The Pro Life Fetal Rights Movement

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The Pro Life Fetal Rights Movement

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Pro-life rhetoric is reshaping history to make room for a new class of citizens. The members of this new identity group are called "fetuses," and their legal protection is crucial to the heritage of and future of America. Lauren Berlant, in her essay, "America, 'Fat,' the Fetus"; describes the pro-life motivation to present fetuses as a class of citizens, and thereby add "a new group of "persons" to "the people"" (Berlant, 98). To do so, pro-lifers exploit the current convergence of public and private spheres. In the intimate public sphere, citizens are defined not by a common civic duty, but instead, by a shared morality. In this crisis of citizenship, with no one quite sure of where s/he stands in relation to the norm, and everyone forced into an identity politics, the fetus represents the ideal citizen - utterly vulnerable and in need of government protection. Pro-life arguments describing fetuses as the ultimately silenced, victimized minority capitalize on the shifting meanings of citizenship to find a place for the fetus within it.

By mixing the language of minority politics (asserting distinct identities of classes of people who are victimized by society) and Reaganite ideology (affirming the politicization of the private sphere overseen by the government (Berlant, 3), the pro-lifers constructed the fetus as an image of perfect vulnerability: "the unprotected person, the citizen without a country or a future, the fetus unjustly imprisoned in its mother's hostile gulag" (Berlant, 97). The fetus's vulnerability and minority status speaks to the plight of the newly distinguished class of normative citizens (usually white, straight, middle-class men). "The culture of national fetality also newly touches the previously privileged ¨C because unmarked ¨C unexceptional citizen¡­ His new exposure to mass-mediated identity politics makes him experience himself as suddenly embodied and therefore vulnerable. An entire culture can come to identify with, and as, a fetus" (Berlant, 86). Feeling suddenly embodied and vulnerable, only recently exposed to identity politics, the formerly unmarked, nondescript citizens can now, too, relate to the minority-identity that the fetus has come to represent.

At the same that the fetus is achieving minority status, the pro-life ideology is also placing its fate into the tale of our nation, making protection of the fetus crucial to the country's future. "Since we "are" what we have always "done," we violate our true selves if we act in ways that are different" (Condit, 44).
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