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Ectogenesis and gender‐based oppression: Resisting the ideal of assimilation

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Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/09/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Bioethics
Issue number7
Volume34
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)727-734
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date22/07/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

In a recent article in this journal, Kathryn MacKay advances a defence of ectogenesis that is grounded in this technology’s potential to end—or at least mitigate the effects of—gender‐based oppression. MacKay raises important issues concerning the socialization of women as ‘mothers’, and the harms that this socialization causes. She also considers ectogenesis as an ethically preferable alternative to gestational surrogacy and uterine transplantation, one that is less harmful to women and less subject to being co‐opted to further oppressive ends. In this article, I challenge some of the assumptions that underlie MacKay’s case in favour of ectogenesis by questioning whether the relationship between women’s capacity to gestate and birth children and gender‐based oppression is as strong as MacKay makes it out to be. I subsequently argue that—even if MacKay’s reading of this relationship is accurate—ectogenesis is not a desirable means to end gender‐based oppression. It embodies a strategy that could be used to pursue liberating projects that follow what Iris Marion Young defines as ‘the ideal of assimilation’, but that must be resisted. I then concur with MacKay’s contention that ectogenesis is better than gestational surrogacy and uterine transplantation. My argument is that many of the problematic issues that MacKay herself sees as features of these practices will not disappear with ectogenesis. Finally, I conclude that MacKay’s narrow focus on women’s biology and ectogenesis as a solution to gender‐based oppression results in the overlooking of broader systemic issues that contribute to the upholding of oppressive norms.