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Artificial Womb

As shared on the news recently, there was a lamb born from an artificial womb. The lamb was placed in the artificial womb as a premature ‘infant’ to extend and sustain them while continuing their growth in an area copying the premature ‘natural’ environment. When this idea becomes available for humans, this will allow the baby born before 37 weeks, to continue to grow before it needs to face the world of infections and allow the lungs to mature enough to breathe for themselves. So far, they were able to keep the lamb in the artificial womb for four weeks.

We are in the section of posthumanism in class. Posthumanism is about leaving the body behind and letting the mind extend on through technology. In this case, it can be the case of an infant leaving behind the parents’ body. Although, many people feel there is an ethical issue on how scientists can extend this idea being used. Some believe there is an advantage of allowing parents to use this idea of an external artificial womb in surrogacy for willing to be parents. Though, this will also mean an alternative to abortion. This allows the second parent of the child full rights of this fetus.

Video – https://www.bbc.com/news/av/health-50056405

And an article –

9 thoughts on “Artificial Womb

  1. Kelly Hammond

    Head. Exploding. These last few weeks have really put the “intense” in Summer Intensive.

    As I always do when I learn about new technologies that push at my own existential boundaries, I find myself trying to focus on the upsides. After all, is this not the human equivalent of the incubators we put chicken eggs into in elementary school? If developed to be able to host a zygote, won’t this technological development ultimately provide lots of good for those who have no wombs, like an extended family member of mine who lost hers to cancer? Will they create a portable one like a BabyBjorn that men can carry around in pseudopregnancy?

    And yet, I find myself also returning to one of the mantras of my life: the question is not CAN we, but SHOULD we. As I think about our post-pandemic society—people devastated by grief, delayed health care, unemployment or failed businesses, debt, radically accelerated mental illness, I keep wanting to ask science and society to focus elsewhere. I think Weise might too.

  2. Melinda Byam

    Thank you for sharing this post, in addition to this being relative to our post-human readings from this week, this also reminds me of the discussion question from the Hayles “Wrestling with Transhumanism”. Where as this is a great technological advancement, that could bring huge benefits to both society and individuals who are trying to conceive/ bring a baby to term, but also brings to question what type of regulations will be implemented/ who would have access to such technology. I wonder if the first newborn incubators invoked the same level of ethical inquiry. Regardless, good or bad, I think this is the push and pull of human advancement.

  3. Stephanie Thomson

    This is fascinating, thanks so much for sharing! This is actually a topic I am really passionate about: my daughter was born at 27 weeks weighing 1 pound 14 ounces after I got really sick during my first pregnancy. The technology that kept her alive for three months in the NICU when she should have been inside me generated the same amount of questioning back when it was first introduced (to answer Melinda’s question; in fact, weird story I read about in a book on the history of prematurity, the first incubator babies were actually displayed for people to go and look at in Coney Island). I do think it raises as many ethical questions as it helps answer. For example, in Europe, the concept of using a woman as a surrogate is much more taboo than it is here in the US. This type of technology would at least help get around that question as to whether surrogacy is exploitative and uses less well-off women as vessels to carry other people’s babies.

  4. Carolle Pinkerton

    Wow, what a modern concept! I think that this could have the potential to be quite a positive advancement for society in certain cases. I understand that this raises ethical questions. But since it is difficult for society to agree on what is and what is not ethical, perhaps the technology should be implemented and individuals could make ethical choices on a case by case basis as to whether or not they would like to use it.
    I’ve heard that a baby starts to get to know the family from inside the womb and grow an affection for the mother’s voice and that being in the womb is part of language acquisition. Babies still in the womb have also been known to learn to stop jostling while the family is participating in sacred behavior based on the mother’s behavior. It just seems like the child would miss out on learning habits typically acquired in the womb, and the family/friends would be distanced from the notion that they are expecting a child.

  5. Tess Chapin (she/her/hers)

    This is fascinating. Similar to Stephanie, my cousin had her baby extremely pre-mature (I can’t remember exactly how much, but the baby was born around thanksgiving and she had a spring due date) and it was a very stressful time. Baby Owen could have benefitted from this technology, and I can imagine that his mother would have accepted any form of “treatment” that would ensure the vitality and health of her baby. I am not a mother, but I can imagine that when it comes to the life and death of your child, moral reservations about technology would go out the window,

    It was interesting to me in the video when the gynecologist was explaining that an incubator is filled with air, and it can actually be an inhospitable environment for premature babies- it seems natural to me that the medical institution would embrace technology that fulfills a gap in care (if the go-to medical tech for a certain type preemie is lacking, why not find and utilize an alternative?)

  6. Catherine Winograd (she/her)

    Thanks for posting this. I think the possibilities for preserving the life of premature babies is a great benefit. There is a whiff, however, of human experimentation here. One of the scientists in the video warns that we have no idea what effect this technology might have on human development, since it’s only been tested so far on lambs. It seems, however, like the people most against the technology are biological reductionists (sp?)–those same people who railed against test-tube babies.

  7. Nick Schiff

    This recalls the Xenofeminist argument on two fronts. First, this technology seems to be steaming ahead, no matter what; if we want to unleash its liberating potential rather than be oppressed by it, we better jump in, roll our sleeves up, and see how it can work to our advantage.

    For Xenofeminists, one advantage of this technology might be the further dismantling of gender boundaries. If a trans female (or a trans person who doesn’t wish to choose any gender) wanted to carry a baby to term but faced some biological obstacle, this technology might enable them to get around that obstacle. If the womb itself can be made artificially it seems like a boon to the XF dream of letting a thousand sexes bloom.

  8. Amanda Filchock (she/her)

    This technology is fascinating. It opens up so many conversations and thoughts around ethics and medicine. I can see so many benefits to this kind of technology for women who are unable to safely carry a child in their own body. It also takes away the need for traditional child birth which is fascinating! What will that relationship and impact be on not only the parents of the child, but also on the medical industry as a whole. Of course with these cutting-edge technologies, it opens the door to criticism and those against any alterations to natural processes.

  9. Camila Santander

    wow! this is so cool and so many things to unpack. My group and I wondered if this would make the baby a cyborg, or maybe a tryborg. Especially if they are not choosing this environment by sometimes they might need it. So maybe a temporary cyborg?

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