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A History of Family Planning in Twentieth-Century Peru

A History of Family Planning in Twentieth-Century Peru

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    A History of Family Planning in Twentieth-Century Peru
    Book Description:

    Adding to the burgeoning study of medicine and science in Latin America, this important book offers a comprehensive historical perspective on the highly contentious issues of sexual and reproductive health in an important Andean nation. Raul Necochea Lopez approaches family planning as a historical phenomenon layered with medical, social, economic, and moral implications. At stake in this complex mix were new notions of individual autonomy, the future of gender relations, and national prosperity.The implementation of Peru's first family planning programs led to a rapid professionalization of fertility control. Complicating the evolution of associated medical services were the conflicting agendas of ordinary citizens, power brokers from governmental and military sectors, clergy, and international health groups. While family planning promised a greater degree of control over individuals' intimate lives, as well as opportunities for economic improvement through the effective management of birth rates, the success of attempts to regulate fertility was far from assured. Today, Necochea Lopez observes, although the quality of family planning resources in Peru has improved, services remain far from equitably available.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-1810-4
    Subjects: History, Public Health, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    I cheered in 1995 when Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori gave a speech as the only male head of state at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.¹ There, Fujimori praised the skilled ways in which women were able to organize themselves to overcome economic hardship. To a standing ovation, he also announced the recent legalization of surgical sterilization as a contraceptive in Peru.² Just a few years later, the press began to publish a series of heartbreaking and indignant accusations about forced surgical sterilizations of hundreds of women in several rural areas of my home country. The reports involved...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Reproductive Potential of the Nation
    (pp. 14-31)

    In the summer of 1933, the Callao Rotary Club readied for “Child’s Week,” an event the club sponsored in Peru’s most important port city, west of Lima. Under the enthusiastic leadership of Dr. Alberto Sabogal, Child’s Week consisted of a series of activities to kindle interest in all things toddler. Luisa Arróspide Bueno won the contest for the child with the best “vital traits.” At two years, eleven months, and seventeen days, Luisa had uncommonly good physical proportions, according to the judges: she stood just over a meter tall, weighed twenty-one kilos, and had a sixty-two centimeter thoracic perimeter. She...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Irene Silva de Santolalla and the Well-Constituted Family
    (pp. 32-51)

    The Schering Pharmaceutical Corporation of Germany conducted the first clinical trials of injectable hormonal contraceptives for Peruvian women in the mid-1960s. The locale was the Hacienda Huando, an agricultural estate located in the province of Huaral, north of Lima. The opportunity had materialized when Peruvian physician Alfredo Larrañaga introduced Schering Peru’s clinical director, the Hungarian-Argentine Istvan (“Esteban”) Kesserü, to Larrañaga’s friends, the brothers Fernando and Antonio Graña, owners of Huando, in 1962. Between 1966 and 1969, while the trials lasted, it was family educator Elsa Lescano’s responsibility to determine the fitness of individual women to participate in the trial. Encouraged...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Abortion and Accusation Experts and Lay People between Crime and Custom
    (pp. 52-78)

    The Peruvian medical establishment considered pregnancy losses from abortion an important cause of demographic stagnation already in the eighteenth century. By the mid-twentieth century, this establishment also construed unsafe illegal abortions as a cause of maternal mortality that suggested the need to improve the medical care of women and to popularize family planning.¹ Indeed, by the 1960s physicians throughout Latin America and elsewhere warned of the grave risks women ran when attempting to end a pregnancy through an unsafe illegal abortion. Whether women were coerced into getting an abortion or whether they sought one out, the 1960s and 1970s medical...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Contraception Crucible Health Workers Encounter Family Planning
    (pp. 79-100)

    Cheap and effective birth control was in short supply in early twentieth-century Latin America. Physicians rarely discussed its availability or relevance to people’s lives.¹ Condoms and abortion were the only commonly used means to limit the quantity of offspring, though the prevalence of the latter inspired both public condemnation as well as ineffective repression, as we saw in the previous chapter. Only a handful of strident activists favored the use of involuntary sterilization for people deemed feeble-minded, gathering little public support.² In 1930s Peru, however, health workers, overwhelmingly members of the rising urban middle class, began to voice their anxieties...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Government Steps In (and Out) Family Planning and Population Policymaking
    (pp. 101-125)

    Teasing out the historical distinctiveness of population policy formulation is a fruitful way to address the aspirations and interests of different societies, and different groups within those societies. As I argued in chapter 1, Latin American republics’ attempts to understand and control the size, composition, and geographical movements of their populations can be traced to the late eighteenth century. These attempts gathered momentum in the early twentieth century with increasingly efficient state agencies and the imperative to build up the “right kind” of population. The twentieth century also added new technical possibilities to regulate fertility, and the post–World War...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Priests and Pills Catholic Birth Control in Peru
    (pp. 126-148)

    How did the Catholic Church respond to the conundrum of rapid demographic growth in the second half of the twentieth century? This chapter analyzes a program sponsored by the Catholic Church of Peru that combined the provision of contraceptive pills with health exams, sexual education, and responsible parenthood training for couples in poor urban areas. This program was based on the belief by church authorities that the Catholic faith was compatible with the regulation of fertility. In addition, these authorities emphasized that Peru’s environment of material poverty had deleterious effects on the quality of family life and on the upbringing...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 149-154)

    In 1976, the military government of General Francisco Morales Bermúdez charged a Jesuit economist, two gynecologists, an Italian feminist journalist, and five bureaucrats (four local and one Argentinean from the PAHO) with crafting the basis for a subsequent population policy.¹ The resulting text, Peru’s Population Policy Guideline, embraced the position of most developing countries at the UN’s International Conference on Population, held in Bucharest in 1974, namely, that high birth rates were not a cause but a consequence of underdevelopment, and that attempts to set population-limitation targets were racist and driven by the will of powerful countries to violate the...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 155-188)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-218)
  14. Index
    (pp. 219-234)