Ectogenesis

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Bryan Caplan asks some intriguing questions:

1. If this technology were safe and effective, what fraction of prospective parents would pay an extra $10,000 to avoid pregnancy?

2. If insurance covered ectogenesis, what fraction of mothers would still opt for a traditional pregnancy?

3. How much do you think the availability of ectogenesis would affect family size?

I've never had a baby, of course, but looking at my friends, the pregnancy seems trivial compared to caring for a newborn.  And there are good reasons to go through pregnancy:  the ability to breastfeed, for one, and also the pair-bonding hormones that flood your body during and after birth.

On the other hand, pregnancy is pretty hard on the body--I've never seen a woman come out of her first pregnancy as good looking as she went in, which is emotionally difficult.  And it's risky.  $10,000 seems a pretty cheap price to pay--though I'd add that I bet ectogenesis would cost a lot more than that.

The interesting question he doesn't ask is what this would do to the politics of parenting.  Pro-choice advocates don't talk so much about the right not to be a parent; they focus on the right to control your own body.  That's also where the constitutional law seems to be focused, or so I read the right to privacy.  The minute you can take an aborted fetus and put it in an artificial womb, that argument falls away, and we get down to what pro-choicers really care about:  not having a kid.  I'm not saying that pregnancy is minor, but most people don't have an abortion because they don't want to be pregnant; they have abortions because they don't want to have a kid, or at least not this kid right now.

I can construct a libertarian argument for a right not to parent, but once the pregnancy leaves the sacred space of the individual body, both the logical and the emotional arguments get a lot weaker.  What will society look like when unwanted pregnancies start turning, once again, into unwanted kids?

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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