Scientists look to begin human trials for artificial wombs

fetal pain, tiktok, pro-life, preborn children, Roe, Wyoming, Biden

In 2017, researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) announced they had successfully been able to keep premature lambs alive through ectogenesis — an artificial womb. Now, six years later, they are requesting to move forward to human trials, which could have massive repercussions.

Nature reported that CHOP researchers have requested approval to test their Extra-uterine Environment for Newborn Development, or EXTEND, device, on humans. For now, the team cautioned that it is not meant to support life from conception through birth; rather, they are hoping to increase survival chances of micro-preemies.

“If it’s as successful as we think it can be, ultimately, the majority of pregnancies that are predicted at-risk for extreme prematurity would be delivered early onto our system rather than being delivered premature onto a ventilator,” Alan Flake, a fetal surgeon, said in 2017.

A panel of advisors for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet next week, and many people in the medical field are interested. “This is definitely an exciting step and it’s been a long time coming,” Kelly Werner, a bioethicist and neonatologist at Columbia University Medical Center, told Nature. “Clinicians who work with premature babies will be closely following this meeting.”

There is still much debate surrounding the notion of human trials, but it could be a groundbreaking development that can save many lives. Yet as prenatal testing, a pro-life tool, was hijacked by the abortion industry, there are concerns that artificial wombs could be hijacked for an unethical purpose as well. However, the concern is largely coming from the pro-abortion movement for now.

When the technology first surfaced, many applauded it as a way to eliminate the abortion debate entirely. Women who didn’t want to be pregnant wouldn’t have to be; they could separate themselves from their babies, even before viability, without having to kill them. It was a win-win situation… except, for abortion advocates, it wasn’t.

At Wired, pro-abortion writers argued that abortion should still be permitted even if artificial wombs existed because women might be “psychologically harmed” if she lives with the guilt of having a child she chooses not to raise. Of course, Wired had no concern about any potential guilt over ending a child’s life by abortion. The outlet wrote:

Even if a legal system has absolved a biological mother of legal obligations toward her biological child, she might still feel a sense of obligation toward the child or guilt toward herself, for not enshrining the self-sacrificing qualities often idealized and associated with motherhood.

Living with these emotions could cause the biological mother psychological harm, and she might also be at risk of encountering related social stigma.

Future legislation will need to guarantee that ectogenesis is a choice rather than a new form of coercion. The right to abortion will need to be recentered in law around the value of reproductive autonomy and the right not to become a biological parent against one’s will, as opposed to fetus viability.

And Harvard bioethicist I. Glenn Cohen wrote an op-ed for Vox arguing that women should still have the right to abortion, because they might not want to be a “genetic” parent.

“This would effectively preserve her right not to be a gestational parent — as she can stop gestating by transfer to the artificial womb — but not her right not to be a genetic parent. That’s because a child would come into being with her genetic code that she does not want to exist,” he said, adding, “Confronted with the argument that transfer to an artificial womb could be made mandatory, a different strategy might be to stand up and defend abortion as a right not to be a genetic parent — full stop. The asserted right, in other words, would extend further than the right not to be a gestational parent and include a right to terminate the fetus.”

Ultimately, the problem with the abortion industry revolves around a simple premise: they are pitting the rights of one class of human beings against another, stronger, class. If a child is developed in an artificial womb, it is obvious that the “right” to abortion, then, is not truly about a woman’s bodily autonomy. It is about what the pro-life movement has long claimed: the right to a dead child.

The pro-abortion argument is ultimately that, even though a woman can physically separate herself from her child, she should be allowed to kill him or her anyway… even though, in this scenario, it is completely unnecessary.

This is a distinction that used to be clear, even to pro-abortion advocates. In her famous “violinist argument,” Judith Jarvis Thomson said that women should be allowed to separate themselves from their children — but it ended there:

[W]hile I am arguing for the permissibility of abortion in some cases, I am not arguing for the right to secure the death of the unborn child.

It is easy to confuse these two things in that up to a certain point in the life of the fetus it is not able to survive outside the mother’s body; hence removing it from her body guarantees its death. But they are importantly different.

I have argued that you are not morally required to spend nine months in bed, sustaining the life of that violinist, but to say this is by no means to say that if, when you unplug yourself, there is a miracle and he survives, you then have a right to turn round and slit his throat. You may detach yourself even if this costs him his life; you have no right to be guaranteed his death, by some other means, if unplugging yourself does not kill him.

There are some people who will feel dissatisfied by this feature of my argument. A woman may be utterly devastated by the thought of a child, a bit of herself, put out for adoption and never seen or heard of again. She may therefore want not merely that the child be detached from her, but more, that it die.

Some opponents of abortion are inclined to regard this as beneath contempt—thereby showing insensitivity to what is surely a powerful source of despair.

All the same, I agree that the desire for the child’s death is not one which anybody may gratify, should it turn out to be possible to detach the child alive.

Abortion advocates oppose technology like EXTEND because their goal is simple: to ensure the death of the preborn child. It is not to liberate a woman from the strains and stresses of pregnancy and parenting — because that could be, and would be, addressed by an artificial womb.

By arguing that abortion should still be permitted, the argument essentially becomes that parents should be allowed to murder their children at any time, simply because they don’t feel like being genetic parents anymore.

There may well end up being ethical issues with ectogenesis; judging by the advances in things like reproductive technology and prenatal testing, that’s even a likelihood. However, what we know for sure is that even this will not be enough to satiate those who simply want the supposed “right” to a dead child.


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