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Artificial wombs, birth and ‘birth’: a response to Romanis
  1. Nick Colgrove
  1. Philosophy department and the Center for Bioethics, Health & Society, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, United States
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nick Colgrove, Philosophy, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC 27103, USA; colgron{at}


Recently, I argued that human subjects in artificial wombs (AWs) ‘share the same moral status as newborns’ and so, deserve the same treatment and protections as newborns. This thesis rests on two claims: (A) subjects of partial ectogenesis—those that develop in utero for at time before being transferred to AWs—are newborns and (B) subjects of complete ectogenesis—those who develop in AWs entirely—share the same moral status as newborns. In response, Elizabeth Chloe Romanis argued that the subject in an AW is ‘a unique human entity…rather than a fetus or a newborn’. She provides four lines of response to my essay. First, she argues that I have ‘misconstrued’ what birth is. Once we correct that error, it becomes clear that subjects of partial ectogenesis have not been born. Second, she argues that my claims imply that non-implanted embryos (existing in vivo) ‘would also be “born”’. But that is absurd. Third, she claims I fail to ‘meaningfully respond’ to distinctions she draws between subjects of ectogenesis and neonates. Finally, she criticises my essay for focusing on subjects of AWs rather than focusing on pregnant persons (who should be at the ‘centre’ of debates over AWs). I respond to each of these charges. In doing so, I reaffirm that (contra Romanis) some subjects of ectogenesis are newborns and all subjects of ectogenesis—even those that have not been born—share the same moral status as newborns.

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

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  • Contributors NC is the sole author of this essay.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

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