I can't remember how I found this article, but Wendy McElroy recently raised an issue I wrote about earlier: will science trump politics with regards to the abortion issue?

For better or worse, new reproductive technologies are redefining the ground rules of reproduction. (And, no, the force of law can not hold back scientific 'progress,' as authorities have discovered repeatedly since Galileo's day.) ...

This possibility becomes more likely in the presence of two factors.

First, viability is being established at ever-earlier stages of pregnancy.

Recently, doctors have been successful in administering perflubron — a liquid that replaces the amniotic fluid — to babies as young as 23-weeks-old, with a 70 percent survival rate.

Second, ectogenesis [growing an embryo outside the mother's womb] seems to be experiencing breakthroughs.

In 2002, a team at Cornell University used cells from a human uterus to grow an artificial womb. When a fertilized human egg was introduced, it implanted itself in the uterus wall as in a natural pregnancy. After six days of gestation, the experiment was halted due solely to legal constraints.

Meanwhile, half-a-world away, Dr. Yoshinori Kuwabara of Juntendo University in Japan has been removing fetuses from goats and keeping them alive for weeks in clear plastic tanks of amniotic fluid with machine-driven 'umbilical cords'.

The point is, it won't be long until there are more choices available than birth or abortion. Currently, mothers of unwanted children can't really be rid of them without abortion until after birth. However, upcoming technology will allow a woman to have her baby removed and grown elsewhere from a very early age, even as soon as the pregnancy is discovered.

That sounds like a fascinating possibility, but it also raises a lot of questions.

1. Is there a segment of the population that currently believes in abortion rights, but would be in favor of outlawing abortion if the mother could simply have the baby transferred out of her body without harm? Such a procedure would probably be invasive, even if no incisions had to be made. Even if not required by law, such a procedure would likely dramatically reduce the number of abortions.

2. Who would pay for these procedures? If abortion were outlawed, would the public have a duty to pay to remove unwanted babies, or would the mothers be forced to pay (just as they pay for a birth or an abortion)? Who would pay to preserve the babies in artificial wombs? Who would pay to support the babies after "birth" if they aren't adopted?

3. Should the federal government get involved? State laws requiring transplant instead of abortion would certainly depend on a reversal of Roe v. Wade, but aside from that should there be federal standards for the programs? Should there be a federal baby-care program?



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