Juchniewicz: Technology and abortion

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The discussion of women’s reproductive rights takes into account many categories from the order of ethics, medicine and social policy. However, the problem of abortion can also be looked at from the point of view of technology. It is not about the technique of the act of termination of pregnancy itself, nor about the medical aspects of control over a pregnant woman, but about everything that happens long before the dilemma arises: remove or not?

Let’s start with the fact that technology is not morally neutral. Why? Artifacts, i.e. man-made creations, are usually created for a purpose. The goal, on the other hand, can be constructed on the basis of the intentions of the creator of a given item. Famous within the philosophy of technology is the example of the Long Island bridges designed by Robert Moses so that buses, which were the main means of transport for African Americans, could not run on them.

Moses’ projects, related to the rest not only with bridges, but with the entire urban infrastructure, contributed to racial discrimination. In this example, is the man to blame or the technology he designed?The creator’s intention can be delegated to the artifact. This, however, makes the artifact itself uphold the regime of intentions, acting morally or immorally.

In other words, artifacts contain a certain moral evaluation, which may be more or less aware of the constructor himself. Sometimes it is also the case that the application of certain technologies and scientific achievements we simply cannot predict, because human inventiveness in DIY and transforming objects is unlimited.

Something that seems innocent may take on completely different garments in certain circumstances, or a biography of such an object may indicate that the creator’s intentions were quite different from the way in which the artifact was used (an example is Alfred Nobel, a dynamite maker, who thought that if he invented weapons capable of destroying humanity, pacifism will prevail in the world out of fear of the possibilities of this technology).

Langdon Winner points out, however, that the artifacts should be understood as participants in the political discussion. In Poland, such examples should be understandable in the context of disputes over things such as monuments, bicycle paths or playgrounds. But does the prospect of asking about technology before we pose big moral questions make any sense in such polarizing debates as in the case of abortion?

Peter-Paul Verbeek points out that technology such as ultrasound is not just an instrument, but a generator of new dilemmas and new decisions, and even more – it shapes new entities – parents and child / children. Can medical research be a moral activity?