Uterus transplants have long been a reality, although not as frequent or as well-known. Only recently, iFamNews also rejoiced at the news of the birth of Alessandra, the baby girl born in Catania after her mother received the first uterus transplant performed in Italy.
The first-ever birth following a uterus transplant occurred in Sweden in 2014. By the end of 2021, around 90 similar surgeries had been carried out worldwide and some 50 babies had been born.
Today, however, the discussion invests in a different issue, namely, the possibility of implanting a donor’s uterus to transgender persons, individuals who were born male, and have undergone surgical transition to the female sex. Uterus transplantation would be a final tile in the tableau construction of the mosaic of their new identity.
Mats Brännström, a Swedish professor of obstetrics and gynecology and head physician at the University of Gothenburg, is also the doctor who contributed to the birth of the first child after a uterine transplant. Today, he says he often receives emails from people recognized as males at birth, asking about the procedure. “I get emails from people all over the world,” the professor told Euronews. “I tell them we haven’t done enough research, but I think it will be possible in the future. It could take five or 10 years, I would say,” he adds.
Because, of course, the new frontier of uterine transplantation may not be for women to carry a child, but for men to fulfill their desire for “motherhood,” in spite of, for example, the very delicate issue of a person’s hormonal set-up, which plays an absolutely important role in health especially in the adult female individual – the woman – and the children she gives birth to.
Dr. Brännström doesn’t set any ethical limits. Nor do Stephen Wilkinson and Nicola Williams, who study the ethical implications of human reproduction at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. “There are certainly sufficient equality-based reasons to consider uterine transplants in transgender women,” says Williams, a professor of Human Reproductive Ethics in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at the British university.
“In collaboration with other researchers, Wilkinson and Williams conducted a survey of 182 transgender “women” (i.e. men living as women) to study their reproductive aspirations. More than 90 percent of respondents indicated that a uterus transplant could improve their quality of life and alleviate symptoms of gender dysphoria, and most agreed that the ability to gestate and give birth would increase the perception of one’s femininity.”
Laura O’Donovan, a research associate working at Lancaster University, overlays ethical considerations with legal ones and wonders, for example, whether denying such transplants to transgender women would violate anti-discrimination legislation under the Equality Act 2010. “In the United Kingdom for example,” said O’Donovan, “with the Equality Act it would be illegal to discriminate in this way on the basis of someone’s sex.”
Chloe Romanis, an associate professor of bioethics at the University of Durham, also in the United Kingdom, and a researcher at Harvard University in the United States sketched a scenario that is disconcerting, to say the least. Professor Romanis considers uterine transplants “[…] only as one in the whole spectrum of assisted gestation technology, a small part of a much larger technological future for assisted pregnancy that also includes things like surrogacy and even artificial placentas or entities that could conduct gestation outside the body.”
“I think these technologies,” she concluded, “have the potential to really change the way we think about assisted gestation.”