Reproductive autonomy rights and genetic disenhancement: sidestepping the argument from backhanded benefit
Journal of Applied Philosophy 2004; 21(2): 125-140
John Robertson has famously argued that the right to reproductive autonomy is exceedingly broad in scope. That is, as long as a particular reproductive preference such as having a deaf child is "determinative" of the decision to reproduce then such preferences fall under the protective rubric of reproductive autonomy rights. Importantly, the deafness in question does not constitute a harm to the child thereby wrought since unless the child could be born deaf he or she would otherwise never have existed--his or her prospective parents would simply have chosen to abort. As such, for this child, being born deaf counts as a benefit, albeit of the "backhanded" variety, since the only other practical alternative is nonexistence. In what follows, I want to investigate this argument in detail. The target of my investigation will be the possible future use of gene therapy technology to "disenhance" one's offspring. I intend to show that the apparently unlimited right to reproductive autonomy, that is, the right to choose both the quantity and qualities of future offspring, entailed by the argument from backhanded benefit can in fact be "sidestepped" through considering what sorts of reproductive practices we as a society ought to allow.
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An act to amend the Human Rights Act of 1977 to prohibit employment discrimination based on genetic information; to prohibit an employer, employment agency, or labor organization from requesting or requiring a genetic test of, or administering a genetic test to, an employee or applicant for employment or membership; to prohibit an employer, employment agency, or labor organization from seeking to obtain, obtaining, or using genetic information of an employee or applicant for employment; to provide an exemption that allows the use of genetic testing or information with the written and informed consent of the employee or applicant for employment to determine the existence of a bona fide occupational qualification, investigate a workers' compensation or disability compensation claim, or determine an employee's susceptibility or exposure to potentially toxic substances in the workplace; to prohibit health benefit plans and health insurers from using genetic information as a condition of eligibility or in setting District of Columbia. Laws, statutes, etc. (2005-01-03)
Reproductive Rights and the Irish Constitution: From the Sanctity of Life to the Sanctity of Autonomy? Hanafin, Patrick (1996-06)