Is Pregnancy Necessary? Feminist Concerns About Ectogenesis

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Murphy, Julien S. "Is Pregnancy Necessary? Feminist Concerns About Ectogenesis." Hypatia 4.3 (Fall 1989): 66-83.

"Ectogenesis" — in vitro gestation (IVG) — is defined at Merriam-Webster on-line as embryonic and fetal "development outside the body / especially: development of a mammalian embryo in an artificial environment."[1] As a motif in SF, it notably appears in A. Huxley's Brave New World and M. Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time. Murphy notes that "The topic of ectogenesis is no longer confined to science fiction," nor to radical feminist critiques such as Shulamith Firestone's The Dialectic of Sex. "Techniques that enable the short-term growth of embryos in vitro suggest the eventual possibility of total growth of embryos outside of women's bodies," and the topic was under discussion as an ethical and legal issue by 1984 (pp. 67, 77).

The headnote/abstract to the article, italics removed:

To what extent are women obliged to be child-bearers? If reproductive technology could offer some form of ectogenesis, would feminists regard it as a liberating reproductive option? There lines of reproductive rights arguments currently used by feminists are applied to ectogenesis. Each fails to provide strong grounds for prohibiting it. Yet, there are several ways in which ectogenesis could contribute to women's oppression, in particular, if it were used to undermine abortion rights, reinforce traditional views of fertility, increase fetal rights in pregnancy, and perpetuate the unequal distribution of scarce medical resources. a re-thinking of women's relationship to pregnancy is needed in order to challenge ectogenetic research. (p. 66)

Murphy's conclusion: feminists "must protest sexist research methods such as IVG" (p. 82) and resist human ectogenesis.

RDE, finishing, 29Dec21