Artificial Wombs: A Short History
The idea of artificial wombs began to be seriously discussed in the West in Britain after WWI, inspired by modern feminism and the invention of neonatal incubators. J. B. S. Haldane’s imagined future use of artificial wombs in his essay Daedalus, or, Science and the Future inspired debate among his contemporaries for a decade, including Aldous Huxley who indelibly cast the technology as dystopian. After WWII bioutopian ideas like artificial wombs were associated with fascism, although socialist feminists briefly renewed the debate over the liberatory potential of artificial wombs in the 1970s. Recent innovations in neonatal intensive care have again generated discussion of the ethical and political impacts of artificial wombs. Again, artificial wombs are seen by some as a way to expand reproductive freedom and gender equality, while critics worry they might have negative impacts on women and abortion access.
Received 27 November 2021. Revised 07 January 2022. Accepted 21 January 2022. Published online 24 January 2022
James HughesInstitute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies