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Ectogenesis (from the Greek ecto, "outer," and genesis) is the growth of an organism in an artificial environment[1] 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.[2] The term was coined by British scientist J.B.S. Haldane in 1924.[3][4]

Human embryos and fetuses[edit]

Further information: Artificial uterus

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.

Bioethical considerations[edit]

The development of ectogenesis raises a number of bioethical and legal considerations.

Ectogenesis has important implications for reproductive rights and the abortion debate. Ectogenesis 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 extend to terminate the life of the fetus. If a fetus is recognized as a person, and transferring the fetus from a woman's womb to an artificial uterus is possible, the choice to terminate a pregnancy may not necessitate the termination of the fetus.[5]

There are also concerns that children who develop in an artificial uterus may lack "some essential bond with their mothers that other children have."[6]

In the 1970 book The Dialectic of Sex, feminist Shulamith Firestone wrote that differences in biological reproductive roles are a source of gender inequality. She singled out pregnancy and childbirth, making the argument that an artificial womb would free "women from the tyranny of their reproductive biology."[7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ > ectogenesis In turn citing: Webster's New World College Dictionary, 2010 by Wiley Publishing
  2. ^ ectogenesis. Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved September 23, 2012
  3. ^ "Artificial Wombs Are Coming, but the Controversy Is Already Here". Motherboard. 4 August 2014. Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Randall, Vernellia; Randall, Tshaka C. (March 22, 2008). "Built in Obsolescence: The Coming End to the Abortion Debate". doi:10.2139/ssrn.1112367. 
  6. ^ Smajdor, Anna (Summer 2007). "The Moral Imperative for Ectogenesis" (PDF). Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. 16 (3): 336–45. doi:10.1017/s0963180107070405. PMID 17695628. 
  7. ^ Chemaly, Soraya (February 23, 2012). "What Do Artificial Wombs Mean for Women?". RH Reality Check. 
  8. ^ Rosen, Christine (2003). "Why Not Artificial Wombs?" (PDF). The New Atlantis. 

Further reading[edit]