Uterus transplants for trans women?

A paper in the journal Bioethics presents a case that research trials should consider including transgender women as possible candidates for uterus transplants. The first successful birth after a womb transplant in a genetic woman occurred almost seven years ago. Since then, the procedure has seen significant clinical advances and over 60 uterus transplants have been performed resulting in at least 18 live births. It is the only temporary transplant in medicine, as the uterus is removed following pregnancy. Babies are always delivered via caesarean section.

The lead author of the paper, Dr. Jacques Balayla, says there isn’t an ethical reason for trans women being denied the procedure, although he acknowledges there would be social and religious objections. Although still only theoretical, the implantation of a donated uterus and gestation in the body of a trans woman should pose no physiological barrier if various conditions are met.

It’s quite the can of ethical worms we’ve opened up. Being predisposed to trans rights, I was intellectually in favour but also admit to being uneasy initially. (If I had these reservations, just imagine the howls from religious fanatics accusing doctors of “playing god”.) Technological advances usually proceed without much forethought, however, and I’d rather the medical profession consider these things now. I suspect there is a screening process for cis gender women for this procedure and that the same process would no doubt apply to trans women. It’s a very small subset of the population in either case, and the health and future of the child should be the paramount objective.

This discussion might be already be overtaken by news that Israeli scientists had successfully gestated hundreds of mice inside an artificial womb. Artificial wombs that “liberate” women from childbirth may be coming sooner than we think. It’s a Brave New World out there.