The decision: Relations to oneself, authority and vulnerability in the field of selective abortion
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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This article is about selective abortion. It concentrates on the existential, moral and social conditions that arise when pregnant women, using prenatal diagnosis (PND), are told that there is something seriously wrong with the foetuses that they are carrying. This is characterised as a micro state of emergency, where both normal cognitive categories and normative orders are dissolved. The analyses are anchored in the womens’ own presentations and understandings of the processes and dilemmas related to the abortion decisions, and our most important empirical materials are interviews with women who have experienced them. Our main ambition is to show the relation between some important dimensions of the situation in which the abortion decision has to be made, and the special kind of authority on behalf of the women that presents itself. Of equal importance is the vulnerability of the pregnant women, resulting in a co-production of the women as both Sovereigns and Homo Sacer in the decision situation. We also analyse some of the experienced relations between the women and the foetuses, and how the women constitute themselves as moral subjects, with a particular emphasis on the motifs of sacrifice and self-sacrifice. It is a central argument in the article that we have to understand the specificity of the decision situation, without reducing it either to other phases (before or after) of the total processes of PND and selective abortion, or to general discourses of disability or normality. The specificity of the situation in which the abortion decision is made is a pivotal point in society’s regulation (in a broad sense) of the field and in the constitution of the regime of selective abortion.