Ethicist calls for artificial wombs

The wave of the future? An Israeli ethicist has proposed the creation of artificial wombs to solve social and medical reproductive problems. The possibility of real "test-tube babies", or "ectogenesis" is 20 years in the future, according to Dr Frida Simonstein, of Ben Gurion University. She told a conference in Barcelona on ethics and emerging technologies that that the demand for better medical treatment of premature babies, effective IVF treatment and surrogate mothers will eventually lead to a debate on the issue. Possible users of ectogenesis would be gay couples or women who with a damaged uterus.

It might also be a solution to the work-life balance problem faced by many professional women. Earlier this year, she explained in an international ethics journal that: "If safely worked out, [it] may have great appeal to women who want to pursue a successful career without being obstructed by their biological clock from having simultaneously a successful pregnancy and a child".

However, Richard Ashcroft, of Imperial College London, highlighted some negative features of this technology. He warned that there could be pressure to force drug or alcohol-addicted mothers to have foetuses surgically removed and incubated in artificial wombs. He also fears that women "too post to push" might not bond with their children if they grew up floating in a test-tube. "Is creating children with artificial wombs having children at all, or is it a kind of manufacturing of children? It is deeply dangerous."

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