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Violently Uncomfortable Meghan McCain Talks About Artificial Wombs

Meghan McCain doesn’t like the idea of artificial wombs.

She doesn’t like the idea of wombs outside a woman’s body.

She doesn’t like scientists “messing with embryos.” (For those utilizing IVF, I’m sure you weren’t aware of this, but “messing” is the clinical term for what embryologists do with your gametes.)

She doesn’t like people messing with fetuses.  (Again, “messing” is a clinical term.)

She doesn’t like it, and it makes her violently uncomfortable.

Can we pause for a moment and unpack that term?  Violently uncomfortable.  Is she saying that as she becomes uncomfortable, she becomes violent? (Watch out!)  Is she saying that the discomfort feels like violence to her psyche?  Is she saying that the violent side of her personality is suffering from discomfort?  Or are her emotions just “messing” with her?

TakePart Live’s theme was “In the next 20 years, artificial wombs will be a real possibility, but will ethics get in the way?”

Well, will it?

I understand that Meghan McCain believes that life begins at conception, and if scientists were indeed “messing” with life without a second thought to the ramifications of their actions, throwing gametes together like the Swedish Chef on the Muppets (bork! bork! bork!), I could understand her fears. But we have a long history of having children grow outside a mother’s womb even if their life didn’t begin inside this artificial space.

It’s called an incubator.

(Though “babyfarm” sounds clickier, right? I mean, who would click on #incubator? But #babyfarm — that’s catchy.)

Many preemie parents are familiar with the concept of their child growing and aging outside the woman’s body.  The twins stopped growing in my body at 29 weeks.  They were delivered and grown in what amounts to an artificial womb until they were able to regulate their own body temperature and be moved to an open-air crib.  This development happened slower than if they had aged in my body, but we didn’t really have a choice.  The options were slow-growing-but-alive or dead.  And we took slow-growing.  Call us crazy.  We like to “mess” with fate that way.

Today, it would be inhumane to not attempt to kept a child alive in an incubator, even though it comes with its own set of possible problems.  I can state from personal experience that growth (especially brain development) is preferable taking place inside the woman’s body vs. outside the woman’s body.  We’re still dealing with issues from prematurity.  But again, alive vs. dead… it’s a pretty easy decision.

If science were to catch up with need, and women without wombs, with malformed wombs (such as a unicornuate uterus), or poor functioning wombs (such as mine which doesn’t allow for proper implantation) could grow a healthy child inside an incubator, and that development would actually mimic life inside a human body, wouldn’t we find that preferable to making women put their body through endless tries to get one pregnancy that doesn’t miscarry or cause irreparable harm to the mother’s body?  Is it really preferable to ask women to have multiple miscarriages (which include invasive procedures such as D&Cs) or risk their life in order to keep pregnancies solely inside a woman’s body?

The ethical issue begins with the fact that we’re talking about a child already existing vs. a child being created, though if life begins at conception for Meghan McCain, I’m not sure why she would distinguish between a 29-week-old child and an embryo.

And I am not saying that there aren’t other ethical issues to consider: when do we have women utilize an artificial womb rather than attempting conception in the body, what are the long-term effects for children born via this method, what are the emotional effects of having your child grow outside your body or being grown outside a human body?  There are ethical questions that need to be discussed by those who are holding real information and true understanding of the situation and methods to address it.

I guess I’m not really understanding why we should sit and listen to Meghan McCain talk about artificial wombs.  Why is her opinion interesting?  What is it based on?  Why should it be broadcast?  Does she have professional experience?  Does she have personal experience?  Is there a possibility that she would utilize this technology in the future?

No one is stopping Meghan McCain from using the uterus in her body.  (I am making an assumption right now that she has a functioning uterus.)  She can go right ahead growing a baby inside herself, and she can also deny herself access to an artificial womb if it turns out that she can’t carry a child unassisted.

All scientists are doing is trying to solve a problem that plagues many other women: the inability to carry a child to term within their body.  The concept of helping others shouldn’t make a person violently uncomfortable.  Confused, sure.  Worried, fine.  But violently uncomfortable?  That’s a term that casts judgment.  And it’s judgment of a situation that Meghan McCain likely knows little about unless she has a secret medical degree or personal experience.

Especially when options exist in the here and now to grow a baby outside the body.

I, for one, am grateful that incubators exist.  Without them, I wouldn’t have my twins.

20 comments

1 a { 08.13.14 at 2:36 pm }

I don’t understand why we should sit and listen to anyone opine on anything. This is why I prefer articles to video. Articles have a word limit. It’s very easy to criticize the logic structure of an argument when you don’t have to talk over some loudmouth to do it. The thoughts are finite and fixed.

Anyway, I’m for incubators. Artificial wombs…well, I’m on the fence because I know someone will find a profit-motivated unethical way to use them. But with decent regulation, it shouldn’t be a problem. And my opinion is just as valid and valuable as that of Meghan McCain, whoever she is (I am unfamiliar with her and, now, gladly so).

2 Sue { 08.13.14 at 2:36 pm }

Who the eff is this woman? Perhaps more importantly (or rhetorically), who does she think she is?

3 Life Breath Present { 08.13.14 at 2:37 pm }

I think it’s definitely interesting, this idea of an artificial womb. This is interesting because of some ethical considerations, but of it came down to it and I couldn’t keep another child in my own womb, I’d be hard pressed to deny an artificial womb.

One problem I have with people making broad sweeping decisions and judgements of other’s decisions or choices is that those conversations and statements too often lead to one’s inability to make what amounts to one (or more) of their most very important and personal decisions in life.

4 KeAnne { 08.13.14 at 2:59 pm }

As someone w/ a UU, I’d find an artificial womb worth a try, especially to avoid all the social and legal issues around surrogacy.

5 shelli { 08.13.14 at 3:23 pm }

…says the girl who just jinxed her own fertility. Is she not intelligent enough to know that making sensational statements like this will summon the karma police. 🙂

6 Pepper { 08.13.14 at 3:54 pm }

Ha. I agree with Shelli. Watch out for karma, Ms. McCain. (Not that I wish this on ANYONE, but COME ON.)

And I agree – I am so thankful for incubators, and NICUs and all that comes with it. My daughter is who she is today because she had the benefit of the “artificial womb” when mine kicked her out.

Sometimes people just need to shut up.

7 Hope { 08.13.14 at 5:04 pm }

I heard her warn that “it raises questions,” but I didn’t hear any actual questions asked, not to mention any answers proposed (at least not in this short clip). What she said amounted to “Eww, unnatural, gross!”

What if we felt that way about all medical procedures (which, you could argue, all interfere with nature in some way)? I’ve known people who had that “violently uncomfortable” knee-jerk reaction to colonoscopies, and it cost them their lives.

Of course, artificial wombs would be very different, because they’d be experimental (at first) and would involve the lives of others. All the more reason for a thoughtful discussion … which is not what happened there.

8 A. { 08.13.14 at 5:06 pm }

I just love this post. I’m still smarting from the Romney/Ryan presidential campaign with all its pro-life ambitions that treated ART so callously. I thought it was more offensive that men would dare to meddle in this issue, but to see a woman sit in judgment without the personal experience–I think it’s way worse.

9 Persnickety { 08.13.14 at 5:30 pm }

There is something in the air, or water! I started to write a post on artificial wombs earlier this week ( not triggered by this woman) and thinking of two of my favorite sci if stories. There are ethical and social issues, and both of the writers address some of these.
But if one was available to me, right now as an option? I would be using it.
When they become an option, I suspect there will be all kinds of judgement about women using them because they don’t want a baby body. However, IVF had a lot of handwringing about designer babies, and realistically, the only people who use it are those who have to.

10 Queenie { 08.13.14 at 9:37 pm }

It’s so fascinating. . .the people that get a soapbox, and how they choose to use it.

11 Cristy { 08.13.14 at 10:18 pm }

I too owe incubators for keeping my babies alive and providing them with the environment required to growth. Without this technology, I don’t know if they would be home with us today.

Like anything new, there will always be people who don’t think all possibilities through. I’m willing to bet Megan McCain is viewing an artificial womb as a cosmetic option for women who don’t want to sacrifice their figure for children. She’s not thinking about the women who suffer from repeated miscarriages or those with deformed wombs or those (like you and me) who have implantation issues. Not is she thinking about incubators and their role. Which is why this post is so important. You know first hand how this technology can benefit others. Help women bring home children. And that is so important because without voices like yours to drowned out the Megan McCains, it’s likely this technology will simply be seen as cosmetic.

12 Mary { 08.14.14 at 8:16 am }

I also coparented with a plastic box for several months. I’m not sure how I feel about the concept of an artificial womb, mainly because of the lack of typical stimulation with regard to developmental milestones. We already know that kids born prematurely are at greater risk for autism spectrum disorder. But the idea that my friend’s twins might have survived when born at 23 weeks….that makes me want to rush this artificial uterus to the front of the line for funding and attention.

13 Katherine A { 08.14.14 at 9:22 am }

Gah…it drives me nuts when people who apparently have no experience with infertility, miscarriage, prematurity, or the terrible pain these things bring with them start making generally jackass comments about how advances such as artificial wombs are Frightening Bad Things. *Sigh* With people like this getting airtime (instead of, you know, people who actually understand the technology or who have been through some of the things the technology might help), it’s no wonder that the general public seems to get such a skewed view of reproductive technology.

14 Ana { 08.14.14 at 10:21 am }

Her opinion and thoughts on this matter have about as much value as mine (I just heard of it right now, have no idea the science/technology behind it, and do not have personal or even 2nd- 3rd-degree experience with the problems this technology is hoping to help). i.e. not much at all. Sucks that she’s getting the airtime and attention, though, just because her father is a politician. (does she have any credentials that I don’t know about? I don’t want to waste time looking her up)

15 gwinne { 08.14.14 at 10:52 am }

I was lucky to carry two children almost to term, despite having what my OB referred to as a “hostile” uterus (yeah, that set me up for having some body issues!). And, born at 33 weeks in 1972, I spent some time in an “artificial womb,” too.

From all perspectives, it’s interesting to think about this option as compared to surrogacy, say. I wonder what she’d think about that?

16 Alexicographer { 08.14.14 at 1:50 pm }

I think this pretty much sums it up: “I’m not really understanding why we should sit and listen to Meghan McCain talk about artificial wombs.”

I didn’t actually know who Meghan McCain was, but having now looked her up on Wikipedia, I can tell you that it reports that, “In terms of economic policy, she has remarked on The Rachel Maddow Show: “I didn’t even take Econ[omics] in college. I don’t completely understand it so I’d hate to make a comment one way or the other.” So — um, seems like a rule (“… so I’d hate to make a comment…”) that might fruitfully be more broadly applied. No?

17 Valery Valentina { 08.14.14 at 4:14 pm }

I can’t help thinking about this little newsclip in our newspaper.
Australian couple used Thai surrogate. twins. Boy healthy, picked up by parents. Girl had Down syndrome. Left her with Thai surrogate.

Solution of Thai government? makes surrogacy punishable with 10 years in jail. (for the poor Thai women of course, not the Australians in this case) I bet with an artificial womb this story would be very different.

18 Pam { 08.15.14 at 1:09 am }

I had a uterus. It turns out it was single use. After my daughter was born it broke-placenta accreta. My son was born six years later through a surrogate mother in India. I use the term surrogate mother deliberately to honor her and her role in bringing our boy into the world. The idea of an artificial womb is so out there it’s hard to even understand what that would mean. Off the bat, I feel uncomfortable with conceiving and growing a baby in an artificial womb. Would these womb-like containers experience any stimulation? Would they be locked up in a lab, in general silence except for the humming of machines? What effect do the normal noises of life have on a developing baby? What about epigenetics? Hormonal washes? I think my surrogate had a great influence on my baby, aside from nutrition and good health. His personality seems to mirror hers rather than ours. She is Buddhist. We are Jewish, and a little neurotic, more emotionally labile. He is very zen, goes with the flow.That’s not science though, I admit. Incubators that save longed for and loved babies are a miracle of science. Personally, surrogacy was a wonderful experience for me (so much so I sometimes think, “I should be a surrogate!” and then remember I’m missing the equipment.) Either way, Meghan McCain needs to go away.

19 Geochick { 08.15.14 at 10:35 am }

You should’ve made it babyfarm instead of incubator. That way more people would read your well thought out and logical rebuttal to another asshat politician who doesn’t know sh*t.

🙂

20 nonsequiturchica { 08.15.14 at 12:09 pm }

What the F? What kind of hashtag is #babyfarm???? I saw a hilarious and spot-on Daily Show bit where the new correspondent talked about grabbing people with stupid headlines that will get likes and clicks- that reminds me of that hashtag. Or I have heard that Nancy Grace uses ridiculous hashtags.

Ugh. Just ugh.

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