The case of the missing hand: gender, disability, and bodily norms in selective termination

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The practice of terminating a pregnancy following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality raises questions about notions of bodily normality and the ways these shape ethical decision-making. This is particularly the case with terminations done on the basis of ostensibly minor morphological anomalies, such as cleft lip and isolated malformations of the limbs or digits. In this paper, I examine a recent case of selective termination after a morphology ultrasound scan revealed the fetus to be missing a hand (acheiria). Using the work of Georges Canguilhem, I show that a person with acheiria could be considered normal. Further, I show that this case reveals a kind of undecidability in the significance of fetal sex/gender and disability in termination. From this, I consider the conceptual interaction of disability with sex/gender, to argue that the ethics of disability termination are not as distinct from those of sex/gender selection as is commonly supposed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82 - 96
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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