Article ID: CBB770211028

(Re)Producing Cyborgs: Biomedicalizing Abortion through the Congressional Debate over Fetal Pain (2019)


The scientific and political debate over whether a fetus can experience pain highlights a vital and controversial boundary for governance—the boundary of human life. I use the 2012 and 2013 US federal debates over twenty-week abortion bans (also known as fetal pain laws) to investigate how personhood is constructed in a society transformed by biomedical science and technology in the United States. Although those who support and oppose the bill take different stances on abortion regulation, each relies on biomedical knowledge and risk assessment to substantiate claims. Through content analysis of congressional documents, I find that members of Congress strategically draw on biomedical discourse to manage the boundaries of bodies and construct a universal “at-risk” political subject in need of governmental protection. These findings bring scholarly debates about personhood into the era of biomedicalization by emphasizing the latent process of creating a hybridized subjectivity that I call cybernetic personhood.

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Authors & Contributors
Yevgeniya Tomkiv
Astrid Liland
Deborah H. Oughton
Wynne, Brian
Schleifer, David
Spackman, Christy C. W.
Science, Technology and Human Values
Social Studies of Science
Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society
Technoscience; science and technology studies
Power (social sciences)
Science and politics
Great Britain
United States
21st century
20th century
United States. Food and Drug Administration
National Cancer Institute (U.S.)

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