Ectogestative Technology and the Beginning of Life

In Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies. An Introduction. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers. pp. 113–140 (2023)
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How could ectogestative technology disrupt gender roles, parenting practices, and concepts such as ‘birth’, ‘body’, or ‘parent’? In this chapter, we situate this emerging technology in the context of the history of reproductive technologies and analyse the potential social and conceptual disruptions to which it could contribute. An ectogestative device, better known as ‘artificial womb’, enables the extra-uterine gestation of a human being, or mammal more generally. It is currently developed with the main goal of improving the survival chances of extremely premature neonates. We argue that the intended use of the technology in neonatal intensive care units, as an alternative to current incubators (’partial-ectogestation’), challenges concepts such as ‘birth’, ‘fetus’, and ‘neonate’, and has several ethico-legal implications. We moreover address a more futuristic scenario where the entire embryological and fetal development could happen within an artificial womb (’full-ectogestation’). Such a scenario reveals the disruption of gender roles, parenting practices, and concepts such as ‘mother’, ‘father’, and ‘parent’. Both full- and partial-ectogestation would have implications for engineering and design, law-making, ethics, and philosophical anthropology.

Author Profiles

Anna Puzio
University of Twente
Julia Simone Hermann
Utrecht University
Lily Frank
Eindhoven University of Technology


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