Department of Global Health & Social Medicine at King's College, London

Tomorrow! BIOS+ Seminar with Catherine Mills Tuesday June 21st ““Prenatal testing and the apparatus of choice”


We are delighted to announce the next event of the BIOS+ seminar series will be on Tuesday June 21st at 4 pm, in room S0.03 (King’s College London, Strand Campus) with Catherine Mills from Monash University, who will give a talk titled “Prenatal testing and the apparatus of choice”. The talk will be chaired by Giulia Cavaliere, Wellcome Trust PhD Fellow at SSHM.

Catherine Mills is an Associate Professor and ARC Future Fellow in the  Centre for Human Bioethics at Monash University. The Future Fellowship is a very prestigious Australian Research Council Research research fellowship on a project on reproductive responsibility, from 2013 to 2018. Catherine Mills has published widely in the ethics of reproduction. Her most recent book “Futures of Reproduction: Bioethics and Biopolitics” was reviewed by Dr Silvia Camporesi here. For a full list of her publications see here.

For inquiries contact Giulia Cavaliere:


In many liberal democracies, the moral principle of reproductive liberty or choice has an unchallenged ascendency in the management of reproduction, including in regard to prenatal testing and selective termination. This paper proposes the notion of an “apparatus of choice” at work in pregnancy care and prenatal testing regimes in order to examine the effects of the principle of reproductive liberty. Drawing on qualitative data on obstetric ultrasound screening in Australia, I show that notions of choice are deployed in various ways, and in the process, do various things. In particular, within the clinical encounter, the apparatus of choice positions pregnant women as the principal moral agents in prenatal testing regimes, and the foetus as a kind of moral boundary object, while deflecting attention from the ethical involvement of clinical practitioners. Furthermore, considered in a broader context, the apparatus of choice intersects with processes of medical normalisation in prenatal care in complex ways, especially evident in discussions of termination of pregnancy on the basis of foetal abnormalities. I argue that it obfuscates the ways that social norms and other socio-economic conditions shape which decisions appear as possible and which do not. In this way, the apparatus of choice operates differentially to reinforce social inequalities in regards to both pregnancy and the medical institutions that strive to manage it. It also leaves unquestioned discriminatory attitudes and norms that restrict the range of bodies that appear as livable in the social field. In light of these problems, I conclude by briefly considering alternatives to the apparatus of choice in the provision and management of prenatal testing.

For more information about the BIOS+ Research Group contact Dr Christine Aicardi: