The birth of Emylea Tharby in London, Ontario last April may one day be looked on as a watershed moment in the abortion debates. Little Emylea’s birth was a unique event, not just for her parents, but for the medical profession as well:
On April 30, Ms. Tharby gave birth to her daughter, Emylea, at 33 weeks. It was only during the vertical caesarean section that doctors discovered the umbilical cord was attached to the outside of the uterus. Emylea had grown in her mother’s abdominal cavity, her skull flattened slightly from butting Ms. Tharby’s liver.
The baby’s survival, while being described as miraculous, also lends credibility to a theory almost universally relegated to the realm of science fiction: that any human, woman or man, can give birth.
Most commentary is focusing on the novel prospects of men carrying babies to term, which doesn’t surprise me considering the amount of continued interest we see in my post on Male Lactation. However, I think that more a more likely outcome will be an outsourcing of fetal gestation, especially as research in artifical uteri continues to progress, and the cost-effectiveness of egg-banking brings that practice within range of many more young woman, thus enabling them to combine eggs harvested during prime years with child rearing at a more mature age, where the mother is better equipped in terms of personal capital.
However, the pro-life forces will surely have recogized that little Emylea viably developed outside of the womb. A way to short circuit the abortion debate might be to offer fetal extraction procedures instead of fetal extinction procedures. The extracted fetus is then gestated within the womb of another or within an artificial uterus. Fetal extraction procedures would certainly make it more difficult for the pro-choice movement to argue for the right to fetal extinction. Such a leap in technology would also undercut a woman’s legal claim to the privacy and primacy of her right to control her reproduction and that by extracting the fetus and transplanting it, she hasn’t provided consent to having her child be born. Such an argument would be weakened for her rights to assent to the birth would now be on equal footing with men who don’t have the right to veto a woman’s pregnancy on the grounds of not consenting to having a child. Men’s rights currently take a secondary role to those of women because the health burden of pregnancy or abortion falls solely on the woman. Of course, the issue of state intervention and the financial responsibility for unwanted fetuses would still be in the air. Would pro-life forces be willing to provide either natural or artificial gestatation and adopt all of the extracted fetusus or will they seek to push that responsbility onto their fellow citizens?
Now let’s avoid the standard pro-choice/pro-life talking points in comments, which means the ethical and religious aspects of the debate. Advocates of each side won’t make any inroads with their opponents and we won’t really advance the debate by progressing down that road. Instead, let’s focus on the legal, scientific and sociological implications associated with advancing reproductive technology.