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Un/doing foetal “viability”: negotiating and governing the boundaries of life and death [Medical Anthropology Europe (MAE)] 
Giulia Colavolpe (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
Paula Martone Montero (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
Veronika Siegl (University of Vienna)
Anna Molas (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
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Wednesday 24 July, -, -
Time zone: Europe/Madrid
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Short Abstract:

Viability crucially shapes ethico-legal boundaries within reproductive politics and pre- and perinatal care worldwide. We question the framing of viability as mere biological entity and ask how anthropology contributes to un/doing this notion, in order to better understand who comes to live and die.

Long Abstract:

The point of foetal viability – the gestational age at which a foetus can survive outside the uterus – is a crucial determinant when it comes to legal and ethical boundaries within reproductive politics and pre-/perinatal care worldwide. In regard to abortion, e.g., many national legislations take viability as a signpost for time limits to abortion access, be it in the frame of so-called elective or selective abortion. Viability is also central in intensive neonatal care, as it regulates the legal time frames of neonatologists’ obligations and parents’ as well as children’s rights in regard to reanimation and treatment. As such, the notion of viability has a crucial impact on who might come to live and die and who will participate in this decision.

While in medical settings foetal viability is mostly understood as biologically determined, we ask how anthropology can contribute to un/doing this notion by centering the myriad ways in which viability is shaped by social, moral, political, economic and technological factors, and “done” through socio-material practices. Our panel welcomes papers that expand on critical aspects of the complex assemblage of viability by focusing on questions such as, but not limited to, how new medical and technological possibilities change the way this concept is understood and imagined, how colonial legacies are entangled or overlooked in this definition and the design of pre-/perinatal technologies, and how foetal viability, life and death are experienced, negotiated and contested by pregnant people and their families, medical staff, engineers and other related actors.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -
Session 2 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -