A team a doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvannia have make an important breakthrough in developing an artificial uterus. They put six lamb fetuses in a kind of plastic bag and managed to grow them to healthy sheep. This technology could have significant consequences on the debate on abortion and the issue of gender equality.
Anna Smajdor has written an article in which she argues that artificial wombs, or ectogenesis as she calls it, are a moral imperative. Her argument is that pregnancy creates a fundamental inequality between men and women. Continue reading Smajdor on Ectogenesis
Recently we did a post about the 21-hour work week, one of the arguments raised in favour of this proposal, is enhancing gender equality. By reducing working hours, parents of both genders would be enabled to a more equal share in the care of their children. There is no doubt that this idea would improve gender equality, however it is not enough. A fundamental obstacle to full gender-equality is pregnancy.
It’s a biological fact that only women can become pregnant, and unfortunately it is also a full-time job. Pregnancy has a huge impact on female physiology, especially at the later stages. Because of these inconveniences, working women who are pregnant has to decrease working hours or to stop working at all. For this reason, female employees are too often fired, not hired at all, or their temporary employment contract is not prolonged.
And this is only in case of one child, what if a couple wants to have more children? Young women often leave the labour force for a few years, when they are starting a new family. It’s obvious that this is detrimental for the careers of women. Too many women are giving up their ambitions. There should be a way for women to pursue both a career and a family.
As some regular readers might know, I am a great fan of artificial uteri. I have written about it before, albeit in the discussion of non-human animals. The technology would enable, if fully developed, the gestation of a human person outside the female body. At this moment it is not possible to carry out the entire pregnancy in an artificial uterus, only the final stages. But since the later stages are also the most problematic ones, many women would be helped.
No woman should be forced to use an artificial uterus. Some women will choose to be pregnant herself, other women will be glad to make use of this bright new technology. Also this can also solve another problem: sometimes a pregnant woman’s life by her pregnancy, in which case the pregnancy has to be terminated at the expense of the child’s life. For many parents this is a great nightmare. See this post for another possible application of artificial uteri.
In order to achieve full gender equality, any humanist government should encourage research to artificial uteri.