Imagining a Different Future: Ectogenesis and Self-Determination

By Claire Horn

Like other academics who write about artificial wombs, much of the work I’ve done in the last few years has required me to operate at least in part on a speculative level, tracing the problems that present themselves in our contemporary context to understand what the impact of this technology in development might be. As its recurring presence in sci-fi, feminist fantasy, and sensationalized popular media coverage demonstrate, the artificial womb holds enduring allure as a tool for imagining what the future could look like.

This is a moment that should make painfully evident to anyone who supposed otherwise that technologies in and of themselves cannot create social change or act in the service of justice. I wrote about gender, gestation, and ectogenesis before lockdown began in the UK, and before I myself got sick. But it remains as true now as it was two months ago that the possibility of a future in which gender is disentangled from gestation does not lie with the introduction of artificial womb technologies, but with protecting self-determination for all pregnant people. The arc of history shows us that in times of large-scale crisis, in times of fear and sickness and uncertainty, spaces of powerful social change can emerge. Like so many others, my hope is that we will refuse to accept a return to “normal”, to the injustices and inequalities that have long constituted the world we live in, and that we build our way toward a future more worthy of our imaginations.


Paper title: Gender, Gestation, and Ectogenesis: Self-determination for Pregnant People Ahead of Artificial Wombs

Author: Claire Horn

Affiliations: Birkbeck School of Law

Competing interests: None

Social media accounts of post author(s): @clairemlhorn



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