November 27, 2022

Do transgender women have a right to gestation?

With womb transplants on the way, we have to ask the question

Successful womb transplants have given birth to the notion that transgender women or even cisgender men could bear children. In the latest edition of the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Amel Alghrani, of the University of Liverpool (UK) strongly defends the idea that they have a right to gestate. “Transgender, non-binary, and other gender plural individuals have the same procreative liberties as cisgender individuals,” she contends. Denying them this right would be tantamount to cissexism.

This would be true even if the person in question already had children as a cisgender man. It is the lived experience that matters:

the question here is not necessarily one of having children; transgender women may already be parents and have had children both prior to gender affirming surgery transitioning and post, depending on what type of surgeries and hormonal therapies they have chosen. The question is one of securing an experience imagined as important to one's (gender) identity and hoped-for parental bonds.

Denying this right could possibly be a tragedy for the person involved, Alghrani says:

Whilst it is true that one may not traditionally regard a cisgender male not being able to get pregnant as a human tragedy, this may be because it is not yet possible and people do not have sympathy because someone cannot do the impossible. For instance, I may not sympathize with someone unable to teleport. But in a world where cisgender men can get pregnant/people can teleport, we may think differently and see it as a tragedy. Furthermore, rights are not based on whether something is perceived as a tragedy or not.

She concludes that (assuming a Millean view of liberty) no good arguments exist to confound a right to gestation for transgender women, non-binaries and so on:

 …those who would exercise procreative liberty so that they can gestate a child do not have to show what good it would do, rather those who would curtail freedom have to show not simply that it is unpopular, or undesirable, but that it is seriously harmful to others, or to society and that these harms are real and present, not future and speculative.

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