According to a March 3 article in Time, this February, a woman from the United States gave birth to a baby after a successful uterine transplant — making her the second in the country to do so. The woman, who wished to withhold her identity, is part of an ongoing clinical trial at the Baylor University Medical Center to treat women with absolute uterine factor infertility, meaning that they have either a nonfunctional or nonexistent uterus. The first successful surgery was performed in 1999 by a team of doctors at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Since then, eight children have been born from women who had undergone a uterine transplant, according to the university’s website

The procedure consists of three total surgeries: the first to implant the uterus, the second to deliver the child via Cesarean section and the third to remove the uterus after having children, according to Dr. Mats Brännström, lead surgeon from the Swedish research team, in a June 7, 2016 interview with Scientific American. After delivery of one or two children, the uterus is then removed to prevent the risk of further complications or infection due to the immunosuppressant drugs administered. At the time of the interview, there were four pilot trials in the U.S. and two in Europe.

This is an important milestone because, for some, the ability to conceive is part of their identity as a woman. An Aug. 15, 2014 BBC News article detailed the lives of several women struggling with infertility. One woman, Jessica Hepburn, stated that she had unsuccessfully tried to have a child for nine years, even with thousands of dollars of in-vitro fertilization treatments. She stated, “Shame is a massive factor in not being able to have a child — feeling just so desperately that you want to be like everybody else, but somehow you’re not.” Another woman, Jody Day, said that the inability to conceive drove her into depression: “I kept asking myself ‘what is the point of my existence?’” She went on to say that with time, she became a social pariah as a single, childless woman. While adoption is always an option, that is another commitment in itself that should be carefully considered. 

Not only is this procedure beneficial for women who may not have been able to conceive, it also creates new options for transgender women who want to carry children. A Nov. 4, 2017 article in the Independent cites Dr. Richard Paulson, the president of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, as saying, “You could do it [the procedure] tomorrow, there would be additional challenges but I don’t see any obvious problem that would preclude it.” As Paulson has stated, there are obvious morphological sex differences that need to be addressed, such as the differences in the size and shape of the pelvis. But in the future, these differences can be accounted for and addressed accordingly. However, while the uterine transplant procedure is still experimental and not a sure replacement for surrogacy or adoption, it does present new opportunities for those that want to be parents.

Similarly, this can help couples overcome the obstacles set to hinder the adoption process. Despite evidence that children of LGBT families are just as intelligent and social as the children of heterosexual parents — and basic common sense — there are still laws in place that prevent LGBT couples from adopting children. Recently, the Georgia state senate passed the Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act which gives adoption agencies and foster care providers the right to refuse referrals to parents who seem to violate their religious beliefs, according to a Feb. 28 Newsweek article. This just opens the door for rejection on the basis of sexual orientation, race, gender identity or religious affiliation under the front that it is in the child’s best interest. In the same article, Sen. William Ligon, R- Ga., claims that the bill will not prevent anyone from adopting children but instead is meant to ensure that children are placed into homes in which they have the freedom to practice their faith. This is just a thinly veiled attempt at preventing couples that do not fit into the cisgender-heterosexual standard of normalcy from adopting children. With expanded means of obtaining a child, such as through a uterine transplant, individuals may not have to deal with the difficult legal issues surrounding adoption. 

According to Time, a uterine transplant would cost around $500,000. While the price may be discouraging, the successful surgical method is still relatively new. If it gets past the clinical phase and gains federal approval, the surgery may eventually decrease in cost, making this more affordable for other individuals.