There has been a gap between sex and procreation that has been widening for the past 50 years thanks to the rise of fertility drugs, embryonic genetic testing, artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization (IVF). In the UK for example egg freezing has increased tenfold, from just under 230 cycles in 2009 to almost 2,400 cycles in 2019. IVF birth rates in 2019 were three times higher than in 1991, and the use of egg and sperm donors has risen as well. According to bioethics authorities we will be able to make eggs and sperm by turning skin cells into stem cells, through a process called induced pluripotent stem cells. In addition, there is also the possibility babies could be grown in artificial wombs. In 2021, Israeli scientists successfully grew mouse embryos inside glass vials for 11 days, about half the length of a usual mouse pregnancy.
The ramifications of these different scenarios are such that wealthy parents could have the ability to edit undesirable mutations out of their child’s genes – and while for now, this has been done to reduce the likelihood of a child inheriting a hereditary condition from their parents, thus arguably setting a dangerous precedent for the future. As time goes on it will get less expensive and easier to test for genetic issues and non-genetic issues. Therefore, it is not out of the realm of imagination to envision where the wealthy could pay for their offspring to be smarter, faster and stronger and aesthetically desirable. However, it seems at the present that most researchers are more interested in eradicating debilitating diseases such as cancer or genetic disorders.
Surrogate outsourcing could also be affected. Presently a power imbalance exists whereby the wealthy can afford the option of surrogacy and the impecunious people take on the physical risks. Therefore, if mechanical surrogacy does develop uteruses would no longer have to take on the burden of pregnancy and childbirth. As assisted reproduction becomes more of the norm instead of the exception, will old fashioned reproduction become viewed as archaic? Will conventional childbirth be looked at second class citizens? These are hypothetical questions but could in fact become real as technology advances and are closer to reality than science fiction.