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Delegating gestation or ‘assisted’ reproduction?
  1. Ezio Di Nucci
  1. University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Professor Ezio Di Nucci, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark; ezio{at}

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This paper argues that we ought to distinguish between ‘assisted’ gestation and ‘delegating’ gestation—and that the relevant difference does not depend on whether it is another human or technological system doing the work.1

In the philosophy of action, there is an important theoretical gap between S ‘helping A to φ’ and S ‘φ-ing on behalf of A’: the former is an instance of joint agency while the latter is an individual’s action. This matters because if the latter counts as an intentional action, then only S is being said to have acted intentionally while, if the former is an intentional action, then both S and A have acted intentionally—which might have consequences for responsibility attributions, for example.

To put it brutally, it is the difference between Belarus supporting Putin’s invasion and Belarus doing Putin’s dirty work—and you do not have to be a Russian mother to see that these two alternatives will have very different consequences. In another context, the economics of outsourcing is also built around the same theoretical distinction. But does this matter to gestation and reproduction? It does, argues this paper.

Insisting on an ‘assisted’ reproduction framework2–8 reinforces patriarchal stereotypes and continues to put undue burdens on prospective mothers both by perpetuating the stereotype of women as needing help and also by implicating them in an action that might genuinely not be theirs.

Delegation, on the other hand, empowers parents—who are in charge, rather than needing help. Furthermore, an action-theoretical delegation framework might be better placed to regulate and anticipate future technological developments, …

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  • 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 Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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