Technology is turning things around in our world. Medical technology is about to change reproductive medicine especially childbirth as we know it. In state-of-the-art laboratories, scientists are working on raising fetuses from conception to term outside of the womb. In medical parlance, it is called ECTOGENESIS in contrast to ENDOGENESIS.
The technology is quite complex though simple also. The plastic or artificial womb is like an aquarium filled with synthetic amniotic fluid. The fetus in the aquarium is connected to feeding tubes and monitoring cables. It grows as in a womb, but everything is perfect, in scientific sense in the artificial ectogenous environment. The right concentrations of sugars, lipids, amino acids, minerals, electrolytes and vitamins and hormones are maintained in such a manner that the fetus grows in a most healthier way possible. The feeding tubes stream all vital and essentials nutrients and oxygen to survive and develop optimally. The heartbeat is monitored and the fetal kick is monitored, recorded and charted and logged. Adjustments are made according to needs arising.
This is a giant scientific lip. There are ethical issues involved though. It will bring a fundamental change in human experience. It will change the way the female body is viewed. It will also usher in a new era of reproductive rights. So, how are people going to feel about it? How are people going to react to it. Obviously the reactions will be mixed. Some will be excited about it, others may be scared or even confused about ectogenesis.
It will certainly help a couple who cannot gestate, for instance, due to congenital absence of the womb or some other factors like the loss of uterus through septic abortion, damage to the uterus through accident etc. There will be no need for a surrogate mother to bear the fetus to term which could be very expensive and may endanger the life of the surrogate mother especially in the case where she is an elderly woman. In Western Europe, a good number of women are reluctant to go through pregnancy and childbirth. They want to maintain their physiognomy. These women will now have opportunity to have children without being responsible for childbirth, a process that is scary and painful to a good number of women.
Some pregnant mothers go for elective Caesarean section in order to avoid the pains of childbirth. These women will no longer have to worry about the discomforts of pregnancy and pains of childbirth. They will not have to worry about the personal risks associated with childbirth and the effects on their health and physiognomy. They will feel liberated. They will not have to make any sacrifices to give birth. For example, they could work, exercise, eat and drink whatever they like without having to worry about harming the fetuses in their wombs or hampering their development. A woman who is an alcoholic would not have to bother about her baby being tolerant to alcohol from her womb due to the high level of alcohol in her blood(blood alcohol level) which is passed over to the fetus through the placenta. The same goes for drugs of addiction.
On the surface, it does look like healthier babies and women are the outcome of this medical technology. On the other hand, some women who cherish conception, pregnancy and childbirth may feel cheated and disconnected from the sanctity of motherhood. What about the intimacy which only the mother can provide. Bonding begins from day of conception. This will be negatively affected. A father may opine, “just because I did not gestate my baby does not mean I cannot bond with it.” We are looking at a complex situation where the period of gestation in the mother’s womb must have already bequeathed and endowed the baby with a healthy human emotion. We are looking at a case where this healthy emotion may be absent. Some mothers may like to go through pregnancy and childbirth, to be cared for by their spouse and loved ones.
There is a bonding that goes on in pregnancy not only between mother and fetus but also between the fetus in the womb and other family members as they care for the pregnant mother the value of which may be incalculable. This essential part of human consciousness will be lost in an artificial womb. One day the family is called and informed that its baby is ready. They can come and collect it. Especially in a typical African setting, there is some level of attention, respect, care a woman receives not only from her husband and the immediate family members but from the community during pregnancy.
Prior to this time babies have never grown completely in vitro. Conception takes place in the test tube(in vitro). At the morula stage, it is transferred to the womb of the mother or surrogate mother(in vivo) for further gestation till term. Whatever are the benefits, there will be an outcry and vicious backlashes from traditionalists: the God-fearing people who hold conservative social views. This kind of radical and unprecedented technology will threaten to disrupt the age-old interdependency between men and women. It will undoubtedly alter our view of society. It will increase the number of single mothers and fathers in our society. Ectogenesis will radically redefine motherhood. Members of the LGBTQ+ will be overjoyed; homosexual and lesbian couples can have as many children as they can afford to have have. Will this not be a disruption in the natural order of flow. Will these babies be brought up in a healthy family environment?
The other thing we have to factor in is human stupidity. Adolf Hitler and the Nazis practised Eugenics during World War II. They cross-bred high profile German men and women in order to produce a purer and a better Aryan race. Geneticist have shown that it would have backfired. It would have led to a weaker Aryan race in subsequent generations. Another Hitler may rise in the future to consider mass production of humans in the laboratory to subjugate other nations. Tanshuman might be bred in this way using two or more ova. One very obvious reason why this is scary is that humans have a penchant to pervert that which is inherently good. There has not been anything good created by God or man which men have not perverted simply because men are totally deprave. It is in the nature of fallen man to pervert that which is inherently good. Ectogenesis is not inherently evil in itself, but it may be put to evil use. It is subject to abuse by totally deprave humanity.
There is bonding in the womb between mother and fetus. In utero, the the fetus feels the same emotions that the mothers feels: joy, happiness, pain, sorrow, elation, fear, worry, anxiety, etc. A fetus grown in a plastic womb is emotionless. Its affect is flat. It will be even worse if it has no women to call mother or man to call father, and no biological relatives to call brothers, sisters, cousins or uncles throughout life. It will have no sympathy let alone empathy. People may hale it as scientific breakthrough that will help women who have no uterus which may well be true, but it will lead to mass production of men and women with flat affect who have no known biological or foster parents or relations, who will see themselves as soulless temporal beings like animals.
When I die that will be the end of it. There is no heaven where righteous men and women may live in eternal bliss, and there is no Hell where sinners may be punished in eternal torment. This is a dangerous trend, but it is not unexpected. The Igbos have a saying: “a n’aso mgbagbu ma o bu ngide eje ogu,” which interpreted means: “you do not fear being taken captive or killed when you go to war.” The fact that men might pervert what is good will not deter us from creating what is good, though men might put it to perverse use.