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In the year 6565

Ain't gonna need no husband, won't need no wife

You'll pick your son, pick your daughter too

From the bottom of a long black tube
—Zager and Evans, In the Year 2525

A Uterine Replicator is a way of growing a child outside the human body by using technology, magic, or a combination of the two in place of the mother's womb. The reasons for this are many and varied.

Sometimes it's done to combat problems with sterility. Sometimes it's done as a means of population control. Sometimes it's done as a way to protect the mother from Death by Childbirth. Sometimes it's done to let two men reproduce together without invoking Mister Seahorse.

This is often staple of Dystopian futures, especially those in which sex is outlawed.

If the child is also genetically engineered see Designer Babies.


Anime & Manga

  • In Vandread, humanity has split into a planet of all males called Tarak and a planet of all females called Mejare. DNA from a couple is manipulated to give a new baby. On Tarak, this means a factory birth, while on Mejare, the baby is implanted in the womb to be born normally. This makes them effectively a pair of One Gender Races, though normal breeding could be resumed. Note that these are not the only colony worlds left, just the main ones we see.
  • In Ergo Proxy, all citizens are born from artificial wombs due to being clones created from DNA stored within the Proxies. Maybe.
  • In Osamu Tezuka's Apollo's Song, the Syntheans have no genitalia, and instead reproduce by cloning.
  • In Gundam Wing, it is stated that because of the reduced gravity in space, pregnancies were particularly dangerous, and so a lot of babies (including Quatre's sisters) were born this way. Eventually, they found some way to make natural pregnancy and birth safe for most women in the space colonies. Sadly, Quatre's mother was not one of these; she died giving birth to Quatre.
  • In Franken Fran, Fran devises a replicator based on the lifecycle of flies. The baby starts out as a maggot, becomes a cocoon, then hatches as a normal baby. Another doctor steals her research and mass-markets the technique. The series being what it is, it goes horribly wrong.


Comic Books

  • In the Dark Horse Comics run of The Terminator, a group of post-apocalypse survivors in the ruins of Disneyworld have created a breeding program to repopulate humanity after many were sterilized by radiation; using artificial wombs grown from seaweed, and, oddly enough, the ova of a group of nuns (and whatever fertile males they ran across).
  • For a while, this was true of Kryptonian births, such that the rocket that spirited Kal-El away to Earth actually contained his "birthing matrix." As such, he was literally born on Earth. It's been retconned out of existence again, though.
  • In Alejandro Jodorowsky's Megalex, the police clones are born from one of these. In this case it resembles a large black sphere with a techno-vagina on the front of it. Obviously the clones come out of that. It even features a flashing red clitoris announcing the birth of a clone.


Film

  • In The Matrix, most humans are "grown" by the robots.


Literature

  • An early example is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, making it Older Than Television. Babies are "grown" here too (and "decanted" rather than "born"), though this was before the development of modern genetics, so they must resort to more complicated and organic means than flipping genetic switches to create their hereditary castes.
  • The "uterine replicators" of Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, which carry fertilized embryos donated by the parents in place of the mother, form an interesting outlier from most fiction; Rather than being portrayed as technological dehumanization, they are presented as a positive medical breakthrough (sparing both mother and child from the health-endangering stresses of pregnancy and labor) comparable with antisepsis, anesthesia, and vaccination. It's implied repeatedly and outright stated at least once that the uterine replicators are going to do more to shake up the backwards society of Barrayar than just about anything else.
    • In the science fiction novel Ethan of Athos (part of the Vorkosigan Saga by the same author, but Vorkosigan does not appear in the novel), the planet of Athos is populated entirely by men who grow babies from frozen ovary tissue cultures using artificial wombs. Children are usually reared by couples in an informal kind of marriage.
    • Also, the Cetagandan Haut-lords in the Vorkosiverse reproduce entirely without sex or even coupling being involved... In fact, the parents may never even meet or make any decisions. Every child is created through contracts arranged by high-ranking family members, frequently with positive genetic alterations added, then the baby cooked up in a replicator and handed to the appropriate parent. The Haut are practically considered a superhuman sub-race at this point, though a good number of their enhancements are Awesome but Impractical aesthetic improvers.
  • "Tubing," the practice of bringing babies to term in artificial wombs, is a matter-of-fact staple of medicine in Honor Harrington. It's considered a way to let women reproduce without making invalids of them for several months[1]. Women who refuse the procedure for emotional reasons aren't uncommon, but they are considered a bit eccentric. The series' villains use similar technology to mass-produce "genetic slaves," making this also an instance of Cloning Blues.
    • The attitude also varies amongst different cultures. In particular on Beowulf, a planet famed for it's medical research establishment, tubing babies is very uncommon for cultural reasons.
  • In the Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton, people can opt to have children via Womb Tank rather than give birth naturally.
    • And in his Nights Dawn trilogy, the Edenists grow their children in pods that actually don't hatch until the child is the equivalent of 1 year old.
  • Played with in Dune: various genetically modified humans with special abilities (e.g. Face Dancers) created by the Tleilaxu in what are referred to as 'axolotl tanks'. Everyone assumes this means something along the lines of this trope, but it's eventually revealed that the 'tanks' are in fact what happens to all Tleilaxu female children, turned braindead and hooked up to technology to become birthing machines.
  • In a number of stories by Isaac Asimov, Spacers try to reproduce this way, only to find the feotus only takes fully and grows when conceived the old-fashioned way.
  • At one point in Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, this appears on Earth because homosexuality has become almost universal, with heterosexuality being considered to be deviant.
  • Heterosexual sex is certainly possible- and extremely common- among the people of the dome cities in Biting the Sun, but babies are grown in tanks. It turns out they're still capable of having kids the normal way if they stop eating the contraceptive-laced City food.'
  • Done in Mary Suetopia in Marge Piercy's Woman at the Edge of Time. Connie discovers the colony's children are grown in this way and usually given to three parents, who are not likely blood relations. The reasoning for this is that to achieve racial and gender equality, certain things had to be given up.
  • Prince Roger was a tube baby, so he can both be his mother's youngest child as well as the result of a pre-marriage fling. Uterine replication bites the protagonists in the ass later, when the rebels grow a new heir from Roger's parents' DNA.
  • Most Abh are born in one of these. Even those who are born the old fashioned way are generally brought to term in one since they have to be extracted from their mother's body and be tested for certain traits that both define them as Abh (the blue hair, third eye and a few other things) and for certain family traits (the long pointy ears are legally restricted to the Abriel family). Carrying a child to term in utero is considered extremely eccentric and not an option for half the population since Abh are raised by a single parent.


Live Action TV

  • While not human, the Asgard in Stargate reproduce in this manner. They also grow "blank" clone bodies to replace their own when they die. The drawback: Clone Degeneration has left them a Dying Race.
  • In Red Dwarf, episode Ouroboros, it is implied that Lister is grown in a uterine simulator rather than a woman.
  • These are used in Kyle XY under the theory that the longer a child spends in the womb, the more gifted they will be.


Music

  • In the Year 2525, as seen in the page quote.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's I Think I'm A Clone Now mentions "a womb with a view".


Tabletop Games

  • In Paranoia, everyone is grown in a clone vat, and 'decanted' rather than born.


Video Games

  • In Dead Space, the second level, Isaac is in a room full of these. Apparently, they're being grown for the purpose of harvesting limbs for mining-accident victims aboard the Ishimura. Some of them have been infected by The Virus and become Lurkers.


Webcomics

  • Dr. Edward 'Bunni' Bunnigus from Schlock Mercenary was, as explained in this strip, brought to term in one for parents who by law were prohibited from reproducing naturally due to the fact that they had, in her words, "maybe 110 uncontested IQ points between them."
  • In El Goonish Shive, eggs created by Uryuoms have the ability to function as this except it works with raw DNA instead of sperm or embryos and when I mean raw DNA I mean any DNA.


Western Animation

  • Exo Squad has an interesting reversal. While humans are born naturally, the Genetically-engineered Neosapiens are artificially grown by the "brood." At the end of the series, one of the Neosapiens, Marsala, lobbies with the government to allow the creation of one final brood that's capable of natural breeding.
  • On Invader Zim Irken "smeets" are apparently all born this way, though the reasons and implications of this are never really explored. Zim apparently considers the robotic arm that activated him his parent, though. ("I love you, cold, unfeeling robot arm!")
    • According to the script for one of the cancelled episodes, an Irken's personality is stored in his PAK, the backpack-like contraptions they carry, which can be removed.

Notes

  1. Eleven-plus, actually; one of the less lovable side-effects of the anti-aging Prolong treatment
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