Brave New World: Liberation from the “Dis-benefits” of Motherhood
In remarks that critics have said are disturbingly reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s famous dystopian novel “Brave New World,” a UK ethicist has argued that since pregnancy causes “natural inequality” between the sexes, women must be liberated from the “burdens and risks of pregnancy” through the use of “ectogenesis”, or artificial wombs.
“Pregnancy is a condition that causes pain and suffering, and that affects only women. The fact that men do not have to go through pregnancy to have a genetically related child, whereas women do, is a natural inequality,” writes Dr. Anna Smajdor in an article that recently appeared in the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics.
In her Defense of Ectogenesis, published online December, 2011, Smajdor construes pregnancy as a “medical problem, along with other conditions that cause pain and suffering.” Smajdor is Lecturer in Ethics at the School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice in the University of East Anglia.
“If there were a disease that caused symptoms and risks similar to those caused by pregnancy, I contend that it would be regarded as being fairly serious, and that we would have good reasons to try to insure against it,” argues Smajdor, who lumps pregnancy along with “diseases” that continue for many months, such as the measles.
For Smajdor, currently “men reap all the benefits of women’s gestation, while women bear the risks and burdens.”
Accordingly, in Smajdor’s worldview, “women are disadvantaged as a group through brute luck, because men can reproduce without undergoing the risks of pregnancy.”
In other words, to be a woman, for Smajdor, simply means to become biologically more like a man. To do this, a woman’s innate and natural potential to procreate, nurture, and bear a new human life must be stripped away and handed over to science and technology. Only when all human beings do not bear children will a genuine equality be more closely approached, she proposes.
“Perhaps not all the dis-benefits of being a woman are attributable to childbearing,” acknowledges Smajdor, “but alleviating these burdens would surely help.”
In Huxley’s “Brave New World” reproduction is taken over entirely by the World State where children are created, “decanted” and raised in “hatcheries” and “conditioning centres.”
For Smajdor, the issue is simply a matter of sex equality: “Either we view women as baby carriers who must subjugate their other interests to the well-being of their children or we acknowledge that our social values and level of medical expertise are no longer compatible with ‘natural’ reproduction,” she concludes.