Are Artificial Wombs the Future of Reproduction?
In 1933, Aldous Huxley imagined a Brave New World in which human reproduction was entirely artificial. No longer science fiction, the use of “artificial wombs” is news of the past. Researchers demonstrated the capacity to gestate animals in 2017, when a team at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia published the results of their study growing fetal lambs in what they termed a “biobag.” Their research showed at least the potential for artificial wombs to push back the age of viability for prematurely delivered human infants to 24 or even 22 weeks. As tests continue and technology develops, it is feasible to imagine that, one day, it may be possible to join the technology of an artificial uterus with that of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), providing a reproductive alternative to natural pregnancy.
The widespread use of artificial womb technology has incredible implications. As the technology develops and improves, the ill effects of premature birth on families and infants — including trauma and anxiety, lasting birth defects, and even mortality — could be ameliorated. One day, the danger of premature birth could become a thing of the past.
On the one hand, given the potential magnitude of these positive effects, optimism about the development and use of artificial wombs for human gestation is understandable. On the other hand, technology of this nature comes with serious risks.
As the development of new technologies accelerates, we are hard-pressed to keep pace in considering whether these developments are actually good for humanity. What we can do far outpaces our ability to consider whether we ought to do it. While the life-saving benefits of artificial wombs may be immense, it is worth pausing to consider whether, overall, the development of this technology will help or harm women, their infants, and the human family as a whole….