About ectogenesis, the Roe vs. Wade decision, and fetal viability:
Paula Mejia, writing for Newsweek, referred to novel "Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley:
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered one of its most famous and influential rulings: Roe v. Wade. 3 One component of their ruling declared that once a fetus is viable -- that is: "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid." -- a state may restrict or ban abortions. About 80% of states in the U.S. have laws prohibiting the termination of pregnancies once the fetus is viable, unless the mothers physical health, mental healthy, or life is in danger. In addition various state and provincial medical associations throughout North America have their own restrictions on post-viability abortions.
Fetal viability is a bit of a moving target. It is a function of whatever equipment and medical procedures are available to support a prematurely born infant. At the time of the Roe v. Wade decision, the age of viability was generally acknowledged to start at about 28 weeks gestation. Thirty years later, at the turn of the century, viability is often reached at about 24 weeks gestation, at least in world-class medical facilities. 3 At this stage of pregnancy, with the best of care and equipment, a newborn has about a 40% to 70% chance to survive. The newborn will probably be disabled -- perhaps seriously. However, it may live.
Probably the first practical application of ectogenesis will be to save the lives of premature fetuses who are born too early in gestation to survive on their own with normal care.
From a logical point of view, there should be little opposition to this application of artificial wombs because it would give large numbers of very premature fetuses the chance to live. However, any topic involving to human sexuality, procreation, pregnancy, or a woman's right over her own body often results in an very emotional response. Ectogenesis represents a major departure from normal gestation, and is thus certain to generate objections.
Back in the late 19th century when anesthetics were first introduced to counter pain during childbirth, there were extensive objections by religious conservatives. Many felt that mothers must be punished by experiencing intense pain during labor. This was specified by God in Genesis 3:16, in the Hebrew Scriptures as shown above. Modern-day women must be punished because of the sin committed by Eve in the Garden of Eden. She ate the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is one instance out of many in the Bible of scapegoating: the transfer of guilt and punishment from the guilty to the innocent. The use of an artificial womb might bypass labor and the associated intense pain.
Ectogenesis: impact on adults, fetuses, abortion, procreation...:
Ectogenesis involves an apparatus that generates an artificial environment -- external to the woman's womb -- where the fetus can develop until she or he is ready to breath air and live separate from its mother. These devices are commonly called "artificial wombs." Some have been built and successfully used with animal fetuses. They may be developed in the future to the point where a third -- or even second -- trimester human fetus could be transferred from its mother's uterus to an artificial womb. There, it could complete its growth inside this apparatus and be "born" at full term. If current technical limitations could be overcome, there appears to be no reason why an artificial womb cannot eventually be developed which could accept a recently fertilized pre-embryo, support it for the full nine months of gestation, and allow it to be removed when conditions are optimum for its birth.
This type of technology could produce massive social, cultural and medical changes in the entire area of abortion and pregnancy. If ectogenesis became practical for humans:
This topic continues in the next essay.
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