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In the paper Assisted Gestative Technologies, Elizabeth Chloe Romanis advocates for the creation of a new category, which includes technological interventions that allow ‘persons who want to reproduce, potentially using their own genetic material, but are unable, or potentially unwilling, to undertake gestation’.1 Romanis conceptualises these technologies as a unified kind, a ‘genus’, and argues that they ‘collectively raise distinct ethical, legal and social issues from those related to assisted conception’.1 As I understand Romanis’ paper, her aims are twofold. The first is conceptual: Romanis construes assisted gestative technologies (AGTs) as a separate kind with shared attributes and purposes, which differ from those of technologies that enable conception. The second is normative: Romanis champions the distinction between AGTs and other technologies as a useful way to tease apart relevant ‘ethical, legal and social issues’ that specifically concern AGTs. The reason for this, according to Romanis, is that gestation is ‘such a unique and demanding form of labour’.1
I agree with Romanis: gestation is indeed a unique and demanding form of labour, one with associated biological, cultural and political specificities with distinctive moral significance. It is for this very same reason that I believe that AGTs should not conceptually be considered as a unified category and should not be morally appraised as such, for relevant political and moral aspects of these technologies would be overlooked in the process. To clarify: Romanis’ use of genealogy to aid normative inquiry is a worthy endeavour. And I concur with the very convincing case she makes for the distinction between conception and gestation (and the technologies that enable these activities). My disagreement with Romanis rather concerns the conceptualisation of technologies such as gestational surrogacy, uterine transplantation (UTx) and artificial placentas as a unified category, and the normative inquiry grounded in …
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.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
↵And prior to discussions on the possibility of artificial placentas.
↵On the moral and political significance of these forms of labour, and their gendered nature in the context of UTx, gestational surrogacy and what I refer to as ‘ectogestation’, see Ref. 3:
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