An Ohio clinic recently made history when it began screening women for a groundbreaking medical procedure: transplanting a uterus into a woman who doesn't have one. Uterus transplants have been successfully carried out in Sweden, but the Cleveland Clinic's trials will mark the first time they've been carried out in the U.S.
The recipients of the transplants will be women "born without a uterus, had it removed or have uterine damage," according to a New York Times report. Once the women have one or two babies with their transplanted wombs, the plan is reportedly to remove the uteri so they don't have to keep taking anti-rejection medication.
For some women with uterine factor infertility, the condition Cleveland Clinic is aiming to address, the possibility of a uterus transplant offered hope. "I crave that experience," a 26-year-old woman in the Cleveland Clinic's screening process told the Times. "I want the morning sickness, the backaches, the feet swelling. I want to feel the baby move. That is something I've wanted for as long as I can remember."
If the trials are successful, the transplants could also help another group of women carry children for the first time: transgender women.
For women born into male bodies, there are numerous (though often costly) surgical procedures to help their physical bodies match their gender identity — everything from facial feminization and breast augmentation to sexual reassignment surgery, wherein the male genitalia is converted into a vagina, complete with labia and a clitoris capable of sensation, as Yahoo News notes.
For transgender women who wish to carry children, a uterus transplant might mean their bodies could finally support a growing fetus.
"For the many transgender people who struggle with the impact transitioning can have on their reproductive capabilities, this procedure could provide comfort and peace of mind," Sarah McBride, an LGBT advocate who works for the Center for American Progress, told Mic.
"I'd bet just about every transgender person who is female will want to do it, if it were covered by insurance," Dr. Christine McGinn, a plastic surgeon who works with transgender men and women, told Yahoo News.
The "human drive to be a mother for a woman is a very serious thing," McGinn, a transgender woman, told Yahoo News. "Transgender women are no different."
In a 2014 Huffington Post article, transgender educator Stephanie Mott, who identifies on Twitter as a transexual Christian woman, explained why transgender women are just as entitled to bear children as anyone else.
"As a woman, it is quite expected that I might have the same desires that many other women have," Mott wrote. "Among those desires is the desire to be a mom; the desire to carry a child. If medical advances offer that possibility to transgender women, it is no different than offering that possibility to cisgender women."
But regardless of whether uterus transplants one day become commonplace, every woman deserves to feel confident in her own body's capabilities.
"At the same time, it's important to reinforce that, regardless of this medical advancement, no woman should be diminished because of their reproductive abilities," McBride said, "and that includes trans women."