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Haunting ImagesA Cultural Account of Selective Reproduction in Vietnam$
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Tine M Gammeltoft

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780520278424

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520278424.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 14 October 2019

Questions of Conscience

Questions of Conscience

(p.194) Chapter 7 Questions of Conscience
Haunting Images

Tine M. Gammeltoft

University of California Press

This chapter explores the social relations of authority, obligation, and love out of which women's reproductive decisions were forged when a fetus was defined as abnormal. The chapter highlights how women in Hanoi found their bearings in this disorienting situation by listening to the opinions of others, drawing health care professionals and family members into the decisions that they had to make. The chapter also attends to the feelings of remorse that the women expressed after having their pregnancies terminated. Despite their conviction that they had come to the right decision, all the women felt troubled by questions of conscience. To account for these ambivalent emotions, the chapter argues, the fetus as a moral agent must be taken into consideration. After its death, the fetal spirit still hovered, threatening to keep haunting its parents. The chapter describes how this compelled the relatives of the prospective parents to take a range of ritual precautions, seeking to exorcise the spirit from the family body. People's fears of ghostly fetal returns can, the chapter concludes, be seen as moral commentaries on impossibly hard reproductive choices.

Keywords:   abortion, medical authority, kinship, remorse, love, conscience, fetus, spirit, ghosts, ritual

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