Thursday, July 18, 2013

Visualizing the unborn human being

Ultrasound image at 12 weeks via Wikipedia
At First Things, Victor Lee Austin discusses how ultrasound technology is changing how our culture visualizes unborn human beings.  

Every young expectant couple I know today, without exception, when they have a prenatal visit, hope they will get to see the baby. Every baby’s photo book today has a sonogram for its first picture. The first pictures, and there are often many of them, are prenatal.

And it is changing how parents talk about their child. “Our little guy,” one couple recently told me, “he’s as big as my thumb.” Or: “Our baby would now fit in the palm of my hand.” They delight in seeing the baby’s limb, the head, the sex, even fingers. They delight in seeing the heart and looking into its chambers.

What is happening, largely unnoticed and far below the radar of the political debates, is that our culture’s visual imagination of the human is expansively changing. We used to picture the human life cycle as going from birth to death. But adults who are now becoming parents, along with their friends and an increasingly wider circle, no longer think it strange to consider and picture as a human being, as one of us, one whose weight is measured in ounces rather than pounds and whose size is given in terms of a portion of one’s own hand.