Night is falling on the modern West’s most retrograde institution. The Global South is united against it. The Church is united against it. But since developed nations have trained their ears to scrupulously ignore voices from those corners, it seems that technological progress will be the thing to sound the death knell for abortion. American scientists successfully brought several premature lamb fetuses to term in an artificial womb: which looks like a clear plastic IV bag.
Gizmodo, one of those tech blogs for whom technology represents mankind’s last great hope, has been uncharacteristically luddite about this particular breakthrough, citing how it complicates the legal rationale behind when a fetus can be safely aborted. Up to now, it’s been “so long as the fetus could survive outside the womb.” Advances in neonatal care have been chipping away at that definition for some time now, but the artificial womb could put it to bed entirely. Complications about a woman consenting to surgery aside, it appears that in the near future, it could be possible to “terminate a pregnancy” and save the fetus at the same time. The tone is clear: this particular technological breakthrough–which does nothing less than rescue human life from the clutches of death–is a “threat.” Meanwhile, look at this adorable baby drone! Isn’t meaningless consumer tech wonderful?
To my mind, it won’t be the life-saving technology that poses the biggest threat to abortion rights in this country, but rather the fact that it’s a clear plastic bag. The most effective catalyst for decreasing abortions has been the ultrasound: i.e. giving would-be parents a glimpse of their child’s form. The more sophisticated imaging we’ve developed the more we’ve discovered how human embryos are earlier and earlier in their development cycle (interestingly, the ultrasound also came under attack from this sublimely bizarre Atlantic piece a few months back.)
Here is what will happen, whatever legal and political obstacles the culture of death sets up against artificial wombs, someone somewhere is going to use one and then we’re going to all get to get hundreds of hours of the clearest, Ultra 4K HD footage ever of a live human fetus. And then we’re going to be confronted with what ultrasounds have been telling us for the past thirty years: that fetuses are human (or they sure as heck look and act like it) and all that goes with that will be impossible to deny. Those who try to refute that or refuse to look may as well be trying to convince others and themselves that the world is flat.
Can’t stop progress.