Countries like India and China have become well known locally and internationally for their skewed girl-boy sex ratios, which have declined sharply in the very years marked by these countries' emergence as potential global economic giants. In India, these declines and the concomitant concern over the “missing” girl child have been associated with the spread of antenatal technologies such as ultrasound testing during pregnancy and their surreptitious use for sex determination and the selective abortion of female fetuses, which is banned by Indian law. This essay attempts to set up connections between Indian struggles over the problem and two U.S. feminist texts, Donna Haraway's essay “Fetus: The Virtual Speculum in the New World Order” and Rayna Rapp's ethnography Testing Women, Testing the Fetus. Many levels of disconnect across our respective “naturecultures” become visible in the process. A major argument throughout this essay is to pay closer attention to questions of method—the dominance of the language of statistics and numbers in India, for instance, compared with the ethnographic voices in Rapp's account. Rather than search for a global ethical answer to the question of the putative rights of the unborn, whether sexed or disabled, as the case may be, I argue that we need multiple modes of knowing how decisions are structured in different contexts. Only then can we acknowledge the feminist work that lies ahead in negotiating with women's diverse “choices”—as victims, criminals, and philosophically incoherent, but also as moral pioneers.
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Mary E. John; Sexing the Fetus: Feminist Politics and Method across Cultures. positions 1 February 2011; 19 (1): 7–29. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-2010-022
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