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(107,792 posts)
Sat Nov 18, 2023, 03:21 PM Nov 18

Abortion's Old Craft Can Still Be Cultivated

If our country will not give us access to the healthcare they wrested from us, we will need to reclaim it somehow.

Abortion’s Old Craft Can Still Be Cultivated
7/14/2023 by Debi Lewis
When doctors were unwilling to treat women, ancestral lore allowed them to care for themselves and each other.

First-century Greek women used a wild plant called silphium both to prevent and end pregnancies. (Daniela Baumann / Getty Images)

Last month marked one year since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Dobbs case, which, for women and people with uteruses, made the possibility of becoming impregnated mean an utter loss of agency. Some would say we’ve returned to the pre-Roe v. Wade era, but it’s worse.This version of our reproductive reality would be unrecognizable to the women of our past—not the ones who agitated for the right to reproductive choice that came with Roe v. Wade, but generations before them, long before rooms full of men in suits decided when and how we might be permitted to manage our fertility. When doctors were unwilling to treat women, ancestral lore allowed them to care for themselves and each other.

As a writer who spent the last two years researching the herbal remedies of the granny midwives of Appalachia for my novel in progress, I began with the question of how “abortion” worked before modern medicine. It turns out this question is far too specific: Women didn’t always have that language for stopping pregnancy from advancing. The contemporary imagination that draws lines between fertility, conception and personhood is relatively new. In fact, there is a wealth of fascinating and actionable—if not peer-reviewed—historical wisdom on how to end a pregnancy.

. . .

More than 3,500 years ago, ancient Egyptian women combined the unripe fruits of the acacia tree with a small, bitter melon called colocynth, mixed them with a paste of dates and honey, and wrapped it all in leaves to create a vaginal suppository. In any trimester, the Ebers Papyrus of 1500 BCE suggested this would be an effective way to end a pregnancy. Roughly 300 years later, the Old Testament included a recipe for a drink designed to make a woman miscarry: A combination of dust from the tabernacle floor, parchment on which a curse has been written, and holy water, this drink was recommended to end the pregnancies of women who had been unfaithful. This same part of the Bible was just used to justify banning abortions in South Carolina.

. . . .

We all know where it went from there. With the dispensing of modern medicine to the elite and abortion made illegal in a chunk of the country so big you could drive for nine hours straight from El Paso, Texas, to Hedgesville, W.V., without having access to safe and legal abortion. Our dearth of ancestral herbal knowledge has hamstrung us. Disconnected from the resourcefulness we cultivated before institutionalized science, women have come to rely on surgery and Western pharmaceuticals to end pregnancies they don’t wish to continue. And so, I am planting a protest garden. I have planted white yarrow, wormwood, rue and pennyroyal in small, unassuming pots not far from my tomatoes and zinnias. The tansy I planted last year just to see how it smelled has shot even higher this June, pointing ever upward toward me. I do not know how to use these herbs or in what combinations­—and I am not expecting to need them—but cultivating them has felt like a small act of resistance and reconnection. I hope this is silly, that I am romanticizing the copper pots and foraging of our pre-industrial foremothers, but if our country will not give us access to the healthcare they wrested from us, we will need to reclaim it somehow. I await the flowers and the seeds.


Abortion's Old Craft Can Still Be Cultivated (Original Post) niyad Nov 18 OP
The situation is even more dire than it sounds. ShazzieB Nov 18 #1
Thank you. I did not even catch that. niyad Nov 18 #2
It didn't hit me right away. ShazzieB Nov 18 #3
I should have caught it. I drove between El Paso and Houston niyad Nov 18 #4
"Because Texas is vast" raising2moredems Nov 20 #6
A quibble jfz9580m Nov 19 #5


(14,390 posts)
1. The situation is even more dire than it sounds.
Sat Nov 18, 2023, 03:41 PM
Nov 18

Accrding to Google maps, it's almost 2,000 miles from El Paso to Hedgesville and would take 27 hours to drive that distance, not 9! (I checked because 9 hours sounded much too short to me.)


(14,390 posts)
3. It didn't hit me right away.
Sat Nov 18, 2023, 07:04 PM
Nov 18

I don't think the actual number registered at first. When it did, I was like "9 hours? Wait, that doesn't sound right."

It turns out that it takes about 11.5 hours just to drive from El Paso to the other (far eastern) end of Texas. Because Texas is vast!


(14,433 posts)
5. A quibble
Sun Nov 19, 2023, 04:44 AM
Nov 19

I don’t think it is that doctors are unwilling to treat women so much as probably worried about being harassed as Dr Caitlin Barnard was.
I think she is a hero. It is insane that you can harass a doctor for providing a 10 yo rape victim with an abortion. She didn’t talk to the media to self-promote..it was to raise awareness.

I have read about doctors who have really been stepping up to help women out in spite of the very real risks..very courageous of them.

The anti-abortion crowd is insane.

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