Imagining the Unborn in the Ecuadoran Andes

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Imagining the Unborn in the Ecuadoran Andes by Mind Map: Imagining the Unborn in the Ecuadoran Andes

1. The Emergence of Fetal Persons

1.1. The right to life movement: "life begins at conception", "The fetus is a gradually emerging person endowed with genetic uniqueness and biological facticity". (359)

1.1.1. "The fetus is a miraculously complex biological entity". (359)

1.2. Some social practices associated with fetal personhood are nationally specific, and some are large public assertions of fetal personhood (Example: Operation Rescue demonstrations).

1.3. Some practices occur in private, example: A pregnant woman looking at magazine images that she feels corresponds to her fetus she is carrying, fitting a visual image to the fetus.

1.3.1. "Conversations among co-workers or friends can create fetal personhood". (359)

1.3.2. "When physicians and midwives use ultrasound or fetal monitoring...they enact the importance of fetal well-being". (359) Parents ascertaining the sex of their unborn child and personifying the unborn child "they construct the fetus as a valued member of the family" (360)

1.4. "Over the past ten years, "fetal persons" have emerged from the realm of obstetricians' and ethicists' offices into popular culture, where they feature in film, print, and advertising". (360)

1.4.1. "Fetuses are depicted so regularly in everyday U.S. culture that their presence is scarcely remarkable anymore". (360)

1.5. The effect of these social circumstances is that North Americans have begun to "individualize, personify, and sometimes even glorify and prize fetuses as "super-subjects"". (360)

1.5.1. "U.S. reproductive ethics debates are too complex, diverse, and cross-cutting to be reduced to some monolithic "cultural norms"". (360)

2. The Study: Methods

2.1. Morgans' study was "motivated by his conviction that a comparative anthropological perspective on abortion and fetal personhood in non-western societies might point out the culture-bound nature of U.S. reproductive rights debates". (360)

2.2. The relationship between ideas about fetal personhood and the morality of abortion.

2.2.1. "Abortion is the end product of a long chain of social circumstances". (360)

2.3. Morgan spent two months in the Andean town of San Gabriel, Ecuador in 1988.

2.3.1. She conducted semi-structured interviews with thirty mestizo women, with the interviews conducted in their homes. Morgan and her assistant Bianca asked about perceptions of the unborn by asking about the women's own fertility history. Experiences with pregnancy, birth, and child death were well as knowledge of local reproductive ethics.

2.3.2. In 1992 She returned to Ecuador for six months in Quito where he conducted interviews with physicians, nurses, midwives and midwifery students, clergy and members of local women' organizations. This research was designed to "investigate the relationship between ideas about fetal identity, development, and personhood, and the morality and practice of induced abortion" (360) Morgan assumed the public would endorse a cultural consensus about the moral status of the unborn, since Ecuador had no history of public controversy over abortion.

3. Ecuador and the Liminal Unborn

3.1. The Vatican has become an increasingly ardent proponent of fetal personhood over the past twenty years.

3.1.1. Loyal Latin American Catholics: they will "bear as many children as God will send". (362)

3.2. In the rural highlands of Northern Ecuador "the unborn are imagined as liminal, unripe, and unfinished creatures". (362)

3.2.1. Adults are slow to assign individual identity and personhood to the not-yet-born and the newly born. Fetuses and newly born referred to as "criaturas".

3.3. Abortion is illegal and condemned by the church in Ecuador.

3.3.1. There is little enforcement of anti-abortion laws

3.4. "The civil registry does not have well-established or well-enforced procedures for counting live births, fetal deaths, or infant deaths". (362)

3.5. "There is no apparent social consensus for determining how to handle fetal death". (362)

3.6. "Abortion is characterized by many as a sin, but it is a sin of self-mutilation rather than murder". (362)

3.7. Beliefs about the course of the fetal development range across a wide spectrum.

3.8. "The work of building personhood at the beginnings of life is largely a female responsibility". (362)

4. Illegal Abortion

4.1. Referred to as "Un secreto a voces" (an open secret) in Ecuador.

4.2. 98-99% of abortions in Ecuador are classified as "type unspecified".

4.2.1. Women from rural areas who have abortions (spontaneous or induced) are not counted in the statistics.

4.2.2. Many estimates of abortions are based on numbers of women hospitalized with complications of both spontaneous and induced abortion.

4.3. Ecuadorian Constitution: "A child will be protected from conception onward"...."the law protects the life of the unborn". (363)

4.3.1. Abortion allowed only to save the life of a woman , or for the rape of a mentally ill woman.

4.4. Women's rights activists feel that a public stance on the abortion issue would not advance their movement.

4.5. Decriminalization of abortion: could stop people from profiting from women's misfortunes, prevent the complications that result from clandestine abortion, and reduce the maternal mortality rate and the hospital costs associated with treating abortion complications. (363)

5. Self vs. Other-Mutilation

5.1. Most rural women in Ecuador: "Yes, the fetus is a person from conception". (367)

5.1.1. "God creates pregnancies and God gives the fetus a soul"

5.1.2. The women feel that abortion is not a sin of murder but instead a sin of self-mutilation. The link between the and the personhood of the fetus and the morality of abortion is largely absent in Ecuador. The women also felt there were cases of morally defensible abortion, with moral justifications. Some justifications: abandonment by abuse at the hands of a partner or husband; desperate poverty, hunger, or homelessness; life-threatening contraceptive failure; or the need to protect a families honor. (367)

5.1.3. Fetuses are persons because God made them not because the community accepts them as such. We are not authorized to interfere with God's divine plan.

6. Building Persons: A Woman's Responsibility

6.1. Fathers responsibilities

6.1.1. Must respond immediately to pregnant women's cravings

6.1.2. Abstain from sexual relations for the forty day postpartum period.

6.1.3. Remain faithful to their wives.

6.2. Colerin, feared infant disease

6.2.1. occurs when father upsets the wife, her anger or rage is passed immediately to the child through breast milk resulting in colerin, an acute, incurable disease which kills rapidly.

6.3. When a newborn dies, the most affected person is the mother not the father.

6.4. the work of making people and constructing social persons is the role of the woman in Ecuador.

6.4.1. Women serve as "cultural mediators between the living and the dead". (368) Also between the world of the not-yet and the existing social community.

7. Practicing Personhood

7.1. Ecuador: no radical individualization of fetuses like currently underway in the U.S.

7.2. "U.S. ideologies favor a strict distinction between persons and nonpersons, with nothing in-between". (371)

7.2.1. The Ecuadorian example presents an alternative view of the unborn and raises a series of questions about the U.S. context. (371)

7.3. People presume that personhood accrues cumulatively; fetuses and babies gradually acquire additional degrees of personhood.

7.4. Crituria said at birth to be "little more than an animal until baptized".

7.5. "The trajectory of personhood need not necessarily be linear; because people cannot predict the many influences that bring each person into being". (371)

7.6. Morgan was schooled to imagine "individualized, disembodied, animate, technicolor fetuses brought to consciousness through the popularization of science". (371)

7.6.1. The Ecuadorian women wondered why we (the U.S.) press so hard to know the unknowable. "They imagine the unborn in a variety of ways, including amorphous quasi-human entities with strong links to spiritual and social (as well as biological) domains". (371) "They bring the unborn into social being slowly and carefully, not by medical or legal fiat, but through a combination of overlapping personal, social, and religious actions". (371) "Women's stories about their miscarriages and children (both alive and dead) were interspersed with stories of aucas and cautionary remarks about the dangers of wind and night air, and the hardships posed by infidelity and poverty". (371)