Mark the date June 12th Bioethics & Society seminar with Professor Catherine Mills on “Seeing, Feeling, Doing: Obstetric ultrasound, abortion and the politics of empathy”


Professor Catherine Mills

We are delighted to announce an upcoming Bioethics & Society seminar with Dr Catherine Mills, Associate Professor and ARC Future Fellow in the  Centre for Human Bioethics at Monash University. Catherine Mills will be giving a paper titled “Seeing, Feeling, Doing: Obstetric ultrasound, abortion and the politics of empathy”.

When: Monday June 12th, 4:00-5:30 pm

Where: K3.11, Strand Campus (directions: here)


In recent years, a number of US states have adopted laws that require pregnant women to have an ultrasound examination, and be shown images of their fetus, prior to undergoing a pregnancy termination. While there is a growing critical literature on such laws, there has been little attempt in bioethics or philosophy to unpack one of the basic presumptions of them: that seeing one’s fetus changes the ways in which one might act in regards to it, including in terms of the (ethical) decision about whether to allow it to live or not. However, this presumption raises significant questions about the relation between visibility, emotion and ethics. In addressing these questions, I first consider the theory of maternal bonding, its link to obstetric ultrasound, and its use in attempts to limit access to abortion. Second, I elaborate notions of maternal bonding in terms of recent philosophy of empathy, with particular reference to comments by moral sentimentalist, Michael Slote, on the relevance of empathy to the ethics of abortion. I show that there are numerous complexities to empathy in regards to a human fetus and in the politics of abortion. The approach I propose reveals the need for a new account of the politics of emotion in relation to abortion – not in terms of grief and shame, but in those of a critical analysis of the (variable) mobilization of empathy and care.

About the speaker:

Dr 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. Another recently awarded ARC Discovery Project (2017-2019) supports her research on the ethical and legal issues raised by technologies that permit inheritable genetic modifications to the human genome, such as mitochondrial replacement therapy and CRISPR genome editing.

Catherine Mills has published widely in the ethics of reproduction: she is the author of three single author books, as well as numerous articles. Her books are: The Philosophy of Agamben (2008), Futures of Reproduction: Bioethics and biopolitics (2011) and Biopolitics (forthcoming, 2017). Details (and some copies) of her articles, book chapters and other publications may be found here. Some draft versions are also available via her profile. For a full list of her publications see here.

All are welcome and there is no need to register. Hope to see many of you there!

Contact person for this seminar: Dr Silvia Camporesi,

This entry was posted in Bioethics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s