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    Gestation beyond mother/machine: legal frameworks for artificial wombs, abortion, and care

    Horn, Claire Marguerite Leonard (2020) Gestation beyond mother/machine: legal frameworks for artificial wombs, abortion, and care. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    This thesis is a critical legal, feminist intervention in the discourse on artificial wombs and abortion. In 2016, embryologists grew human embryos in culture up to 13 days, ending the experiment to respect the contemporary legal limit of 14 days. In 2017, researchers gestated lamb fetuses from the equivalent of 23 weeks in a human through to term in the “biobag”, a highly advanced incubator replete with artificial amniotic fluid. The renewed discourse on ectogenesis (external gestation) following these developments has focused on how the technology might impact abortion rights. Bioethical and legal scholars have hypothesized since the 1970s that ectogenesis could allow unwanted fetuses to be extracted and reimplanted in an artificial womb instead of being terminated, thus protecting the pregnant person’s bodily autonomy while simultaneously protecting fetal life. Consequently, these scholars argue that ectogenesis will challenge contemporary legal justifications for abortion. I make two key interventions in this literature. Firstly, I address the hegemony of US-centric perspectives in which American abortion jurisprudence is frequently drawn on to conclude that artificial wombs universally challenge abortion rights. I apply a comparative analysis of challenges that scholars have alleged ectogenesis will pose for abortion law against existing regulations in three jurisdictions: the United States, the United Kingdom where the Abortion Act 1967 applies, and Canada. In so doing, I aim to understand whether this technology will threaten, bolster, or have no significant impact on abortion protections in context. Secondly, I strategically engage a feminist ethics of care (adapted with reference to reproductive justice and relational legal theory) to assess frameworks that have been proposed for regulating abortion and ectogenesis. I show that debates over these frameworks frequently fail to consider the relational entanglements that may be constituted through ectogenesis, abortion, and human gestation. I insist that any framework for regulating artificial wombs must attend to these relationships and centralize care for the pregnant person.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2021 15:20
    Last Modified: 06 Sep 2021 15:20


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