The scientific breakthrough that could upend the abortion debate

As artificial wombs arrive and push the age of fetal viability earlier and earlier, the debate over abortion will transition to one over “extraction.” Imagine a world where the developing embryo is viable immediately at conception. Under current laws, states could potentially prohibit mothers from killing the fetus and require them instead to undergo an extraction procedure to place it in an artificial womb until it is ready to survive outside as a fully-formed baby. The question then would be whether or not the state has the right to force a woman to undergo such a procedure, which could be both invasive and risky.

One could imagine another ethically fraught scenario. Currently, state agencies can remove children from negligent or abusive parents. With artificial wombs, could they also potentially mandate the removal of fetuses from pregnant women deemed not to be fulfilling standards of care during pregnancy – if the expecting mother is using drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, for example.

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