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Planning for Brave New World

By Michael Cook

Biosecurity labs are designed to keep lethal diseases like smallpox from escaping and infecting vast numbers of people.

If we only had an equivalent for lethal ideas!

It’s too late for the notion that men deserve to have babies with or without a female partner, still less a married female partner. It has escaped into the wild, generating an enormous market for surrogate mothers.

In the latest legal development,  a former New York assistant district attorney and his husband are suing the City of New York because its healthcare plan excludes gay and single men from IVF benefits which are available to heterosexual and lesbian couples and to single women.

They are “socially infertile” ‑ able but unwilling to partner with a woman. “There is no reasonable alternative to IVF for gay men seeking to conceive biological children,” the couple complains.

But the real obstacle is that men require women’s bodies to gestate children. The unfortunate New York couple will have to hire a costly female “gestational carrier”.  

However, bioethicists are preparing the ground for the future — babies without surrogate mothers, or even without pregnancies. Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, two bioethicists contend that both men and women should have a right to access artificial wombs ‑ when they become available. This is called ectogenesis or ectogestation.

Women, argues Andrea Bidoli, of the University of Copenhagen, would have more reproductive options and could avoid pressure to embrace reproduction as central to their identity. And men, contends Joona Räsänen, of the University of Turku, in Finland, would not need women at all to have children.

For Räsänen, ectogenesis is a matter of men’s rights. Many men have difficulties in finding a romantic partner. Not possessing a womb is a kind of disability — they should be given the option of expanded reproductive opportunities. “In a just society, access to reproduction should be offered in a non-discriminatory way,” he says.

Fundamentally, the lethal idea is not ectogenesis – that will remain science fiction for decades. It is that babies don’t need a family with a married biological mother and father. Once this idea has taken hold, anything goes. Perhaps someday they will build the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre described in Aldous Huxley novel Brave New World.  

This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at