An Artificial Womb & the Abortion Debate

This guest post is authored by Joseph A. Kohm, III, recent Regent Law graduate:


Scientists in Philadelphia have used a plastic bag as an “artificial womb” to keep premature infant lambs alive for weeks. The device keeps them in isolation and feeds them all the essential fluids they need to complete their prenatal development.



These scientists say human trials are still several years away, but this has led some to speculate on what positive or negative impact this new technology could have on the nationwide abortion debate should it become a viable option for otherwise “unviable” pregnancies. You can read the full story at BBC News

Usually when a child is considered “unviable,” some sort of complication has occurred in the pregnancy at or before the 20-week mark. Because the survival rate for a child born before 20 weeks is so low and because risks to the mother are often very high, there is a strong argument to keep abortion legal during this early stage of the pregnancy. However, if this new technology continues to develop successfully, a pre-20-week child could conceivably be placed into one of these artificial wombs and kept alive until prenatal development is complete. Then the child could either be taken home by the parent(s) or adopted. Either way, the argument to keep abortion legal for such early “unviable” pregnancies would be severely crippled. Using artificial reproductive technology like this requires a high degree of personal responsibility.  Family restoration would seek to proffer the use this wonderful technology to save and protect the lives of children and their families.


The potential dark side of this technology for the life issue, however, is the possibility of actually growing a baby in an artificial womb from conception. With the cultural tide continuing to turn against children with disabilities and special needs, the potential to “customize” one’s own child by constructing his or her DNA to eliminate any special needs through artificial womb growth could even further marginalize (and therefore endanger) children with disabilities.

This is a grim possibility, but it is one we must face before this technology becomes viable rather than after. Only time will tell whether mankind will use this spectacular new technology for good or evil. 

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