I found this on Andrew Sullivan’s blockbuster The Daily Dish, but I doubt there’s much overlap in our readerships. A pair (I, II) of articles discusses the yet far-off possibility of artificial wombs, which could potentially end pregnancies of early-term fetuses while bearing them to term. From Conor Friedersdorf:
“I think that technology is going to make fetuses viable outside the womb earlier and earlier. In fact that is already happening. And eventually there will be artificial wombs, enabling doctors to extract a fetus from a pregnant woman during the first trimester with a procedure no more invasive or dangerous than abortion, and to keep that baby alive in an incubator. Today we are used to thinking about a woman’s right to end a pregnancy as the functional equivalent of ending the fetuses’ life. In the future, however, that need not be so. A woman could be afforded the right to end her pregnancy, but be denied the right to end the life of the fetus. Although I am not an expert in abortion jurisprudence, it is at least conceivable that this could happen without any need to overturn Roe vs. Wade…”
“…It is possible that society’s views about killing fetuses would change in the pro-life direction once that change didn’t entail forcing women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term…”
I really don’t see the second proposition happening. If anything, both sides would play reactionary, and dig deeper into the trenches of culture warring.
One imagines the cost of reserving and maintaining a hypothetical artificial womb would grossly outweigh the cost of an abortion—and probably even the hospital stay for a natural live birth. This does not even take into account for the child-support Friedersdorf suggests mothers might have to pay to support the overburdened adoption infrastructure. Seeing as most terminations are initiated by lower-income women, these costs would not be able to be incurred by many carriers of unwanted pregnancies. For them, reproductive rights advocates would assert the continued necessity of safe and legal abortion.
Equally unlikely as pro-choicer’s concession is the acceptance of the technology by conservative bioethicists to the hypothetical technology. As reported by Steven Pinker (if you can get past the gratuitous title), Neothomist-derivative natural law paradigms form the intellectual backbone of conservative bioethics.
Natural legislators argue methods of conception using assisted means, i.e. artificial insemination, are immoral. Such bioethicists argue any conception not resultant from vaginal intercourse between a consenting married couple to be an aberration. Technological intercession abuses of natural (or sometimes explicitly God-given) biological capacities. Intercession or third parties into the process of conception supposedly robs conception of spiritual significance, reducing the procreation into a wholly mechanical act, harming the dignity of all parties involved.
If assisted conception can be denounced along these lines, it is easy to imagine conservative bioethicists likewise condemning assisted pregnancy. One imagines them claiming any woman who made use of an artificial womb would be violating her own maternal obligations and the natural order for convenience sake, and degrading her own dignity and that of her fetus.
This discussion, of course, assumes such technology could be feasible. We speak in hypotheticals now, but I’m reluctant to tempt Clarke’s Second Law. It also assumes the procedure would be legalized.
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