I just posted this on my blog, but wanted to post it here, too. I'd love to dig into this and discuss it.
The Feminist Law Professors blog has a link up to a downloadable paper on the problems of mandatory ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. Carol Singer uses legal framing of the issue that I personally hadn't seen before. I haven't read the whole thing myself yet, but it looks extremely interesting.
A highlight from the abstract:
Mandatory ultrasound intrudes upon that protected area of decisionmaking in several respects. First, simply by virtue of having an ultrasound, a pregnant woman is promoted into the category of mother and it is against this conscripted status that she must proceed. Second, unlike other compulsory forms of abortion disclosure, the statutes require the woman to use her body to produce the very information intended to dissuade her from pursuing an abortion. The resulting fetal image is intended as a self-evident statement about the meaning of human life.
But characterizing the fetus as a child, as most ultrasound statutes do, is a political description, not a scientific one. It confuses medically informed consent with what I identify as morally informed consent, that realm of personal considerations that are a woman’s alone to determine. Imbued with indelible social meaning, the mandatory ultrasound requirement replaces consent with coercion - not about the ultimate decision, but about how a woman chooses to get there.
The idea that the decision making process should not be coerced fascinates me and I'm looking forward to reading more about it. Beyond the legal discussion that I assume the paper is limited to, it brings up the cultural perception of women as autonomous moral agents. That is, the commonly held perception that women are not autonomous moral agents in the way men are. Women are frequently limited to the virgin/whore dichotomy and a woman seeking an abortion is already deemed a whore and therefore incapable of being responsible for her own morality.
Go read the whole thing.