Willing mothers: ectogenesis and the role of gestational motherhood

Journal of Medical Ethics 46 (5):320-327 (2020)
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Abstract

While artificial womb technology is currently being studied for the purpose of improving neonatal care, I contend that this technology ought to be pursued as a means to address the unprecedented rate of unintended pregnancies. But ectogenesis, alongside other emerging reproductive technologies, is problematic insofar as it threatens to disrupt the natural link between procreation and parenthood that is normally thought to generate rights and responsibilities for biological parents. I argue that there remains only one potentially viable account of parenthood: the voluntarist account, which construes parental rights as robust moral obligations that must be voluntarily undertaken. The problem is that this account mistakenly presumes a patriarchal divide between procreation and parenthood. I propose a reframing of procreation and parenthood from a feminist perspective that recognises gestational motherhood as involving robust moral obligations that ought to be voluntarily undertaken. If this were the case, all gestational mothers would be, by definition, willing mothers. To make this happen I argue that ectogenesis technology must be a widely available reproductive option.

Author's Profile

Susan Kennedy
Boston University

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