We See Through A Sonogram, Darkly

“If we develop a finer sonogram, and move up the date of a detectable heartbeat, the inventor of this new instrument won’t have created a new channel for personhood to be infused into babies, one that flows a little straighter and shorter and reaches them two days earlier.

So, what can we do when we’re forced to view the world through crude tools, ones that we know blind and bias us? If we feel stymied by the imprecision of sonograms and other tools for looking inside the bodies of others, we should feel at least as frightened by the fallibility of our own wills, and the unreliable view they give us of the souls of others.

Weigel gestures at this weakness of our moral vision when she implies that the baby and the mother are in a zero-sum game for sympathy. She sees the prominence of ultrasounds as a threat to women: ‘The framing of the ultrasound image was notable for what it excluded: the woman. In order to make the fetus visible, it made her disappear.’

It should be possible to care for both the baby and the mother at once. But Weigel is right that, just as a microscope is unable to focus at more than one depth of field simultaneously, people can feel stymied about how to see and love more than one person.”

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