New Home for Babies?
Note: Joy Bagley is a student at the Koinonia Institute working on his Silver Medallion. This paper was part of his coursework in her I620 class.
Ectogenesis was first mentioned in 1924 by J.B.S. Haldane, a British scientist. (Chemaly) “Better known as the artificial womb, ectogenesis is the process by which a fetus gestates in an environment external to the mother.” (Zimmerman) There is some controversy behind this technology, but several scientists are developing it with the goal of saving premature babies and helping women who cannot get pregnant or carry a baby full-term. (Chemaly)
God values all human life
It was you who formed my internal organs, fashioning me within my mother’s womb. I praise you, because you are fearful and wondrous! Your work is wonderful, and I am fully aware of it.
— Psalm 139:13–14, ISV
I knew you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart for me before you were born;
— Jeremiah 1:5a, ISV
A Coming Technology
Some expert scientists are predicting the success of this technology; while others are successfully developing it with animals. Ectogenesis technology will be available for use with human beings within 20 years since it has already been successful with goats and mice.
Experts in the field of ectogenesis believe the technology could be ready by 2034. In 2014, Zoltan Istvan wrote “Some futurists like myself (I’m also married to an ObGyn) think ectogenesis will be here in 20 years, and widely used in 30 years around the world.” (Istvan) This technology, if used with artificial insemination, would allow scientists to accomplish their goal of creating life completely outside of the womb. As a futurist, Istvan has been following closely the work on this technology. It is not just wishful thinking, but a scientific prognostication of the development process.
Soraya Chemaly states in her article, “J.B.S. Haldane, a British scientist who predicted by 2074 live human births would make up less than 30 percent of all human births.” This seems like a wild claim, but instead points to his belief that ectogenesis will not only be a viable technology in the future, but one that 70 percent of all births will take advantage of by using this technology.
Haldane was born and educated in Oxford, England. After graduating, he became a geneticist, biochemist, professor and writer. His work in genetics was significant and influential. Although he died in 1964, he had a vision for what future scientists would accomplish through ectogenesis technology.
But, how does this fit into God’s word?
He told the woman, “I’ll greatly increase the pain of your labor during childbirth; it will be painful for you to bear children. “Your trust turns toward your husband, yet he will dominate you.”
— Genesis 3:16, ISV
Are we trying to get around God’s curse?
What will the consequences of this be?
Chemaly also discusses, in two different articles, the most notable scientists currently working in this field today. Dr. Yoshinori Kuwabara, a professor of obstetrics at Juntendo University in Japan, is using his research to find ways to save premature babies. He is using goats in his endeavors. Dr. Helen Hung-Ching Liu, Directory of the Reproductive Endocrine Laboratory at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at Cornell University has focused her research to help barren women. Her research includes mice embryos. (Chemaly) Their work in the field of ectogenesis is paving the way to develop a way to successfully create a baby outside of a woman’s uterus.
Their work proves that it can be done with animals. The next step is to develop this technology for use with humans. Scientists who are experts in the field of ectogenesis predict this technology will be available in the future; some believe in the next 20 years. This is a fast growing field with many scientists working on viable solutions.
This technology has already been successful with goats and mice. Soraya Chemalyin her article, “What Do Artificial Wombs Mean for Women?” said, “…Dr. Yoshinori Kuwabara of Juntendo University, has successfully gestated goat embryos in a machine that holds amniotic fluid in tank.”
According to the NY Times, Dr. Kuwabara and his associates have developed an artificial womb. (Klass) Although this experiment has only been successful for three weeks at a time, Kuwabara is hopeful for the future. “…[He] cautiously predicts that ‘’it should be possible to extend the length’’ and, ultimately, ‘’this can be applied to human beings.’’ (Klass)
Likewise, Dr. Helen Hung-Ching Liu had a goal of successfully using ectogenesis technology to help women unable to get pregnant or carry babies full-term. In 2003, Hung-Ching Liu and her team succeeded in growing a mouse embryo almost to full term. Hung-Ching Liu was able to do this by “adding engineered endometrium tissue to a bi-engineered, extra- uterine ‘scaffold.’” (Chemaly,”What Do”) Below is a picture of her work with mice embryos.
Growing Humans – The Next Step in Ectogenesis
Whenever there is new technology, it is tested and developed on animals first. This has already been done on mice and goats. The next step is to successfully use this technology with a human embryo to create a baby outside of a human uterus.
Researchers have already started to use this technology on humans. “In 2001, Hung-Ching Liu of Cornell University began growing sheets of endometrial tissue, and used them to create a uterus.” (Woollaston) This tissue became a free-standing uterus and is the first step in making ectogenesis a reality for human babies. “More recently, she grew a human embryo, for 10 days in an artificial womb.” (Chemaly,”What Do”) Dr. Hung-Ching Liu is progressing in her research in developing a new home for babies. This is a small success towards the ultimate goal of creating an independent uterus outside of a woman.
Dr. Yoshinori Kuwabara has also created an artificial womb. He used an acrylic tank filled with a fluid and attached to a machine that acts as a placenta to bring oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. He stated in 2003 that with enough funding, his ectogenetic chamber could be ready to use on a human fetus within five years. (Zimmerman) He has created the beginnings of ectogenesis technology for use with human babies. It is only a matter of time before this will be ready for use.
Both of these researchers have begun the process of making ectogenesis a reality for human babies. They have created an artificial uterus and have started to grow embryos outside of the womb.
“J.B.S. Haldane, … prediction about ectogenesis … was ambitious, but not unrealistic.” (Chemaly, “What Happens”) Based on the current research and the successes with animals, this technology could be a reality for humans in the next 20 years.
So, why do we care if this technology becomes a reality? This is important because it will greatly impact all of us.
What is the Impact?
First, this technology could change the pro-abortion laws. Abortion laws were based on two premises: a woman’s right to privacy and the ability for the fetus to survive outside of the woman’s body (currently at 24 weeks). (Zimmerman) With this new technology, the fetus could be removed rather than aborting it. The fetus would be formed in an alternate “uterus” and would come to full-term. No more would the mother’s right to life and privacy trump the baby’s right to survive. The fetus would now be considered a living creature and would be protected. The long debate on when and whether or not a baby is a life, could be dramatically changed by our legal system. Finally, the sanctity of life as God gave it to us, would be sacred again.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, to be like us. …”
— Genesis 1:26a, ISV
The one who made me in the womb made them, too, didn’t he? Didn’t the same one prepare each of us in the womb?”
— Job 31:15, ISV
Secondly, this will affect us because of the potential for abuse. Who will decide how this new technology will be used or who will use it? Who defines the moral and ethical rights of the baby? Will the medical field have the final say? What about pastors? Do they have a say in this? In the past, the mother has had more rights, but now what about the father’s rights?
Although this technology could benefit mankind, it is scary to think of what might become of today’s society with this new technology without a strong moral compass to guide it.
- Chemaly, Soraya. “What Do Artificial Wombs Mean for Women?” RH Reality Check. RH Reality Check, 23 Feb. 2012. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.
- Chemaly, Soraya. “What Happens When We Don’t Need Women’s Bodies for Gestation?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 5 Dec. 2013. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
- Istvan, Zoltan. “Artificial Wombs Are Coming, but the Controversy Is Already Here.” Motherboard. Motherboard, 4 Aug. 2014. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
- “J.B.S. Haldane.” Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 07 Mar. 2015.
- Klass, Perri. “The Artificial Womb Is Born.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 Sept. 1996. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.
- “Researchers in Japan Successfully Gestate Goats in Synthetic wombs!” IAmNotTheBabysitter,cin N.p., 30 Nov. 2013. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.
- Woollaston, Victoria. “Would YOU Grow Your Child in an Artificial Womb OUTSIDE of a Human Body? Ectogenesis Could Be Widely Used in 30 Years.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 14 Aug. 2014. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
- Zimmerman, Sacha. “ECTOGENESIS / Development of Artificial Wombs / Technology’s Threat to Abortion Rights.” SFGate. SF Gate, 24 Aug. 2003. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
– From KHouse.Org