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      Gestation, equality and freedom: ectogenesis as a political perspective

      Journal of Medical Ethics

      BMJ

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          Abstract

          The benefits of full ectogenesis, that is, the gestation of human fetuses outside the maternal womb, for women ground many contemporary authors’ arguments on the ethical desirability of this practice. In this paper, I present and assess two sets of arguments advanced in favour of ectogenesis: arguments stressing ectogenesis’ equality-promoting potential and arguments stressing its freedom-promoting potential. I argue that although successfully grounding a positive case for ectogenesis, these arguments have limitations in terms of their reach and scope. Concerning their limited reach, I contend that ectogenesis will likely benefit a small subset of women and, arguably, not the group who most need to achieve equality and freedom. Concerning their limited scope, I contend that these defences do not pay sufficient attention to the context in which ectogenesis would be developed and that, as a result, they risk leaving the status quo unchanged. After providing examples of these limitations, I move to my proposal concerning the role of ectogenesis in promoting women’s equality and freedom. This proposal builds on Silvia Federici’s, Mariarosa Dalla Costa’s and Selma James’ readings of the international feminist campaign ‘Wages for Housework’. It maintains that the political perspective and provocation that ectogenesis can advance should be considered and defended.

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          Most cited references 27

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          Self-organization of the in vitro attached human embryo.

          Implantation of the blastocyst is a developmental milestone in mammalian embryonic development. At this time, a coordinated program of lineage diversification, cell-fate specification, and morphogenetic movements establishes the generation of extra-embryonic tissues and the embryo proper, and determines the conditions for successful pregnancy and gastrulation. Despite its basic and clinical importance, this process remains mysterious in humans. Here we report the use of a novel in vitro system to study the post-implantation development of the human embryo. We unveil the self-organizing abilities and autonomy of in vitro attached human embryos. We find human-specific molecular signatures of early cell lineage, timing, and architecture. Embryos display key landmarks of normal development, including epiblast expansion, lineage segregation, bi-laminar disc formation, amniotic and yolk sac cavitation, and trophoblast diversification. Our findings highlight the species-specificity of these developmental events and provide a new understanding of early human embryonic development beyond the blastocyst stage. In addition, our study establishes a new model system relevant to early human pregnancy loss. Finally, our work will also assist in the rational design of differentiation protocols of human embryonic stem cells to specific cell types for disease modelling and cell replacement therapy.
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            Self-organisation of the human embryo in the absence of maternal tissues

            Remodelling of the human embryo at implantation is indispensable for successful pregnancy. Yet it has remained mysterious because of the experimental hurdles that beset the study of this developmental phase. Here, we establish an in vitro system to culture human embryos through implantation stages in the absence of maternal tissues and reveal the key events of early human morphogenesis. These include segregation of the pluripotent embryonic and extra-embryonic lineages and morphogenetic re-arrangements leading to: generation of a bi-laminar disc, formation of a pro-amniotic cavity within the embryonic lineage, appearance of the prospective yolk sac, and trophoblast differentiation. Using human embryos and human pluripotent stem cells, we show that the reorganisation of the embryonic lineage is mediated by cellular polarisation leading to cavity formation. Together, our results indicate that the critical remodelling events at this stage of human development are embryo-autonomous highlighting the remarkable and unanticipated self-organising properties of human embryos.
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              Racial/ethnic disparities in obstetric outcomes and care: prevalence and determinants.

              Wide disparities in obstetric outcomes exist between women of different race/ethnicities. The prevalence of preterm birth, fetal growth restriction, fetal demise, maternal mortality, and inadequate receipt of prenatal care all vary by maternal race/ethnicity. These disparities have their roots in maternal health behaviors, genetics, the physical and social environments, and access to and quality of health care. Elimination of the health inequities because of sociocultural differences or access to or quality of health care will require a multidisciplinary approach. We aim to describe these obstetric disparities, with an eye toward potential etiologies, thereby improving our ability to target appropriate solutions. Copyright 2010 Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Journal of Medical Ethics
                J Med Ethics
                BMJ
                0306-6800
                1473-4257
                February 07 2020
                February 2020
                February 2020
                November 08 2019
                : 46
                : 2
                : 76-82
                Article
                10.1136/medethics-2019-105691
                © 2019

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