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Artificial womb technology and the significance of birth: why gestatelings are not newborns (or fetuses)
  1. Elizabeth Chloe Romanis
  1. Centre for Social Ethics and Policy, University of Manchester Manchester School of Law, Manchester, UK
  1. Correspondence to Elizabeth Chloe Romanis, Centre for Social Ethics and Policy, University of Manchester Manchester School of Law, Manchester M13 9PL, UK; elizabeth.romanis{at}


In a recent publication, I argued that there is a conceptual difference between artificial womb (AW) technology, capable of facilitating gestation ex utero, and neonatal intensive care, providing incubation to neonates born prematurely. One of the reasons I provided for this distinction was that the subjects of each process are different entities. The subject of the process of gestation ex utero is a unique human entity: a ‘gestateling’, rather than a fetus or a newborn preterm neonate. Nick Colgrove wrote a response to my paper, claiming that my distinction between the subject of an AW and a newborn (in intensive care) was false. He claims that I have not accounted for the proper definition of ‘birth’ and that gestatelings are not a distinct product of human reproduction. Further, Colgrove posits that even if I can successfully distinguish gestatelings from preterms, such a distinction is morally irrelevant because the entities would have the same moral status. In this paper, I address the three challenges raised and defend the claim that gestatelings are unique entities. Moreover, I argue that moral status should not be considered ipso facto determinative in the debate about AWs.

  • embryos and fetuses
  • moral status
  • ethics
  • reproductive medicine
  • newborns and minors

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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  • Contributors I am the sole author.

  • Funding I am the recipient of a Wellcome Trust Doctoral Studentship in Society and Ethics (grant reference 208245/Z/17/Z).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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