What Remains? Intercorporeality, embodiment, and pregnancy loss
In this paper, we explore how the experience of pregnancy loss can enhance our understanding of embodiment, intercorporeality, and the respect for bodily integrity. The paper draws on the findings of the ‘Death Before Birth’ project, which was funded by the ESRC from 2016–2018. The narrative experiences of pregnancy loss found in our interviews with bereaved parents, midwives, and members of support organisations challenge standard binaries that are often implicit in understandings of bodily integrity in health law – life/death; pregnant/not pregnant; and bodily separation and division. Those interviewed during our project provided nuanced and rich accounts of how they engaged with and formed an attachment to their baby. These attachments were physical, emotional, and social and important questions about how bodily integrity is understood in the context of pregnancy and the extent to which it can be accommodated in law. The conceptualization of intercorporeal relationality that emerges from our discussion challenges linear, temporal legal understandings of pregnant embodiment. The maintenance of physical, social and emotional bonds are not dependent on being pregnant or on the period of gestation at which a pregnancy loss or stillbirth occurs. Our findings and analysis contribute to understandings of bodily integrity in health law and how interdisciplinary work can advance and deepen these.
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