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Ectogenesis (from the Greek ecto, "outer," and genesis) is the growth of an organism in an artificial environment outside the body in which it would normally be found, such as the growth of an embryo or fetus outside the mother's body, or the growth of bacteria outside the body of a host. The term was coined by British scientist J.B.S. Haldane in 1924.
Human embryos and fetuses
Ectogenesis of human embryos and fetuses would require an artificial uterus. An artificial uterus would have to be supplied by nutrients and oxygen from some source to nurture a fetus, as well as dispose of waste material. There would likely be a need for an interface between such a supplier, filling this function of the placenta. An artificial uterus, as a replacement organ, could be used to assist women with damaged, diseased or removed uteri to avail the fetus to be conceived to term. It also has the potential to move the threshold of fetal viability to a much earlier stage of pregnancy. This would have implications for the ongoing controversy regarding human reproductive rights.
Ectogenesis could also be a means by which homosexual and single men could have genetic offspring without the use of surrogate pregnancy or a sperm donor, and allow women to have children without going through the pregnancy cycle.
Artificial uteri may expand the range of fetal viability, raising questions about the role that fetal viability plays within abortion law. Within severance theory, for example, abortion rights only include the right to remove the fetus, and do not always extend to the termination of the fetus. If transferring the fetus from a woman's womb to an artificial uterus is possible, the choice to terminate a pregnancy in this way could provide an alternative to aborting the fetus.
There are also theoretical concerns that children who develop in an artificial uterus may lack "some essential bond with their mothers that other children have"; a secondary issue to woman's rights over their own body.
In the 1970 book The Dialectic of Sex, feminist Shulamith Firestone wrote that differences in biological reproductive roles are a source of gender inequality. Firestone singled out pregnancy and childbirth, making the argument that an artificial womb would free "women from the tyranny of their reproductive biology."
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Amniotic fluid
- Liver dialysis
- Tissue engineering
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