How are babies made? : discourses of foetal "persons" and pregnant "mothers" in news media and health education texts : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Women's Studies at Massey University
Adopting a social constructionist perspective this research asks how are babies made? This question destabilises the local reproductive context asking how foetuses and their mothers have come to matter. I have analysed "everyday" texts broadly circulated in this context addressing matters related to pregnancy. These include health education posters intended to communicate health information to pregnant women, and news media articles from daily newspapers throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. Using a discourse analytic method, I have identified a strong discursive practice of subjectifying foetuses as entities separate from pregnant women with distinct identities: foetal persons. While foetal subjects take various forms, the dominant construction is the "unborn baby," a vulnerable infant who must be protected from harm and emerges as the central subject of pregnancy. The construction of pregnant subjects in these texts relates to the construction of foetal subjects. Pregnant women (and potentially pregnant women) arc reduced to their bodies' reproductive role as "maternal environments," ones which pose risks to the foetus. However, they are also constructed as maternal subjects. As "mothers," pregnant women are individually responsible for ensuring the health and wellbeing of foetuses. The "good mother" will of course do anything she can for her "child" by self-regulating her potentially harmful behaviour. The "acquiescent mother" acquiesces to biomedical interventions on behalf of the foetus. Pregnant subjects who do not self-regulate their behaviour and acquiesce to biomedical interventions are "bad" maternal subjects who harm their "children." The discourses of biomedicine (and biomedical sciences) and public health, particularly those of risk, emerge as dominant in constructing and naturalising of these reproductive subjects. I consider the implications of these subjects for social practices around reproduction, and for midwifery practice.