven by a variety of groups -- physicians, pro-life activists, even advertisers and filmmakers -- that both fuel and capitalize upon the explosion of fetal imagery in the American visual landscape.