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Lauren FosterAnth 316Essay Exam 3: Death Without Weeping1.“We can see that the “average” Alto woman had experienced 12.4 pregnancies and 4.7 infant and child deaths,” (Scheper-Hughes 1992: 311). Although the impoverished women in Bom Jesus da Mata may have wanted small, manageable families, their Catholic roots, lack of technology and access to medical care, all contribute to the pregnancy abundance these women experience in their lifetime. “The morality that guided reproductive thinking and practice for both rich and poor women in Bom Jesus was contained within a very Catholic discourse on the “natural”. Women, they agreed, had a duty to “cooperate” with God and with nature,” (Scheper-Hughes 1992: 337). Even though the Alto women may not be practicing Catholics, they are still to a certain extent cultural Catholics. Their values and beliefs are shaped by this overriding idea of appropriate religious behavior. Of course they are not willing to abstain from sex, but the idea of taking a birth control pill goes against their moral views, and the logistics of most any other kind of birth control are simply impractical within the region (McKee Anth. 316: Lecture 12).Birth control – or lack thereof – is a huge reason why the women of Bom Jesus are experiencing so many pregnancies. The pill is unheard of for religious reasons, as well as accountability and illness. Many of my friends here in the U.S. with their daily alarm clocks still forget to take their birth control, think of how these rural women with no technology and 5 children to feed and take care of will remember about their daily pill. They also say that it makes
them feel bad and they fear they might develop cancer from the pills (McKee Anth. 316: Lecture12). The only option they are left with is tubal ligation, i.e. sterilization. However, because many doctors are unwilling to perform this procedure with only the minimum payment allowed through the rural worker’s medical fund, “they make the poor suffer through seven or eight pregnancies before they finally take pity on us,” (Scheper-Hughes 1992: 337). The doctors won’t perform a tubal ligation until you’ve had more children, but this applies specifically to the poor. If you’re a middle class or upper class woman and you’ve had two children and can pay for the operation, then the procedure will be done with no questions asked. “Nobody will lecture you on your moral obligation to be a mother,” (McKee Anth. 316: Lecture 10).