Evaluating Ectogenesis via the Metaphysics of Pregnancy

In Robbie Davis-Floyd (ed.), Birthing Techno-Sapiens: Human-Technology Co-Evolution and the Future of Reproduction. Routledge: Taylor & Francis. pp. Chapter 8 (2021)
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Ectogenesis, or “artificial womb technology,” has been heralded by some, such as prominent feminist Shulamith Firestone, as a way to liberate women. In this chapter, we challenge this view by offering an alternative analysis of the technology as relying upon and perpetuating a problematic model of pregnancy which, rather than liberating women, serves to devalue them. We look to metaphysics as the abstract study of reality to elucidate how the entities in a pregnancy are related to one another. We consider two models of the metaphysics of pregnancy: (1) the Parthood Model, whereby the fetus is a part of what/who gestates it; and (2) and the Fetal Container Model, whereby the gestator is a container for the fetus. We suggest that under the assumption of the Fetal Container Model, we are more likely to think that any container will suffice for gestation, even an artificial one. In contrast, under the assumption of the Parthood Model, we are less likely to treat the gestator as interchangeable or replaceable, given the parthood relationship between gestator and fetus. This chapter argues that ectogenesis is conceptually linked to the Fetal Container Model and advocates a more cautious approach in promoting ectogenesis as a tool for women’s liberation.



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Suki Finn
Royal Holloway University of London