Over the last few years, numerous scientific breakthroughs have shown that adult cells can be made to behave like embryonic stem cells. These “induced pluripotent stem cells” have great promise. Not only are they more ethical than embryonic stem cells, but since they can be derived from the same patient who needs treatment, they don’t pose the rejection problems that embryonic stem cells do. Eventually, scientists hope that this technology will result in the ability to create tailor-made organs for people with severe medical needs. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but pro-life advocates have a reasonable hope that embryonic stem cells will simply become obsolete. Could the same thing happen with abortion?
Technology has already benefited unborn children in significant ways. Ultrasounds have debunked the “ball of cells” myth, changed mother’s minds about abortion, and converted many people from pro-choice to pro-life. Advances in prenatal care have improved the health of mothers and babies. And just yesterday, Heather wrote about a new medical protocol that can save certain older fetuses from abortions that have already begun. But I’m talking about something bigger: the technology to safely transplant an “unwanted” unborn child into an artificial womb.
Unfortunately, as soon as the thought came to me, I realized how much abortion advocates would fight to keep it from happening.
At first glance, artificial wombs seem like the perfect solution. The baby lives and the mother doesn’t have to share her body– sounds great! But while bodily integrity is a nice rhetorical point for abortion advocates, the real objective of abortion is not to terminate a pregnancy, but to kill a baby. Mothers with pregnancy complications would take advantage of the artificial womb, but they make up a very small fraction of abortions. For most abortion-minded women, the pregnancy itself isn’t the problem– it’s the newborn who results. They cite financial constraints, education, career, and poor relationships.
That means that the majority of mothers would not want to raise the babies gestated in artificial wombs. The babies would instead be put up for adoption. If artificial wombs became available, some mothers would still prefer abortion. In that situation, abortion advocates will ditch the bodily integrity argument, and instead argue that for a woman to know that her baby is out there, being raised by someone else, is a psychological burden that outweighs the baby’s right to life. (While I don’t dispute that adoption is an emotional minefield, that alone cannot justify killing a human being. But any argument with the full support of Planned Parenthood and NARAL is bound to get some traction, no matter how wrong it is.)
Another issue arises when we think about how the technology would develop. In the early stages of experimentation, it will not be safe for the babies. The only (possibly) ethical approach would be to work with babies who are already doomed to die– that is, babies who are scheduled to be aborted. But what abortionist will refer mothers to a study that could put him out of business?
While artificial wombs sound cool, I have to conclude they will do little to save the lives of unborn children. Please prove me wrong in the comments section.