Ultrasound Viewers’ Attribution of Moral Status to Fetal Humans: A Case for Presumptive Rationality

Main Article Content

Heidi M. Giebel
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8040-2119

Abstract

As several studies, along with a book and movie depicting the true story of a former clinic director, have recently brought to the public’s attention, fetal ultrasound images dramatically impact some viewers’ normative judgments: a small but non-negligible proportion of viewers attribute increased moral status to fetal humans and even form the belief that abortion is impermissible. I consider three types of psychological explanation for a viewer’s shift in beliefs: (1) increased bonding or empathy, (2) various forms of cognitive bias, and (3) type of cognitive processing involved. I consider the normative implications of each explanation, arguing that in each case the viewer’s judgment is presumptively rational.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Giebel, Heidi M. 2020. “Ultrasound Viewers’ Attribution of Moral Status to Fetal Humans: A Case for Presumptive Rationality”. Diametros 17 (64), 22-35. https://doi.org/10.33392/diam.1472.
Section
Articles
Share |

References

Amit E., Greene J. (2012), “You See, the Ends Don’t Justify the Means: Visual Imagery and Moral Judgment,” Psychological Science 23 (8): 861–868.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Aristotle (1999), Nicomachean Ethics, trans. T. Irwin, Hackett, Indianapolis.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Giebel H. (2020), Ethical Excellence: Philosophers, Psychologists, and Real-Life Exemplars Show Us How to Achieve It, CUA Press, Washington (DC).
View in Google Scholar

Batson C.D. (2009), “These Things Called Empathy: Eight Related but Distinct Phenomena,” [in:] Social Neuroscience. The Social Neuroscience of Empathy, J. Decety, W. Ickes (eds.), The MIT Press, Cambridge (MA): 3–15.
View in Google Scholar

Batson C.D. (2011), Altruism in Humans, Oxford University Press, New York.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Black R.B. (1992), “Seeing the Baby: The Impact of Ultrasound Technology,” Journal of Genetic Counseling 1 (1): 45–54.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Bloom P. (2016), Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, HarperCollins, New York.
View in Google Scholar

Coke J.S., Batson C.D., McDavis K. (1978), “Empathic Mediation of Helping: A Two-Stage Model,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 36 (7): 752–766.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

De Neys W. (ed.) (2017), Dual-Process Theory 2.0, Routledge, Oxon/New York.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

De Neys W., Pennycook G. (2019), “Logic, Fast and Slow: Advances in Dual-Process Theorizing,” Current Directions in Psychological Science 28 (5): 503–509.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Draper J. (2002), “It Was a Real Good Show’: The Ultrasound Scan, Fathers, and the Power of Visual Knowledge,” Sociology of Health and Illness 24 (6): 771–795.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Dykes K., Stjernqvist K. (2001), “The Importance of Ultrasound to First-Time Mothers’ Thoughts about Their Unborn Child,” Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology 19 (2): 95–104.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Evans J.S.B.T., Stanovich K.E. (2013), “Dual-Process Theories of Higher Cognition: Advancing the Debate,” Perspectives on Psychological Science 8 (3): 223–241.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Fletcher J.C., Evans M.I. (1983), “Maternal Bonding in Early Fetal Ultrasound Examinations,” New England Journal of Medicine 308: 392–393.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Gatter M., Kimport K., Foster D.G. et al. (2014), “Relationship Between Ultrasound Viewing and Proceeding to Abortion,” Obstetrics and Gynecology 123 (1): 81–87.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Gettier E. (1963), “Is Knowledge Justified True Belief?,” Analysis 23 (6): 121–123.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Graziano W.G., Habashi M.M. (2015), “Searching for the Prosocial Personality,” [in:] The Oxford Handbook of Prosocial Behavior, D.A. Schroeder, W.G. Graziano (eds.), Oxford University Press, New York: 231–256.
View in Google Scholar

Haidt J. (2012), The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, Vintage Books, New York.
View in Google Scholar

Hoffman M.L. (2002), Empathy and Moral Development: Implications for Caring and Justice, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
View in Google Scholar

Hourdequin M. (2015), “The Limits of Empathy,” [in:] Virtue Ethics and Confucianism, S.C. Angle, M. Slote (eds.), Routledge, New York: 209–218.
View in Google Scholar

Hume D. (2011), A Treatise of Human Nature. Volume 1: Texts, D. Norton, M. Norton (eds.), [in:] D. Hume, Clarendon Hume Edition Series, Clarendon, Oxford.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Johnson A. (2011), Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line, Tyndale House, New York.
View in Google Scholar

de Jong-Pleij E.A.P., Ribbert L.S.M., Pistorius L.R. et al. (2013), “Three-Dimensional Ultrasound and Maternal Bonding, a Third Trimester Study and a Review,” Prenatal Diagnosis 33 (1): 81–88.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Kahneman D. (2011), Thinking, Fast and Slow, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York.
View in Google Scholar

Mahajan N., Wynn K. (2012), “Origins of ‘Us’ versus ‘Them’: Prelinguistic Infants Prefer Similar Others,” Cognition 124 (2): 227–233.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Marquis D. (2007), “The Moral-Principle Objection to Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research,” Metaphilosophy 38 (2–3): 190–206.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Mencius [Mengzi] (2004), Mengzi, trans. B. Van Norden, Hackett, Indianapolis.
View in Google Scholar

Miller C. (2013), Moral Character: An Empirical Theory, Oxford University Press, Oxford.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Mills C. (2018), “Seeing, Feeling, Doing: Mandatory Ultrasound Laws, Empathy, and Abortion,” Journal of Practical Ethics 6 (2): 1–31.
View in Google Scholar

Milne L.S., Rich O.J. (1981), “Cognitive and Affective Aspects of the Responses of Pregnant Women to Sonography,” Maternal-Child Nursing Journal 10 (1): 15–39.
View in Google Scholar

Öhman S.G., Waldenström U. (2010), “Effect of First-Trimester Ultrasound Screening for Down Syndrome on Maternal–Fetal Attachment – A Randomized Controlled Trial,” Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare 1: 85–90.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Øyen L., Aune I. (2016), “Viewing the Unborn Child – Pregnant Women’s Expectations, Attitudes, and Experiences Regarding Fetal Ultrasound Examination,” Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare 7: 8–13.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Plato (1992), Republic, trans. B. Jowett, Hackett, Indianapolis.
View in Google Scholar

Ruffman T., Then R., Cheng C. et al. (2019), “Lifespan Differences in Emotional Contagion While Watching Emotion-Eliciting Videos,” PLoS ONE 14 (1): e0209253.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Sanger C. (2008), “Seeing and Believing: Mandatory Ultrasound and the Path to a Protected Choice,” UCLA Law Review 56 (2): 351–408.
View in Google Scholar

Shaw L.L., Batson C.D., Todd R.M. (1994), “Empathy Avoidance: Forestalling Feeling for Another in Order to Escape the Motivational Consequences,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 67 (5): 879–887.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

Slote M. (2007), The Ethics of Care and Empathy, Routledge, New York.


DOI
View in Google Scholar

South Dakota [USA] Legislature (2005), “Report of the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion,” URL = http://rewire.news/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/South-Dakota-Abortion-Task-Force-Report.pdf [Accessed 08.06.2020].
View in Google Scholar

Unger P. (2006), Living High and Letting Die: Our Illusion of Innocence, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
View in Google Scholar

Waldman K. (2014), “Does Looking at an Ultrasound Before Abortion Change Women’s Minds?,” Slate, URL = https://slate.com/human-interest/2014/01/ultrasound-viewing-before-an-abortion-a-new-study-finds-that-for-a-small-percentage-of-women-sonograms-change-minds.html [Accessed 08.06.2020].
View in Google Scholar

Wolf N. (1995), “Our Bodies, Our Souls: Rethinking Pro-Choice Rhetoric,” New Republic 213 (16): 26, 28–29, 32–35.
View in Google Scholar