Does the Catholic Faith Permit the Use of Artificial Wombs?

If Brave New World is coming soon to a hospital near you, what does that mean for your premature baby? Over the Register, today I’m making predictions about what the next edition of The Catechism will have to say about “artificial womb” technology:

Here at the Register, Angelo Stagnaro has recently expressed his grave concerns about the invention of “artificial wombs.” The technology in question is a medical device that simulates an unborn baby’s environment in uteroIt is designed as an improvement over the existing standard of care for infants born prematurely; it is not envisaged as a substitute for a healthy pregnancy.

We can, however, foresee that as the technology develops, it will be used at earlier and earlier stages, until finally, Brave New World style, in vitro fertilization followed by artificial gestation allows the possibility of children conceived and born without ever experiencing any maternal contact beyond that one donated egg cell.

In light of that possibility, what will the next edition of The Catechism likely have to say about the use of artificial wombs?

Longtime readers will recognize the shadowy hand of double effect behind my reasoning.  Question #1 we ask ourselves when looking at a new technology: Is there anything inherently immoral in this, when properly used?

If so, it’s right out.  If not, we’ve got a yellow light.  Reproductive technology is tricky, because we’ve got a higher bar than applies to other bodily functions, what with a brand new immortal soul being involved.

If we make it past no-way-no-how, next question is: Under what circumstances is this properly used?

And from there, we can use our working knowledge of the current Catechism and the magisterial social teaching of the Church to place some safe bets on what’s coming.

The DIY Kit for Junior Moral Theologians

For those who haven’t already had the course on ends-and-means-and-side-effects, it’s not at the Register so you’ll need to look here (or somewhere):

Do the Ends Justify the Means? My 101 on Double Effect and whether you may do evil that good come of it (no, you may not).

Double Effect, In the Bathtub Erin Arlinghaus continues the conversation.

Why Can’t We Do Evil that Good Might Come of It? Even to Save a Life? Further conversation on this topic, in response to a challenge from Erin.

The Trouble with Double Effect An older post over at the Conspiracy, covering this topic, and opening up a can of worms at the bottom.

Siris: Double Effect Comments on that post from philosopher Brandon Watson, who knows his business, attempting to deal with the worms.

I Confess, Hero Movie Par Excellence  Alfred Hitchcock shows you how it’s done, in glorious black and white.

Three Bad Arguments You Should Stop Using Right Now Reasons people tend to jettison their rational brain just when they shouldn’t.

File:Care of prematurely born babies is one of the most complicated procedures 8b07796v.jpg

Photo: Fritz Henle [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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