Abortion may meet its Kryptonite in a few years time if artificial wombs can bridge the gap between science fiction and scientific reality.
The pro-choice crowd always rambles on about a fetuses “viability,” though usually as a straw man considering the Democratic party platform calls for abortion up until the baby enters its mother’s birth canal. However, an excitingly innovative technology may render that argument null.
According to The Atlantic, scientists at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have created a new artificial womb that may possibly be the panacea against “critically preterm” babies born before 24 weeks, a tragic aberration that affects roughly 30,000 American babies each year. The few that survive live in plastic incubators for months on end, hooked to feeding tubes and regular dosages of sedatives due to the many ventilators strapped to their face, and even if they become “viable” many face long-term health consequences. “Among those that survive, the challenges are things we all take for granted, like walking, talking, seeing, hearing,” says Kevin Dysart, a neonatologist at the Children’s Hospital.
The great danger posed against preemies is the poor development of their lungs, which may never recover the moment they engulf fresh air at such an early stage. “Infants that are currently born and supported in a neonatal intensive care unit with gas-based ventilation demonstrate an arrest of lung development,” Partridge says, “which manifests in a long-term, severe restriction of lung function.”
Created by Partridge and other researchers in Philadelphia, the new artificial womb has been successfully tested on fetal lambs by suspending their bodies for several weeks in a liquid bag as they developed into mature offspring. “The researchers used eight lamb fetuses that were 105 to 115 days old – a level of development comparable to a 23-week-old human fetus,” reports The Atlantic. “As they floated, the lambs’ brains and organs developed normally. The pinkish creatures opened their eyes, fattened up, and grew coats of white wool.”
Should the animal studies go according to plan for the next two years, researches may have the green light to move into the human phase, a process that may take three to five years. The Atlantic explained further:
With the artificial womb, the infant would continue ‘breathing’ through the umbilical cord as its floats in amniotic fluid, which would flow into and out of the bag. Using its tiny heart, the fetus would pump its own blood through its umbilical cord and into an oxygenator, where the blood would pick up oxygen and return it to the fetus – much like with a normal placenta. In addition to boosting lung growth, the amniotic fluid would protect the baby from infections and support the development of the intestines.
The babies who are hooked up to this apparatus would need to be delivered by C-section, as 60 percent of extreme preterm babies currently are. During the operation, the fetus would be given a drug that would prevent it from taking gulps of air during its brief brush with the outside world. Within seconds, it would be submerged again in the polyethylene bag, just like it was in the womb.
Though the lambs provide a good catalyst, researchers still have many questions as to whether or not the technology will work on human fetuses, since lambs have much larger bodies in those stages of development. Nevertheless, the technology could offer yet another alternative to abortion, thus further putting pro-choice proponents into an even darker corner of warped ethics and anti-science. Bill Nye will certainly dismiss it as pseudo-science. Here’s to hoping.
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