Within a few decades fetuses have changed from being discussed in restricted and selected circles to being a mainstream topic. They have become iconic and ubiquitous and almost citizens with civil rights on par or even above those of the women carrying them.
In many states, women do not have the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. In some countries, women are forced to listen to the fetal heartbeat before abortion; in others, aborted fetuses are buried in specific cemeteries, with a cross and the mother's name on it without her consent.
This book, however, is not about the abortion debate. It rather aims at trying to understand the change and the reasons behind the shifted attitude, from considering fetus as an obscure and repugnant subject to idealizing it.
A first perspective examines predominantly societal, technological and scientific advancements and the impact these have had on western societies’ changing views and stances on fetuses.
The second perspective analyzes the scientific viewpoint, and specifically how fetuses grow, develop and behave.
The third standpoint explores how fetuses are perceived in different worlds barely touched by modern technologies and with often inexistent sanitary care. In these countries, where pregnant women and children die in numbers, fetuses are utterly worthless.
English manuscript available.
Alessandra Piontelli is Professor of Child Neuropsychiatry and Researcher in the Department of Maternal and Fetal Medicine at the University of Milan.