The Corner

Artificial Gestation Unethical Human Experimentation

Efforts continue to permit human gestation outside a woman’s body.

Such machines could save the lives of premature babies and the like.  Splendid. Extreme circumstances sometimes require extreme measures.

But if artificial gestation became a route from the point of implantation–at about 10 days–for convenience or to surmount nature, there is a real problem. Discover’s “The Crux” blog has a list of potential uses:

Advances in reproductive technology may radically change the options we have for starting a family. We’re not too far from fundamentally redefining what it means to start a family. Do you want to have children, but don’t have a partner? Do you want children with your partner, but it’s a same-sex relationship? Or perhaps you’re a woman who wants children without the burden of a 9-month pregnancy. You might opt for ectogenesis, or moving gestation to an artificial womb.

Advocates for this approach seem to assume that gestation is merely a matter of cells differentiating and nascent organs developing.

But gestation is so much more than that. Indeed, the fetus’s experiences in the womb can have a material impact on the future born person’s entire life. From “Bonding During Pregnancy:”

Researchers have shown that so much is happening inside the womb between mother and baby throughout those precious nine months.

Beginning early in the pregnancy, natural rhythms and responses are developing constantly. Baby listens to mom and mom to baby, often even subconsciously. There is a communication system that unborn babies become familiar with, which often shows after birth by the responses of babies to their mother’s voice, touch, and even smell…

Experts in the field (as well as our great grandmothers) have known for many years that the relationship between mother and baby is the foundation for a child’s sense of security, trust, and independence, even as they grow into adults…

Babies who feel safe and secure can cope better with their birth experience and life in general after is an emotional factor too, that impacts us as we develop in the warmth of living wombs, with hormones, etc.

What impact would intentionally withholding these existential benefits (let’s call them) have on the future well being and best interests of the person born from via a wholly artificial process? Nobody knows. How could we?

That’s why I think that outside the circumstance of saving a baby from miscarriage (or, I suppose, abortion), gestating our offspring artificially would be unethical.

Indeed, putting one’s own lifestyle desires ahead of the potential welfare of a future child would not only be selfish, but amount to crass human experimentation.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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