The rhetoric of auscultation: Corporeal sounds, mediated bodies, and abortion rights

This essay argues that corporeal sound, including the spoken voice and the auscultated heartbeat, can be understood as material rhetoric, and that material rhetoric, by extension, should be understood as both a force and a networked fluid. I illustrate this argument through the case study of abortion practices and policies, arguing that both mandated heartbeat auscultation and physician speech-and-display provisions represent the forceful fluidity of material rhetoric and demonstrate the power of such rhetoric to carve out networks of meaning. Through this networking, sound’s material role in defining autonomy takes on a powerful role in debates over fetal personhood.

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