The uterine replicator was a Betan technological advance that allowed unborn human fetuses to be gestated in vitro, rather than in a woman's body. The invention spurred a surge in experimentation on humans, and triggered the development of Quaddies and Betan hermaphrodites. In addition, the invention of the uterine replicator allowed the Founding Fathers of Athos to realize their dream of a world without women.
Two hundred years after the development of the uterine replicator, three out of four births on Beta Colony used the technology, and it was universally used in the upper classes of the Cetagandan Empire. Quaddie and downsider cross-marriages likewise were dependent on uterine replicators.
'Gene-cleaning' was made easier by using a uterine replicator for gestation: Defects in the zygote could be looked for and eliminated prior to birth, removing any genetic problems, such as diseases or inherited traits (like a weak heart).
Uterine Replicators on Barrayar
Due to Barrayar's Time of Isolation, the technology was unknown on Barrayar before the Escobar War. After the war, seventeen fetuses conceived as a result of the rape of prisoners were transferred to uterine replicators and given to the Barrayaran military to deal with. Among those fetuses was Elena Bothari, the daughter of Sergeant Konstantine Bothari and an Escobaran ensign named Elena Visconti.
After the original seventeen children were born and sent to the Imperial Service Orphanage (except for Elena Bothari), the first Barrayaran child to be born via uterine replicator was Miles Naismith Vorkosigan. He was transferred to the replicator at five months gestation because his mother Cordelia Vorkosigan had been poisoned by soltoxin gas. The antidote to the military poison destroyed his bones, and treatment could only take place in vitro. He remained in the replicator another five months.
Over time, the use of uterine replicators increased on Barrayar. The youngest two of Clement Koudelka's four daughters were born from replicators and were sometimes displayed as proof of the benefits of the technology. Over the next several decades the technology had increased uptake among the Vor and the middle classes, and thirty-two years after the technology reached Barrayar, Emperor Gregor Vorbarra let it be known that he and his wife Laisa Vorbarra would have all their children via the technology.
Partway behind the scenes
The books of the Vorkosigan Saga examine the consequences of in vitro gestation extensively and from quite a few angles.
- For a "break the woman's monopoly on reproduction" angle:
- Ethan of Athos demonstrates a male-only society.
- For simple notes on improved safety to women and children both:
- "The Mountains of Mourning" shows the pain of having "mutie" children, and Miles's visit to Silvy Vale in Memory has him amazed at how much work Harra does, considering that her children had to be gestated in the old-fashioned manner.
- Barrayar shows several instances of danger to children and mothers both – Miles's exposure to soltoxin gas, and Ivan Vorpatril's difficult delivery.
- For genetic experimentation free-for-alls:
- For a "changing the fundamental relations between men and women" angle:
- Cetaganda shows an entire society in which relationships have nothing to do with reproduction.
- Mirror Dance also explores this issue:
- Mark observes: "Like many backward cultures still dependent on biological reproduction instead of the technology of uterine replicators, the Barrayarans divided sex into two categories: licit, inside a formal contract where any resultant progeny must be claimed, and illicit, i.e., all the rest."
- Cordelia comments: "Meanwhile, the uterine replicator is creeping in past their guard, and they aren't even conscious that the debate that will fundamentally alter Barrayar's future is being carried on right now among their wives and daughters. To use it, or not to use it? Too late to keep it out, it's already here. The middle classes are picking it up in droves. Every mother who loves her daughter is pressing for it, to spare her the physical dangers of biological childbearing. They're fighting not the old men, who haven't got a clue, but an old guard of their sisters who say to their daughters, in effect, We had to suffer, so must you! Look around tonight, Mark. You're witnessing the last generation of men and women on Barrayar who will dance this dance in the old way. The Vor system is about to change on its blindest side, the side that looks to—or fails to look to—its foundation. Another half generation from now, it's not going to know what hit it."