Bypassing the Handmaid’s Tale for the Bioengineered Womb

Holy Hormones Journal:  Perhaps the Handmaid’s Tale was really meant to be the Cronemaid’s Tale? For those of you who might not be aware, feminist author Margaret Atwood, wrote a great prophetic work in artificial wombs-1550x3091998 entitled:  The Handmaid’s Tale -Atwood poses the question:

“In the world of the near future, who will control women’s bodies?”

That near future is now – and I think the answer is very clear, and sadly apparent that women do not control their bodies. Even though we fought for ever other human right – the largest battle cannot be won.

Another great feminist, Germain Greer, wrote in her 1999 book, The Whole Woman:

“A woman’s body is the battlefield where she fights for liberation.
It is through her body that oppression works, reifying her, sexualizing her, victimizing her, disabling her.”

And women did not pay attention. Now our uterus has become toxic – our reproductive system shut down and our mother’s becoming the surrogates. Not to be undaunted by women retaining the power of birth, technology comes to save the day with the bioengineered womb. This is not our reality.

The High-Tech Future of the Uterus

Following the recent success of the world’s first uterus transplant, scientists are pursuing the new frontier of the bioengineered womb.

The Atlantic

When I suffered my third consecutive miscarriage this past May, my mom said she wanted to help me out however she could, even if it meant being my surrogate. I laughed it off—a 60-year-old surrogate?—but it turned out that, as always, Mom had been on to something.

In 2011, Kristine Casey, 61, gave birth to her own grandchild after being surrogate for her daughter, Sara, who had delivered stillborn twins and then suffered a miscarriage after years of infertility treatment. Surrogacy isn’t typically allowed in post-menopausal women because of the need for hormone supplements and the associated health risks—but occasionally, doctors make exceptions, especially for relatives, and Casey is the oldest of an increasingly large roster of women who have birthed their own grandchildren. And in just the past year, post-menopausal surrogacy has become a seemingly mundane mode of reproduction when compared to the new frontier of infertility solutions: living donor-uterus transplants and bioengineered wombs.

In September, a 36-year-old Swedish woman gave birth to a baby boy in the first-ever birth from a transplanted uterus. The woman, whose identity remains anonymous, was born without a uterus but with functioning ovaries. She is one of nine women to participate in a transplant study led by Mats Brännström, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. The uterus was donated by the woman’s 61-year-old friend, and conception was achieved by in-vitro fertilization, after which the embryo was implanted in the woman’s newly transplanted uterus.

This unprecedented achievement was observed with keen interest by transplant surgeons and fertility experts the world over, who hope that transplants might soon become a viable option for women who lose a uterus to cancer, are born without a uterus, or who are unable to conceive or carry due to uterine defects or anomalies. While surrogacy is the more well-known method of helping women with infertility have biological children, it has drawbacks. The most obvious one is that a woman doesn’t gestate her own child, but surrogacy also carries an array of legal and ethical dilemmas, including the concerns that poor surrogates might enter the arrangement solely because of the financial incentive, or that a surrogate might become attached to the baby. Surrogacy is illegal in some European countries, including Germany and France; other countries, like Australia and Canada, permit “altruistic surrogacy,” a legal framework that permits surrogacy but prohibits payment.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.