Within 30 years, a futurist believes babies will regularly be born in artificial wombs, outside of human bodies.
The technology, known as ectogenesis, has been in development since 2001 and previous experiments involved growing mouse embryos in wombs attached to ‘placenta machines.’
Campaigners believe it could reduce the number of still births, because foetuses would be more closely monitored and accessible, but critics claim it could redefine social roles.
Others have stated it removes the bond between a mother and her child.
Ectogenesis is the growth of an organism outside of a body, and applies to animals as well as the growth of bacteria.
Artificial wombs need an artificial uterus that supplies nutrients and oxygen to the foetus.
Custom-built amniotic fluid sacs would also need to remove waste.
This would be attached to an ‘placenta machine’, and cables could monitor everything from the baby’s weight to heart rate and development.
It could be used for women who are unable to carry babies naturally, due to a damaged uterus for example.
The technology may also remove the need for surrogate mothers for straight and gay couples.
Elsewhere, artificial wombs would reduce the number of pregnancy and birth-related deaths among women, could extend the age at which women give birth, and drugs could be more easily administered to the foetus if it became ill
American-Hungarian futurist Zoltan Istvan told Motherboard he believes the technology will be ready to use within 20 years, and become widely available in 30.
He claimed much of the technology already exists, but legal and ethical concerns will result in human trials being delayed.
‘No doubt, propagating the species without the need for the human body sounds insanely far-fetched.
‘And even if it’s achievable, there’s the question of whether people would be comfortable using it. I would argue yes,’ said Ivstan.
Elsewhere, women who want an abortion could opt to place the embryo in an artificial womb so someone else could adopt it.
In 2012, feminist and activist Andrea Dworkin raised criticisms about the technology.
She said: ‘Women already have the power to eliminate men and in their collective wisdom have decided to keep them.
‘The real question now is, will men, once the artificial womb is perfected, want to keep women around?
‘The bottom line is that men don’t need women’s help to replace women, but the women still need men’s help to replace men.’
While author Soraya Chemaly added: ‘Right wing anti-choice activists, although perhaps initially delighted to have an alternative to abortion, will have to contend with a radical redefinition of ‘motherhood’.
‘There is no guarantee these changes will be good for women who currently already struggle to defend reproductive freedoms.’
And political philosopher Matt Deacon continued: ‘Just as pregnancy is a dangerous, often difficult and burdensome undertaking, [foetuses] are not simple clumps of cells -they’re potential persons.
‘Were ectogenesis an option, relieving a potential mother of the burden of pregnancy would no longer require termination.
‘With her interests intact, I see no reason why the genetic mother should be empowered with life and death authority. Authority over her body, yes. But assuming it’s healthy, not over the [child’s] life.’
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