Monday, December 27, 2010

Ourselves Unborn by Sara Dubow

Ourselves Unborn purports to be a history of the fetus in the United States. You can read a book review here at Slate.

I bought and read the book.

It's a piece of feminist propaganda, and I'm not even sure it counts as history. It's more like anthropology, because instead of getting the history of the fetus, you get a history of the social significance of the fetus.

The main idea of the book is that the fetus is the nexus of concerns that have to do with anything but the fetus.

In other words, in the author's mind, when people claim to care about the fetus, they don't really care about the fetus.

What the book tries to do is undermine pro-life sincerity. Pro-lifers aren't really concerned about women when they talk about the harm of abortion; they don't really care about the fetus when they argue in favour of industrial fetal protection laws; they didn't really care about the fetus when doctors used to propound theories about prenatal origins of psychoses.

It's all a ruse to uphold our racist, sexist, xenophobic and capitalist social order.

It's a bit ironic. She claims that concern about the fetus isn't really about the fetus. And yet, this book which is supposed to be about the fetus isn't really about the fetus.

As the reviewer at Slate puts it:

 But there's a curious omission in her book: the actual, physical fetus itself. Indeed, Dubow appears to believe that no such being exists. "A fetus in 1870 is not the same thing as a fetus in 1930, which is not the same thing as a fetus in 1970, which is not the same thing as a fetus in 2010," she writes.
In another section the reviewer writes;

In this book the fetus is always "constituted" and "produced," "constructed" and "represented"—never conceived or born, nurtured or harmed.

So the title and the sub-title of the book is a little misleading. You open up the book thinking you're going to read a chronological account of the scientific advances affecting fetus, and popular attitudes towards the fetus-- and there is some of that to be sure-- but it's not really about the history of the fetus. It's a history of alleged attempts to control women.

So this can't really be a history of the fetus in America. There's missing info on the introduction of the ultrasound and the development of maternal-fetal medicine,  two of the biggest developments to affect fetuses. Also missing is the development of prenatal diagnosis which has resulted in abortion rates of 80-90% for genetically defective children.

So here's what I wonder pro-lifers: where's our history of the fetus? When are we going to write the history of the unborn child?

The advantage of such a work is that we would actually treat the fetus like a human being, and so every aspect of the history of the fetus would be inherently interesting, not just those reworked to serve a feminist agenda.