Should Pro-Life People be Concerned About Baby Born After Womb Transplant?

Opinion   |   Wesley J. Smith   |   Oct 6, 2014   |   12:50PM   |   Washington, DC

The story of a successful birth post uterus transplant has been promoted understandably as a “feel good” saga of joy and the awesome power of modern medical science. But I have a different take.

Uterus transplants are “consumerist” procedures–as distinguished from “medical”–performed at sometimes great expense to enable lifestyle choices or help make dreams come true. As such, I believe they should be looked at differently than the usual healthcare.

But to the story. From the Telegraph report:

The parents of the first baby to be born from a transplanted womb have told of their delight. The boy’s birth took place in Sweden after surgeons at the University of Gothenburg performed the pioneering transplant procedure.

The baby was delivered by caesarean section in the 31st week of pregnancy. He weighed 3.9 pounds — normal for that stage of pregnancy – and both mother and child are now at home doing well…

British experts said that they were preparing to carry out a similar procedure next year. It could help 14,000 British women carry their own child.

wombtransplantSome would say that there nothing intrinsically different in transplanting uteri than hearts, livers or kidneys. They are all organs.

Except there is.  Kidney, liver, heart, etc. transplantations are serious and very expensive, non-elective surgeries.  They are performed to save lives or restore essential functions. They also require expensive post-surgery drugs to suppress immune response–which also can carry some risks, deemed acceptable because of the urgent nature of the patients’ illnesses.

In contrast, transplanting a uterus is wholly elective, obviously performed to allow a woman to gestate and give birth. In other words, she has a bodily dysfunction, but is not sick. Indeed, her physical health is put at peril from the procedure, whereas doing nothing will not endanger her life or hurt her health. And given that the child is delivered early, there could be some risk to the baby.

This is a classic example of how on one hand we yell about out-of-control health care costs–and claim that shortages require that we ration care to the elderly, the disabled, the dying etc., based on quality of life judgmentalism. 

At the same time, we keep expanding the scope insurance or government-covered procedures intended to facilitate lifestyle choices or make dreams come true–even though they are not treating health-deteriorating illness or saving lives. Consider: If NHS covers potentially 14,000 transplants, what “medical” procedures will the technocrats decide not cover?

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Finally, consider the paradox: If a woman wants a baby, we will allow womb transplants, biological colonialist exploitation of the destitute for their eggs or gestational capacities, one day, cloning, etc.. On the other, we slaughter tens of millions of fetuses each year–most killed for lifestyle facilitation purposes–and claim it is a fundamental right.

Meanwhile, countless children have no parents and desperately yearn to be adopted into loving homes.

I certainly hope mother and child do fine. And I get that the parents are very happy. But that shouldn’t be the only consideration.

So, sorry if I don’t ooh and aaah. But I don’t think this is a good trend. Note: Wesley J. Smith, J.D., is a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture and a bioethics attorney who blogs at Human Exeptionalism.