Many people believe that the abortion debate will end when at some point in the future it will be possible for fetuses to develop outside the womb. Ectogenesis, as this technology is called, would make possible to reconcile pro-life and pro-choice positions. That is because it is commonly believed that there is no right to the death of the fetus if it can be detached alive and gestated in an artificial womb. Recently Eric Mathison and Jeremy Davis defended this (...) position, by arguing against three common arguments for a right to the death of the fetus. I claim that their arguments are mistaken. I argue that there is a right to the death of the fetus because gestating a fetus in an artificial womb when genetic parents refuse it violates their rights not to become a biological parent, their rights to genetic privacy and their property rights. The right to the death of the fetus, however, is not a woman's right but genetic parents’ collective right which only can be used together. (shrink)
Ectogenesis, or the use of an artificial womb to allow a foetus to develop, will likely become a reality within a few decades, and could significantly affect the abortion debate. We first examine the implications for Judith Jarvis Thomson’s violinist analogy, which argues for a woman’s right to withdraw life support from the foetus and so terminate her pregnancy, even if the foetus is granted full moral status. We show that on Thomson’s reasoning, there is no right to the (...) death of the foetus, and abortion is not permissible if ectogenesis is available, provided it is safe and inexpensive. This raises the question of whether there are persuasive reasons for the right to the death of the foetus that could be exercised in the context of ectogenesis. Eric Mathison and Jeremy Davis have examined several arguments for this right, doubting that it exists, while Joona Räsänen has recently criticized their reasoning. We respond to Räsänen’s analysis, concluding that his arguments are unsuccessful, and that there is no right to the death of the foetus in these circumstances. (shrink)
In a well known story Derek Parfit describes a disconnection between two entities that normally (in real life) travel together through space and time, namely your personal identity consisting of both mind and body. Realising the possibility of separation, even if it might never happen in real life, new questions arise that cast doubt on old solutions. In human reproduction, in real life, at present the fetus spends approximately nine months inside the pregnant woman. But, we might envisage other possibilities. (...) Historically, the first era is the normal conception inside the woman, the growth of the fetus in the womb and then, after nine months, birth and the appearance of a new individual. The second era is In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). The fetus starts outside the woman as a fertilised egg, moves to the body of the woman and spends nine month there, where the body of the woman and the fetus travel together in space-time to separate at birth. In the third era of reproductive ectogenesis, the two never travel together. The fetus spends its gestational time entirely outside the woman’s body. We have two entities separated in space-time the whole time. The intimate connection consisting in the fetus being a part of the woman’s body is gone. (shrink)
Subjects of ectogenesis—human beings that are developing in artificial wombs (AWs)—share the same moral status as newborns. To demonstrate this, I defend two claims. First, subjects of partial ectogenesis—those that develop in utero for a time before being transferred to AWs—are newborns (in the full sense of the word). Second, subjects of complete ectogenesis—those who develop in AWs entirely—share the same moral status as newborns. To defend the first claim, I rely on Elizabeth Chloe Romanis’s distinctions between (...) fetuses, newborns and subjects of ectogenesis. For Romanis, the subject of partial ectogenesis ‘is neither a fetus nor a baby’ but is, instead, a ‘new product of human reproduction’. In this essay, I begin by, expanding upon Romanis’s argument that subjects of partial ectogenesis are not fetuses while arguing that those subjects are newborns. Next, I show that the distinction that Romanis draws between subjects of partial ectogenesis and newborns needs to be revised. The former is a kind of the latter. This leads us to an argument that shows why different moral statuses cannot be justifiably assigned to subjects of partial ectogenesis and subjects of complete ectogenesis, respectively. As subjects of partial ectogenesis share the same moral status as newborns, it follows that subjects of complete ectogenesis share the same moral status as newborns as well. I conclude by considering implications that this essay may have for the research and development of AW technology and conceptual links between a subject’s moral status and birth. (shrink)
The contemporary philosophical literature on abortion primarily revolves around three seemingly intractable debates, concerning the moral status of the fetus, scope of women’s rights and moral relevance of the killing/letting die distinction. The possibility of ectogenesis—technology that would allow a fetus to develop outside of a gestational mother’s womb—presents a unique opportunity for moral compromise. Here, I argue those opposed to abortion have a prima facie moral obligation to pursue ectogenesis technology and provide ectogenesis for disconnected fetuses (...) as part of a moral compromise. (shrink)
In his article “Research Priorities and the Future of Pregnancy” in this issue of CQ, Timothy Murphy evaluates some of the arguments I advanced in an earlier publication, “The Moral Imperative for Ectogenesis.
The benefits of full ectogenesis, that is, the gestation of human fetuses outside the maternal womb, for women ground many contemporary authors’ arguments on the ethical desirability of this practice. In this paper, I present and assess two sets of arguments advanced in favour of ectogenesis: arguments stressing ectogenesis’ equality-promoting potential and arguments stressing its freedom-promoting potential. I argue that although successfully grounding a positive case for ectogenesis, these arguments have limitations in terms of their reach (...) and scope. Concerning their limited reach, I contend that ectogenesis will likely benefit a small subset of women and, arguably, not the group who most need to achieve equality and freedom. Concerning their limited scope, I contend that these defences do not pay sufficient attention to the context in which ectogenesis would be developed and that, as a result, they risk leaving the status quo unchanged. After providing examples of these limitations, I move to my proposal concerning the role of ectogenesis in promoting women’s equality and freedom. This proposal builds on Silvia Federici’s, Mariarosa Dalla Costa’s and Selma James’ readings of the international feminist campaign ‘Wages for Housework’. It maintains that the political perspective and provocation that ectogenesis can advance should be considered and defended. (shrink)
To what extent are women obliged to be child-bearers? If reproductive technology could offer some form of ectogenesis, would feminists regard it as a liberating reproductive option? Three lines of reproductive rights arguments currently used by feminists are applied to ectogenesis. Each fails to provide strong grounds for prohibiting it. Yet, there are several ways in which ectogenesis could contribute to women's oppression, in particular, if it were used to undermine abortion rights, reinforce traditional views of fertility, (...) increase fetal rights in pregnancy, and perpetuate the unequal distribution of scarce medical resources. A re-thinking of women's relationship to pregnancy is needed in order to challenge ectogenetic research. (shrink)
ABSTRACT The nature of two influential theories on the moral status of abortion logically commits them to welcoming the advent of ectogenesis as a solution to the abortion conflict. However, qualitative research into women's response to ectogenesis reveals that both women in favour and women opposed to abortion rights reject the technology on surprisingly similar grounds. The abortion framework which led women to reject ectogenesis as an ethical resolution to unwanted pregnancy is contrasted with the moral framework (...) which shapes formal ethical discussions of abortion. It is argued that the need for ethical relevance requires the views of ethicists to move closer to those of women . (shrink)
Traditionally reproduction, gestation and childbirth have all been regarded as being primarily a woman's domain. As natural reproduction occurs inside a woman's body, respect for autonomy and bodily integrity requires the pregnant woman to have the conclusive say over the fate of the embryo/fetus growing within her. Thus traditionally the ethics and law of reproduction is dominated by the importance of respecting women's reproductive choices. This paper argues that emerging technologies demand a radical rethink of ethics and law in the (...) area of reproduction. The creation and storing of embryos outside of a woman's body and maintaining a pregnancy in a brain dead woman's body and future possibilities such as ectogenesis and male pregnancy raise important issues that cannot simply be answered by appealing to the rights of women to control their bodies. There are those who argue that when reproduction or reproductive products exist outside of a woman's body each gamete donor should have an equal say over the fate of the embryo/fetus. Others, however, argue that giving an equal say to gamete donors in practice usually means allowing the male donor to veto the reproductive enterprise and this is unacceptable. As a result it has been suggested that women should be favoured when it comes to such reproductive choices. This paper examines both sides of this debate in order to answer the fundamental ethical and policy question: 'Is there any reason why women should necessarily retain control over reproduction rather than simply over their own bodies?'. (shrink)
The possibility of achieving ectogenesis, or the growing of a human fetus to term in an artificial womb, is approaching reality as a result of advances in treatment of premature newborns and in in vitro fertilization techniques. In their 1984 book, The Reproductive Revolution, issued in North America as Making Babies, Peter Singer and Deane Wells offered several arguments for ectogenesis. James examines their arguments and rejects two of them, that ectogenesis offers a less problematic alternative to (...) surrogate motherhood, and that ectogenesis could make it possible to reconcile fetal rights with the right to abortion on demand. He grants Singer and Wells' argument that the childless have a claim to state support of their desire to nurture, but contends that government-supported ectogenesis should still be rejected because the adoption of unwanted children is a preferable alternative to the use of an exotic, expensive, and still unproven technology. (shrink)
This book raises many moral, legal, social, and political, questions related to possible development, in the near future, of an artificial womb for human use. Is ectogenesis ever morally permissible? If so, under what circumstances? Will ectogenesis enhance or diminish women's reproductive rights and/or their economic opportunities? These are some of the difficult and crucial questions this anthology addresses and attempts to answer.
edited by Tuija Takala and Matti Häyry, welcomes contributions on the conceptual and theoretical dimensions of bioethics. The section is dedicated to the idea that words defined by bioethicists and others should not be allowed to imprison people's actual concerns, emotions, and thoughts. Papers that expose the many meanings of a concept, describe the different readings of a moral doctrine, or provide an alternative angle to seemingly self-evident issues are therefore particularly appreciated. The themes covered in the section so far (...) include dignity, naturalness, public interest, community, disability, autonomy, parity of reasoning, symbolic appeals, and toleration. All submitted papers are peer reviewed. To submit a paper or to discuss a suitable topic, contact Tuija Takala at email@example.com. (shrink)
The abortion controversy as a cultural phenomenon is itself socially troublesome. However, current biotechnology research programs point to a possible technological fix. If we could harmlessly remove fetuses from women’s bodies and transfer them to other women, cryonic suspension, or ectogenetic devices, this might mitigate the controversy. Pro-lifers’ apparent minimal requirement would be met—fetuses would not be killed. Pro-choicers’ apparent minimal requirement would be met—women could end pregnancies and control their bodies. This option has been optimistically anticipated by some ethicists, (...) but some people reject this fix because they are averse to being genetically related to a child they are not raising, insisting on the right to destroy the fetus as well as have it removed. Inthis paper I examine these issues, asking what the real issues in abortion rights are, whether technology can help, what the scope of reproductive autonomy is, and how technology will change the abortion debate. (shrink)
Joona Räsänen, in his article ‘Ectogenesis, abortion and a right to the death of the fetus’, has argued for the view that parents have a right to the death of the fetus. In this article, I will explicate the three arguments Räsänen defends, and show that two of them have false or unmotivated premises and hence fail, and that the support he offers for his third argument is inconsistent with other views he expresses in his article. Therefore, I conclude (...) that there is no right to the death of the fetus—or, if there is one, Räsänen has not shown it. (shrink)
At some point in the future – perhaps within the next few decades – it will be possible for foetuses to develop completely outside the womb. Ectogenesis, as this technology is called, raises substantial issues for the abortion debate. One such issue is that it will become possible for a woman to have an abortion, in the sense of having the foetus removed from her body, but for the foetus to be kept alive. We argue that while there is (...) a right to an abortion, there are reasons to doubt that there is a right to the death of the foetus. Our strategy in this essay is to consider and reject three arguments in favour of this latter right. The first claims that women have a right not to be biological mothers, the second that women have a right to genetic privacy, and the third that a foetus is one's property. Furthermore, we argue that it follows from rejecting the third claim that genetic parents also lack a right to the destruction of cryopreserved embryos used for in vitro fertilization. The conclusion that a woman possesses no right to the death of the foetus builds upon the claims that other pro-choice advocates, such as Judith Jarvis Thomson, have made. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the development of an artificial womb is already well on its way. By putting together pieces of information arising from new scientific advances in different areas, (neo-natal care, gynecology, embryology, the human genome project and computer science), I delineate a distinctive picture, which clearly suggests that the artificial womb may become a reality sooner than we may think. Currently, there is a huge gap between the first stages of gestation (using in vitro fertilization) and (...) the 22nd week (inside the womb). At the present time this gap seems an insurmountable barrier for fully developing a fetus outside a natural womb – a notion better known as ectogenesis. The history of science however, suggests that impenetrable barriers are such only temporarily. It is just a matter of time (and due research) until someone – intentionally or by chance – accesses the right answer and finds a way to overcome existing obstacles. Despite misgivings that the case of the artificial womb presents too many barriers, it would be naïve to suppose things would happen any differently. I observe in this paper, that it is time to acknowledge the consequences of new developments in different areas of scientific research which are leading to the advent of an artificial womb; and I modestly suggest that we might initiate a discussion on this topic now, while we have still enough time to decide what we may want and why. (shrink)
The introduction of contraceptive technologies hasresulted in the separation of sex and procreation. Theintroduction of new reproductive technologies (mainlyIVF and embryo transfer) has led not only to theseparation of procreation and sex, but also to there-definition of the terms mother and family.For the purpose of this essay, I will distinguishbetween:1. the genetic mother – the donor of the egg;2. the gestational mother – she who bears and gives birth to the baby;3. the social mother – the woman who raises the (...) child.This essay will deal only with the form of gestationalsurrogacy in which the genetic parents intend to bethe social parents, and the surrogate mother has nogenetic relationship to the child she bears anddelivers. I will raise questions regarding medicalethical aspects of surrogacy and the obligation(s) ofthe physician(s) to the parties involved. I will arguethat the gestational surrogate is a womb to rent,that there is great similarity between gestationalcommercial surrogacy and organ transplant marketing.Furthermore, despite claims to freedom of choice andfree marketing, I will claim that gestationalsurrogacy is a form of prostitution and slavery,exploitation of the poor and needy by those who arebetter off. The right to be a parent, although notconstitutional, is intuitive and deeply rooted.However, the issue remains whether this rightoverrules all other rights, and at what price to theparties involved. I will finally raise the followingprovocative question to society: In the interim periodbetween today''s limited technology and tomorrow''sextra-corporeal gestation technology (ectogenesis),should utilizing females in PVS (persistent vehetativestate) for gestational surrogacy be sociallyacceptable/permissible – provided they have leftpermission in writing? (shrink)
Is it permissible to use a human embryo in stem cell research, or in general as a means for benefit of others? Acknowledging each embryo as an object of moral concern, Louis M.Guenin argues that it is morally permissible to decline intrauterine transfer of an embryo formed outside the body, and that from this permission and the duty of beneficence, there follows a consensus justification for using donated embryos in service of humanitarian ends. He then proceeds to show how this (...) justification commands assent even within moral and religious views commonly thought to oppose embryo use. Beneath his moral reasoning lies a carefully constructed metaphysical foundation incorporating accounts of the ontology of development, embryos, and species. He also incisively discusses nonreprocloning, reprocloning, ectogenesis, and related scientific frontiers. This compelling philosophical study will interest all concerned to understand virtue and obligation in the relief of suffering. (shrink)
This paper aims to address how artificial gestation might affect equality of opportunity for the unborn and any resultant generation of “ectogenetic” babies. It will first explore the current legal obstacles preventing the development of ectogenesis, before looking at the benefits of allowing this technology to control fetal growth and development. This will open up a discussion of the treatment/enhancement divide regarding the use of reproductive technologies, a topic featured in various bioethical debates on the subject. Using current maternity (...) practices in Western society as a comparator, this paper will conclude that neither naturally nor artificially gestated fetuses have interests that can conflict with those of potential parents who might want to use this technology to control fetal development. Such control may include selective implantation of embryos of a desired gender, deliberate choice of genetic traits, or maintenance of an ideal incubation environment to avoid fetal damage. Objections on the basis of disability as well as concerns regarding eugenics will be addressed. The paper will conclude that none of these objections are compelling grounds to prevent the development and use of ectogenesis technologies for the purpose of achieving specific reproductive goals, particularly when compared to current practices in pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and selective abortion on the grounds of undesired traits. As such, when deciding whether to support ectogenesis research, the enduring interests of parents must be the primary consideration, with societal concerns regarding potential misuse the only valid secondary consideration. (shrink)
This article revisits the question of ectogenesis as our neonatal care and biogenetic technologies bring us closer to the possibility. In 1923, J.B.S. Haldane wrote approvingly of ectogenesis as a eugenic technique, using a science fiction format. In the 1970s and 1980s, feminists debated whether ectogenesis, if possible, would be liberating or oppressive for women. Given current legal and bioethical issues, we must now take seriously the possible costs of ectogenesis: the possibility of growing bodies for (...) use as spare parts, the erosion of the autonomy of women in the reproductive process, the denigration of the body through the loss of the physicality of pregnancy and childbirth. (shrink)
The term “ectogenesis” has been around for about a century now, and it is generally understood as the development of embryos and fetuses outside a uterus. In this sense, all in vitro fertilization is ectogenesis, but in vitro development can only proceed to a certain point, at which time human embryos are then either implanted in the attempt to achieve a pregnancy, frozen for that use in the future, used in research, or discarded.
Many years ago, the esteemed patriarch of bioethics, Joseph Fletcher, spoke loud and clear in favor of rationality in reproduction. By rationality, he meant not merely limiting population growth, which he certainly favored, but bringing to bear human analytic and creative intelligence on the random and instinctive activities of sexual intercourse and procreation that we share with all mammals. In his 1974 book, The Ethics of Genetic Control: Ending Reproductive Roulette, he foresaw most of the issues that we are facing (...) today. He reflected on artificial insemination, prenatal diagnosis, cloning, eugenics, ectogenesis, ovum transfers, and genetic engineering. He examined these innovations to the extent that he felt that each of them represents a way of exercising rational and responsible control over life and reproduction. The subtitle of his book, “Ending Reproductive Roulette,” proclaims his faith. Dr. Fletcher's dedication to rationality led him to make the astonishing statement, “Man is a maker and the more rationally contrived and deliberate anything is, the more human it is. Therefore, laboratory reproduction is radically human compared to conception by ordinary heterosexual intercourse.”. (shrink)
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008: a missed opportunity?Amel AlghraniCorrespondence to Dr Amel Alghrani, Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation, Centre for Social Ethics and Policy, School of Law, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL; firstname.lastname@example.orgReceived 16 September 2009 Accepted 24 September 2009 Regulating reproduction is no easy feat. In the past three decades we have witnessed a reproductive revolution and great strides have been made to alleviate the effects of infertility. Reproductive advances such as in-vitro fertilisation (...) , sex selection, reproductive cloning and embryo selection for the purpose of creating “saviour siblings” have all emerged as part of a rapid and ever-changing branch of medicine, each promising to upset the status quo and transform human reproduction.Following much activity in this area, the lengthy process of updating the legislation is now complete. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 received Royal Assent on 13 November 2008. The majority of the HFE Act 2008’s amendments will come into force in October of this year, with the exception of the provisions pertaining to parenthood, which commenced in April 2009. Welcoming Royal Assent, Professor Lisa Jardine, Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, stated:“This is a momentous day for the HFEA and for those with fertility problems. The regulatory system that has served us so well has been renewed. Parliament has provided a clear framework for the future and a solid base on which to regulate 21st century practice within 21st century law.”1However, as scientific endeavours into developments such as artificial gametes, womb transplantation and ectogenesis continue apace, it could be argued that Jardine was perhaps overly optimistic about the achievements of the new legislation. The HFE Act 2008 is an amending statute, and as Jackson 2 notes “much of the regulatory architecture” in the 1990 legislation “remains intact”. In retaining the architecture of the 1990 legislation, and merely amending or adding certain provisions, has the government missed an ideal opportunity to consider how to equip the regulatory framework for the next phase/era of assisted reproduction?The next …. (shrink)