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What do we learn when we look at our Western scientific notion of reproduction from an anthropological view?

In Western societies it has become common for people to seek answers and follow science as a way of understanding and dealing with many issues. In the case of reproduction, we are taught from a young age how the different genders have a specific role to play in procreation. When exploring reproduction ideologies in Western civilisations it is integral to assess the terminology of both. The definition of reproduction within Western dictionaries sees a scientific classification - ‘Biology The sexual or asexual process by which organisms generate new individuals of the same kind; procreation.’ (TheFreeDictionary.com, 2014) The Western world is made up of various countries including all of Europe, New Zealand; Americas; Israel; Australia and South Africa. It is not based on geography but more so political and economic. (Uk.ask.com, 2014) In majority of Western civilisation it is believed that human life begins at the moment of conception which contradicts other cultures situated throughout the hemisphere. Science has also brought answers and remedies for failure to reproduce, which in term contrasts with the ability to end unwanted pregnancies. The object of this essay is to examine the issues of identification of human life, the gender roles in reproduction and how far science has allowed us to create or end a human life in vitro.
In the Western world a foetus has legal rights and can be represented in a court of law. It is also entitled to property and inheritance. A case study involving a young woman in Washington DC explores the extent the legal implications involved in fetal rights. Angela Carder became pregnant while in remission from cancer however while pregnant another tumour was found. She made the decision to continue the pregnancy with no medical intervention for the cancer but the pain became too unbearable so she changed her mind. It was at this point the hospital involved their legal team. The debate pertained that the foetus had the right to live as much as the mother. The court ruled in favour of the foetus and an emergency Caesarean section was performed, the foetus died two hours later with Angela four days later. (Advocatesforpregnantwomen.org, 2014) This is a concise example in the Western world of how a non-persons rights are deemed substantially higher than what is defined as a person. However not every country establishes the label of personhood onto a foetus. In 2012 the Canadian Medical Association was part of a major debate on influencing whether to change the wording on their countries Criminal code. They believed that human life only began at the moment of birth. They emphatically backed up their claims by stating ‘a child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother’. (LifeSiteNews, 2012) These two cases show contrasting beliefs in the Western world. Further contrast from the Western world can be viewed through the Pocobaya people of the Bolivian Andes. Andrews Canessa conducted a study which looked at the process of personhood within this community of 220 residents. The people who are part of this community are based around agricultural means and substantially live off the earth and give back to Mother Nature. Their ideals towards procreation show that they view pregnancy and birth as ‘raw materials out of which a person may be created’. (Canessa 1999:4:73) A person does not immediately exist due to the conception between man and women but instead a person is created through disciplines and extensive processes which branch into full adulthood. When a birth occurs it is not celebrated as it is in the Western world, there is no family gathering or cards and gifts showered upon the family. Once the product of the pregnancy comes into the world there is little attention paid to it, more emphasis is placed upon the placenta which must be buried immediately, failure to do so, from their perspective, can lead to the mother’s death. (Canessa 1999:4:76) A child is not fed for the first 24 hours after birth because the belief is this allows a hardiness to grow. Throughout the process the offspring through growth must relate to the others in the community, the land and then the world beyond. (Canessa 1999:4:83) Through these three examples we can therefore conclude that there is strong contrast between not only Western and non-Western countries but within boundaries too. Science can put a personal identity upon a foetus whereas in terms of Southern America science is not an imperative factor.
Gender roles in reproduction also differ from Western to Eastern civilisations. From how paternity is viewed in contrast to maternity. In Turkey, Carol Delaney (1986, pp. 494--513) found that within a small village the views of the roles in procreation between the father and mother differed greatly. The woman is viewed as a ripe soil for the implantation of a successful crop ‘Women are given to you as fields, go therein and sow your seed’ (Delaney 1986:496) is citied in the Koran, the Islamic bible. No science or textbook defines how a child is created biologically. The identity of the child comes directly from the father, the heritage to carry on the genes of the clan. The women’s role is to nurture and care for the child, in term is the incubator of cultivation while the father has one singular role, to sow the seed. ‘Children are the father’s seed therefore belong to him’ (Delaney 1986:500) this contrasts with Western world beliefs where specifically in the United Kingdom, the mother has full parental rights and a father must seek to gain them through a court of law. The rituals of this Turkish village see the women having to be married before conception and being secluded from others while at all times wearing a veil, only at this point is she viewed as being worthy of being suitable for pregnancy. (Delaney 1986:498) The Trobriander Aborigines in Australia have a similarity in the sense the mother must be married, however, the child once born becomes the mother’s clan and is related to their father through other avenues (Delaney 1986:507). In Western civilisation science provides the answers to conception through the use of biological terminology. The use of words such as menstruation, zygotes; fertility and gametes. The interaction of humans is not necessarily accounted for through science aspects. It follows typecasts of what the role of the female and male counts for. As Emily Martin (1991, pp. 485—501) discusses ‘The stereotypes imply not only that female biological processes are less worthy than their male counterparts but also that women are less worthy than men’. The reproduction process is described and labelled as the works of a biological timeframe and machine where ‘medical texts describe menstruation as the debris of the uterine lining, the result of necrosis or death of a tissue’ (Martin 1991:486) therefore menstruation being deemed as a failure. The average woman is fertile and of child bearing ability for approximately half of their life in comparison to the average male who will produce sperm up until his death. When stripping the science part away from Western beliefs, a mother and father play a far more intimate role in reproduction. A child is born as a product of love, the beginning of a new era for many and as a culmination of all the partnership stands for. Through analysis of these examples it can be concluded that there are differing attitudes to the roles both genders play in procreation. Western science explains the biological level of reproduction whereas other cultures place emphasis on one gender over the other.
Science has also provided parts of the world the ability to assist in reproduction or to eliminate the chances of it ever occurring. In- vitro fertilisation has been steadily available in many developed countries around the world for a few decades with the first IVF baby being born in the United Kingdom in 1978. Through comparison of the Western world to that of Vietnam we can witness the contrast in the use of IVF and the reasons behind decisions to seek help in reproduction. There are many women in the USA who have genuine medical reasons for not conceiving however there are the women who choose a different life path then seek help in later life. A woman now has the choice to choose a career over family, a promiscuous sex life rather than the relationship which leads to the point that when they do decide to have a family it has been left too late for nature to take the course. There are privatised clinics that will charge extortionate fees in order to provide IVF treatment for these women therefore making it a profitable business. In some cases there is the choice to make the designer baby, pre-deciding what colour of hair and eyes your child will have. In Vietnam, it is for far more legitimate reasons a women will seek IVF. Pashigan (2009) studied IVF treatment in Vietnam and found that ‘the assumption is that a childless married woman must suffer from unwanted childlessness, with negative implications for the stability of her marriage and the solidity of her relationships with her husband’s relatives, particularly his mother.’ The reasons for seeking help are not solely on a personal level but more so cultural. Infertility puts these women at risk of being expelled from the social status and being ostracized by their husband and his family. Their gender role is placed into question so IVF is a form of self-preservation. Contraception is another aspect in the Western world which is readily available through choice. There are many avenues to allow prevention of conception from condoms to sterilisation of either gender. Condoms are given out free to anyone who can walk into a chemist or clinic with no questions asked. A GP can provide a small tablet that will either prevent pregnancy or another which will do the same up to a few hours after unprotected sex. This allows free choice to the individual which is extremely integral in the cases of people who have conditions such as AIDS or HIV. In contrast to the Western world, in underdeveloped countries such as Africa it is seen as a sin to use condoms or any form of contraceptive. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI visited Cameroon and delivered this message upon his arrival ‘HIV/Aids was, he argued, "a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem". The solution lay, he said, in a "spiritual and human awakening" and "friendship for those who suffer". (News.bbc.co.uk, 2014) The church still holds this stance on contraception even though over 350.000 women and 3 million children die each year. (Allafrica.com, 2014) The contrast between Western society and other parts of the world show a significant difference in the scientific notions where underdeveloped countries such as Africa are ruled over by religion rather than science.
In conclusion belief systems differ across different countries in regards of reproduction and personhood. In the aspect of Western civilisation the basis falls to science. It explains how a life is conceived from biological aspects and allows us to understand the failings in it also. It can intervene to assist in pregnancies or to aid in unwanted conceptions. There are now legal implications involved in reproduction where the foetus can be considered a person before birth. This essay explored where there are similarities and polar opposites on certain aspects. The role of both genders has different features between Western and Eastern parts of the world with different emphasis being placed on each gender and the part they have to play. It fundamentally falls onto what is available in certain countries and how much they depend on science, their own faith and/or religion. Criticism cannot befall onto any separate belief as it should be the individual’s choice in where this belief should lie. With new scientific findings and different cultures evolving every day we have to be respectful that science and culture both have a part to play in reproduction.

Bibliography
Advocatesforpregnantwomen.org. 2014. The Rights of Pregnant Patients: Carder Case Brings Bold Policy Initiatives. [online] Available at: http://www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org/articles/angela.htm
Allafrica.com. 2014. allAfrica.com: Africa: Beyond Contraceptive Controversy - Melinda Gates Bets on Pro-Life Policies (Page 1 of 2). [online] Available at: http://allafrica.com/stories/201207230079.html [Accessed: 14 Mar 2014].
Delaney, C. 1986. The meaning of paternity and the virgin birth debate. Man, pp. 494--513.
LifeSiteNews. 2012. Canadian Medical Association: babies not human until after birth | LifeSiteNews.com. [online] Available at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/canadian-medical-association-babies-not-human-till-after-birth [Accessed: 14 Mar 2014].
Loizos, P. and Heady, P. 1999. Conceiving persons. London: Athlone Press.
Martin, E. 1991. The egg and the sperm: How science has constructed a romance based on stereotypical male-female roles. Signs, pp. 485--501.
News.bbc.co.uk. 2014. BBC NEWS | Africa | Pope tells Africa 'condoms wrong '. [online] Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7947460.stm [Accessed: 14 Mar 2014].
Pashigian, M. J. 2009. The Womb, Infertility, and the Vicissitudes of Kin-Relatedness in Vietnam.JSTOR.
TheFreeDictionary.com. 2014. reproduction. [online] Available at: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/reproduction [Accessed: 14 Mar 2014].
Uk.ask.com. 2014. What Countries Make up the Western World. [online] Available at: http://uk.ask.com/question/what-countries-make-up-the-western-world [Accessed: 14 Mar 2014].

Bibliography: Advocatesforpregnantwomen.org. 2014. The Rights of Pregnant Patients: Carder Case Brings Bold Policy Initiatives. [online] Available at: http://www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org/articles/angela.htm  Allafrica.com. 2014. allAfrica.com: Africa: Beyond Contraceptive Controversy - Melinda Gates Bets on Pro-Life Policies (Page 1 of 2). [online] Available at: http://allafrica.com/stories/201207230079.html [Accessed: 14 Mar 2014]. Delaney, C. 1986. The meaning of paternity and the virgin birth debate. Man, pp. 494--513. LifeSiteNews. 2012. Canadian Medical Association: babies not human until after birth | LifeSiteNews.com. [online] Available at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/canadian-medical-association-babies-not-human-till-after-birth [Accessed: 14 Mar 2014]. Loizos, P. and Heady, P. 1999. Conceiving persons. London: Athlone Press. Martin, E. 1991. The egg and the sperm: How science has constructed a romance based on stereotypical male-female roles. Signs, pp. 485--501. News.bbc.co.uk. 2014. BBC NEWS | Africa | Pope tells Africa 'condoms wrong '. [online] Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7947460.stm [Accessed: 14 Mar 2014]. Pashigian, M. J. 2009. The Womb, Infertility, and the Vicissitudes of Kin-Relatedness in Vietnam.JSTOR. TheFreeDictionary.com. 2014. reproduction. [online] Available at: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/reproduction [Accessed: 14 Mar 2014]. Uk.ask.com. 2014. What Countries Make up the Western World. [online] Available at: http://uk.ask.com/question/what-countries-make-up-the-western-world [Accessed: 14 Mar 2014].

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