With the hope of somehow contributing to the ongoing discussion on the topic, this paper is loosely based on the debate that emerged from Rob Sparrow's article “Should human beings have sex? Sexual dimorphism and human enhancement” (The American Journal of Bioethics, 10, 3–12, 2010). Building on some of his arguments, my claim is that we should not refer to gender when discussing not-yet-born agents. More broadly still, my intention is to provide a further analysis of the intersection of the concepts of gender and autonomy. I will begin by briefly highlighting Sparrow's article and critiques, with special emphasis on the poststructuralist attack. In doing so, I will consider the differences between structuralism and poststructuralism in relation to this debate. Subsequently, I will draw a parallel between Judith Butler's notion of the performativity of gender, sex and Ronald Dworkin's distinction between zoe and bios. The next move will then be to re-divert attention to the crucial role that health plays in the discussion (as instrumental to the “normal” and autonomous functioning of the body), suggesting that one of the substantial differences between human enhancers and non-enhancers is the ranking that health has in their corresponding scale of values. Setting the bar for how an organism functions “normally” will be the last step necessary to create the basis for my main claim: building on Butler's description of the singular agent in relation to others, I will suggest Jürgen Habermas and Onora O'Neill as credible and valuable expansions of a position willing to reconcile individual and relational autonomy, supporting this final claim with the words of Immanuel Kant. If we aim to use genetic engineering and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to prevent unhealthy children from being born–as I shall state we should–we can use this notion of normality in a way that will be accepted also by those who are historically critical of such a way of conceptualising a human being, only if we understand the parallel need for society to shift to a more inclusive and shared definition of autonomy.
Garasic, M.D. (2014). Can we use the notion of normality in genetic selection without discriminating?. GLOBAL BIOETHICS, 25(3), 203-209 [10.1080/11287462.2014.943540].