Reproductive technology and the legal system

Here’s another interesting article, this one at the intersection of rhetoric and technology, though I’m certain race, class, and culture would also provide highly informative lenses through which to view this situation. This article is a feature on a state-run drug-treatment program for pregnant women in South Carolina.

In my previous studies, I ran across a couple cases where a woman was prosecuted for her behavior while pregnant, and I also found several cases (in Canada) where a woman was prevented from getting an abortion by the father of the fetus she was carrying.

The rhetoric of this particular article is noteworthy, I think, because it does much less blaming than most discussions of this topic. Most such articles or other works use rhetoric that puts the pregnant drug addicts at fault. (Whether they are or not is beside the point; I’m only interested in the rhetoric and how it shapes these women in our minds.)

The article says some women find the program on their own, while others are forced there by law. This is all made possible, of course, by the advent of reproductive technologies (from formal scientific studies and the ways they get results to the use of fetal ultrasound) that allow us to trace cause-and-effect relationships between maternal drug use and fetal condition. In at least some cases, this relationship is also shaped by the rhetoric used to describe that technology–even if the technology is not used as the cultural knowledge that begets the rhetoric in question holds that it is.


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