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Gestaticide: killing the subject of the artificial womb

Abstract

The rapid development of artificial womb technologies means that we must consider if and when it is permissible to kill the human subject of ectogestation—recently termed a ‘gestateling’ by Elizabeth Chloe Romanis—prior to ‘birth’. We describe the act of deliberately killing the gestateling as gestaticide and argue that there are good reasons to maintain that gestaticide is morally equivalent to infanticide, which we consider to be morally impermissible. First, we argue that gestaticide is harder to justify than abortion, primarily because the gestateling is completely independent of its biological parents. Second, we argue that gestaticide is morally equivalent to infanticide. To demonstrate this, we explain that gestatelings are born in a straightforward sense, which entails that killing them is as morally serious as infanticide. However, to strengthen our overall claim, we also show that if gestatelings are not considered to have been born, killing them is still equivalent to killing neonates with congenital anomalies and disabilities, which again is infanticide. We conclude by considering how our discussion of gestaticide has implications for the permissibility of withdrawing life-sustaining treatment from gestatelings.

  • abortion
  • disability
  • infanticide
  • killing
  • embryos and fetuses
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