Ectogenesis is the growth of an organism entirely outside of a natural environment. Achieving such growth for a human child has been a dream of biologists for decades now. What was once a dream might soon be a reality however. With recent biotechnological breakthroughs having us quite close to being able to create new human life, no natural womb necessary.
Just this past April, researchers working at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia revealed their successful development of a new highly advanced artificial womb. Their new BioBag technology is a far leap forward from current incubators and would allow us to save premature babies born as early as just 22 weeks. But the recent scientific leaps don’t stop there. With another team at Cambridge University recently having successfully kept a human embryo alive outside the body for just under two weeks using a mix of chemicals and nutrients that mimic conditions inside the womb. In fact there was no reason to believe the embryo would not have just kept on living and growing, had the team not been forced to stop the experiment short. Due to a law preventing keeping an embryo alive in a lab for more than 14 days’ time. The science is here, but the laws still need to catch up it seems.
The combination of the two team’s research though along with other similar breakthroughs in recent years, has many believing we are on the cusp of being able to bring a child to full term outside the womb. Achieving completely external human ectogenesis. The benefits of this seem obvious. Beyond just saving the lives of many premature babies, it could also be the solution for naturally infertile couples, enable older parents to have kids, and offer a safer alternative to childbirth for both mother and offspring in many cases.
All these benefits though, haven’t prevented some from already raising alarm over perceived gender equality concerns this technology might bring into question. When women are stripped from their roles as birth giver, both parents truly become equal for the first time. To put it simply, a woman would no longer be required if a Man wanted to have a child. A benefit Woman already make use of today, with anonymous sperm donors. The ramifications of this technology don’t stop there though, with the amount of change ectogenesis would ripple down through our society being as of yet not fully imaginable.
For example, it would almost instantly reopen the abortion issue. In a case today where the father wants to keep the child but the mother doesn’t he has almost no option to save the child’s life. In a society where the baby can be easily and safely removed from the mother at any stage of the pregnancy, would this still be the case? At a minimum the technology would certainly re-energize the abortion debate in general and likely be the final death toll for Roe V. Wade. Some Feminists have even already expressed their panic at the idea that abortion laws could possibly be changed to forced extraction of the undesired child rather than simply killing it.
Other Feminists simply seem wary of handing “over women’s sacred birthing ability to science.” Even Female scientists seem conflicted in this regard. Julien Murphy in her book Feminist Perspectives in Medical Ethics writes that ectogenesis has caused much “disagreement among Feminists.” Other women are alarmed too. Author Ann Oakley writes in her book, The Captured Womb: A History of the Medical Care of Pregnant Women, “that ectogenesis encourages long-standing misogynistic medical practices appropriating women’s wombs for science’s sake.”
In fact there are an increasing amount of Feminist writers sounding the early warning bells over this technology. In a piece entitled, The Artificial Womb Will Change Feminism Forever author Samantha Allen writes, “the artificial womb will undoubtedly improve the lives of some women who opt to use it, but the separation of childbirth from a woman’s body will also give the anti-feminist Right terrifying new points of leverage at a crucial moment in feminist history.” To put this in perspective, Samantha fully admits that the technology will help many women, but then immediately raises objections against it because it might hurt “the cause”.
She goes on to warn that Men Rights Activists are “poised and ready to celebrate the additional distance that ectogenesis would place between a woman and her child.” She attacks such activists for their seeming celebration of ectogenesis technology, but then herself in a rather stunningly hypocritical move. Makes positive mention of the infamous Atlantic “The End of Men” article which celebrated sperm selection techniques being used only to create new girls, spelling the slow death of the male gender.
Ignoring her own hypocrisy, she then wraps up her thoughts with this gem. “Feminists face new enemies in the 21st century: a vocal group of male activists embittered by the political successes of feminism over the past few decades and a religious Right that is desperate to regain a foothold in the abortion debate after 40 years of Roe v. Wade. The womb may become artificial by the end of the century but it will still be the battleground for feminist politics.” Instead of focusing on the amazing amount of both men and women this technology could help. Or simply the amount of lives it will directly save. All this writer and many others like her seem to care about is how it will affect their cult of modern Feminism.
The priority for these women is not to save lives, or even the overall betterment of them. But rather only the continued advancement of what has become a collectivist and borderline cultish philosophy that too often advocates not gender equality, but Female supremacy. This isn’t the first or last time we will see women standing in opposition to scientific research. Thankfully cooler heads normally prevail, which is why science and society with it always move forward despite the voices raising their objections.