Førende forestillinger i fosterpolitikken. En metafor- og diskursanalyse av hvordan kvinne, foster og abort blir konstituert i stortingsdebatter om abort og fosterdiagnostikk
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Abstract Background: During the first twenty years of prenatal diagnostics in Norway, selective abortion on eugenic grounds according to The Abortion Law`s section 2c was seen as an advisable and reasonable medical decision. Termination of pregnancy, if the foetus had defects or illness, was not seen as an ethical problem. But quite suddenly, in the middle of the 1990`s, selective abortion was seen as a controversial ethical practice and strongly disputed in public debate. There had been a shift in the understanding of what selective abortion is, whom it concerns, and what such abortions indicate within a society. The critical view on selective abortion and prenatal testing also meant that medicine was no longer alone on giving statements on the matter. This has opened up a space for other academic disciplines to study the theme in elucidation of humanistic and social sciences. The main focus has been on the historical relation between abortion and diagnostic technology, on normative evaluation of ethics, on how the field has been presented and understood in newspapers and public in general, and how it affects the experience women have of pregnancy and abortion. My thesis enters this non-medical tradition on cultural understandings of abortion and prenatal diagnostics. What the thesis is about The thesis has a biopower perspective on the politics of abortion and prenatal diagnostics. In this perspective, the governing of abortion does not only take place through legal regulation of reproductive choices. The governing also operates, amongst other things, through a normalisation that has the optimizing of life as its political goal. Within the biopower perspective, reproduction is an important political issue. Abortion constitutes an important part of this, and particularly the judgements of how the foetus shall be wielded in medical, collective and individual decisions. These questions have been made current as biotechnology has made it possible to receive information of life that used to be hidden by the womb. Knowledge about the foetus can be given to pregnant women if they want it, and they are to manage the information on behalf of themselves, the foetus and society on legal terms that was established at a time when the technology still was almost silent. This has brought about conflicts on the legitimacy of §2c. If the section had been removed or regulated more strictly, it would have reduced the chances women had for having abortion on grounds traditionally seen as obvious and natural. Objective and approach The main objective of this thesis is to study whether the constitution of women, foetus and abortion have been significant in the political process that has maintained the selective abortion practice. The main approach for this objective is a study of how subjects and objects are produced and operate within certain discourses in parliamentary debates. The main approach… is to analyse how the key-categories “abortion”, “foetus” and “women” are understood and constituted in parliamentary debates on abortion in a biotechnological context stretching from 1993 to 2007. Each key-category is analysed in a chapter on their own, and on three analytical levels. The production and maintaining of meaning is thus a main concern of this thesis. The analysis is building on metaphor- and discourse theory. The first analytical level is “metaphor analysis”, mainly building on Max Blacks theory on an interaction view on metaphor. Still, Lakoff and Johnson constitute an important part in the chapter about political understandings of women, because they have described a metaphor that is active in the political understandings of women`s decision process. “The metaphorical analysis” is an empirical analytical level, where I explain the metaphor in Blacks terminology, i.e. where it brings its meaning, form and how it produces new meaning. This analytical level aims at analysing essential metaphors in a strict context focused on the metaphor (in) itself. The second analytical level is a literal analysis called “universe of meaning”. On this level I analyse the metaphor in a wider context, building on other texts to open up the understandings of each key-category and how language and meaning function in the debate. On this level I more freely choose which other texts to use, depending on what I find appropriate according to the empirical texts. This analytical level aims at explaining the meaning and function of the metaphor in a wider social and political context. On the third analytical level I do a discourse analysis, inspired by Foucault`s concepts of discourse, biopower, governmentality and productions of objects and subjects. Still, my discoursive analyses in themselves builds directly upon theorists on contemporary and more limited fields, Nikolas Rose and Toby Miller. I find their use of Foucault`s perspectives more useful in accordance with the thesis` limitations of 15 years of Norwegian abortion politics. This analytical level aims at explaining what the vocabulary does and how it operates within a certain kind of power. By producing objects (different foetuses) and a particular subjectivity for women, the biopower constitutes an essential premise for the politics on selective abortion and prenatal testing. Analyses Abortion. On the first level of metaphorical analysis, the thesis points out how the metaphor on selective abortion “sorteringssamfunnet” is connected to dystopian and utopian ideas of the future and the past, attached to eugenics, technology on the wrong path and a society released from illness. On the second level, (the universe of meaning), the metaphor is placed in a wider context, with reference to Mary Douglas and especially Zygmunt Baumans theory on the human and social implications of ideas about purity and order. I read the metaphorical vocabulary as spatial metaphors and see them in connection with the Norwegian Biotechnology Law`s “mission statement” about making room for everyone (“plass for alle”). On the other hand, a future optimistic and medically inspired view on prenatal diagnostics as “foetus medicine” sees the potential of prenatal diagnostics. This position has shifted the claim for “the right to choose”, into a claim for “the right to know”. On the third and discursive level, these opposite views on selective abortion and prenatal diagnosis represent the discourse of dilemmas. This discourse is connected to Toby Millers theory on how dilemmas constitute “the ethically incomplete subject in need of training into humanness”. The subject governs itself through self-improving exercises of the mind: “To be aware of ethical dilemmas and their unresolvable nature is to be aware of one`s own incompleteness and simultaneously encouraged to unify these tensions into a single ethical substance.” (Miller 1993, s. xiii). The subject is trained into loyalty towards incompatible positions, and becomes easier to govern within controversial politics based on individual evaluation of choice. Foetus. The reading of spatial metaphors is maintained in the chapter on the foetus, through an analysis of the debates on whether one should bury aborted foetuses or handling them as hospital waste. The foetus` enrolment in global and commercial networks is pointed out, as it has become a resource for research and industry within the biocapitalistic order. Metaphors and universes of meaning are more closely compressed in the analysis, and deepen the contradictions of the discourse of dilemmas. Women. This chapter analyses the position of women. The analysis starts by presenting how women are described as autonomous individuals in the parliamentary debates. This is a vital premise for the Norwegian abortion politics. After this presentation the analysis starts on the first analytical level, metaphorical analysis. The vocabulary in use, about women who consider abortion, is explained to build upon a certain logic: Psychological experiences as non-physical things are described as physical substance. The analysis approaches the vocabulary about women as built on a certain metaphorical principle: “The mind is a brittle object”. The logic is pointed out by reference to Lakoff and Johnson, and implies a kind of danger for the subject`s mental health, she might “shatter”, “crack”, or “break down” under the heavy “burden” and mental “pressure”. On the second level, (the universe of meaning), the analysis places its main empirical text, the parliamentary debate on selective abortion in 1996, into a genealogical coherence: From the Law of 1960`s concept of “healthcrash” (“helseknekk”) – through the Law of 1975`s concept of “unreasonable pressure” (“urimelig belastning”) – to the Law of 2003`s concept of “medical anxiety” (“medisinsk uro”). The metaphorical vocabulary is seen as an organizing principle in the regulation of abortion. Conflicting political views on abortion build their different arguments on this common and normalized understanding of what it means to be considering abortion. On the third level of the discourse analysis, the homogeneous vocabulary about women is read as an example of “a regime of the self”. This is a discourse described by Nikolas Rose, about the psy-discipline`s discoursive influence of how we understand ourselves and conduct ourselves?. Through the discourse, the debates constitute and normalize the subjectivity of women in a way that excludes women who actually feel the free choice that the law was established for, without regrets. In a way, this constitutes a dilemma and paradox in itself: The political debate expresses a common wish to help women by protecting them from pressure, and at the same time, they are expected to remain within the emotionally distress. The subjectivity of women, so continuously concerned by their decision process that they “need” protection, stands out as a necessary subject to the “discourse of dilemmas” described in the abortion chapter. Within a problematic and contradictory field, which is continuously challenged and contested, the constitution of the conscientious and responsible individual woman appears as essential to the maintaining of the abortion politics. In this way, biopower can operate and govern life in a time where biotechnology frames the politics on abortion and the possibilities to besiege life.
PublisherThe University of Bergen
Copyright Merethe Flatseth