King's College London

Research portal

Persons and women, not womb-givers: Reflections on gestational surrogacy and uterus transplantation

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)989-996
Number of pages8
Issue number9
Early online date23 Aug 2022
Accepted/In press14 Apr 2022
E-pub ahead of print23 Aug 2022
PublishedNov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: I wish to thank Lorenzo Del Savio and Matteo Mameli for patiently discussing with me several of the questions that this article engages with. I would also like to express my appreciation for the helpful suggestions made by two anonymous reviewers. They have greatly improved this article. Publisher Copyright: © 2022 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

King's Authors


In a recent article in this journal, Alex Mullock, Elizabeth Chloe Romanis and Dunja Begović provide an analysis of gestational surrogacy and uterus transplantation (UTx) from the perspective of those who may decide to act as gestational surrogates and womb donors, referred to as ‘womb-givers’. In this article, I advance two sets of claims aimed at critically engaging with some aspects of their analysis. Firstly, I argue that the expression ‘womb-givers’ obscures the biologically, socially and politically salient issue that those who engage in these practices are primarily persons and women. My contention is that this is of substance in discussions of the burdens and benefits of gestational surrogacy and UTx, which need to consider the specific position that women occupy in society, and the hierarchies that mediate their lives, experiences and preferences. Second, I argue that, if one were to take seriously the experiences and preferences of the women who may engage in these practices, and their bodily autonomy, then gestational surrogacy and UTx should be regarded as biologically and sociopolitically incommensurable. Mullock et al. overlook important aspects of gestational surrogacy, such as the embodied nature of pregnancy and childbirth, the sociopolitical significance of these experiences, and the often-oppressive social norms that shape them. Whilst biology is not destiny, I suggest that it is socially and politically ‘sticky’ when it comes to this significance and norms, especially within the sphere of reproduction. Towards the end of the article, I query the authors' conceptualisation of bodily autonomy and of the instruments that enable its respect and promotion.

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454