Monday, March 29, 2010

molly saves the day

let me introduce you to molly saves the day.
i dont know her. i cant link you to her blog, because it no longer exists online.
back in 2006, when south dakota decided to basically make all abortions illegal. molly wrote a quick how-to on her blog.
how to set up an abortion clinic for 2000 dollars.
and she got a lot of harrassment, death threats, and other hatred. but she also received a lot of gratitude from women around the country and the world...thank you for reminding us, showing us, pointing the way for us to not need to rely on man-made laws to do what we have always done. decided when we would give birth.

well, back in 2006, i read about the south dakota ban on abortions. but i hadnt heard of molly. and so 4 years later, it took me a bit of research to find the infamous post that had scared so many folks.

it seems illogical to me, that there was this huge online controversy over a relatively simple post.
in reading the critiques of molly's post by folks who are pro-choice, the critiques seemed to boil down to--this is really irresponsible of her to give this information, abortions are dangerous, the techniques she describes are dangerous, and now ppl with little info will use this to the detriment or death of themselves or another.
yeah, okay. but isnt it more dangerous for ppl not to be able to get an abortion , when they need one? isnt it more dangerous that ppl dont even know exactly what a clinical abortion entails? and i cannot fathom how ppl knowing more about their own bodies and their reproduction is harmful to them...
the hesperian book for midwives describes a mva (manual vacuum aspiration) is more detailed with pictures, simpler instructions, and well better laid out as an instruction manual. hesperian is expert at health education and has been doing so for years. and they realize how important this information is for ppl to be able to utilize.
but i really wanted to record this beautiful moment in internet history, when molly really did try to save the day. she starts off by referencing the jane collective.
so here you go...the copy of molly's post that i is a description, a how-to of a dilation and curretage, d&c.
the abortion ban was overturned in south dakota thankfully.

so thank you molly. and thank you to everyone who has understood and acted on the understanding that knowledge is not what threatens us, but the lack of knowledge is.

For the women of South Dakota: an abortion manual

Posted February 23, 2006

I understand that you’re probably really angry right now. Maybe you’re reading a blog expressing that anger — the anger that your state thinks it knows better than you what to do with your body. Maybe you’re anxiously wondering where the nearest abortion clinic is, now that you will have to leave the state to get to one. If you have a serious medical condition, you might be doubling up on birth control methods, leading to a lot of worry and possibly negative side effects.

But what you need right now isn’t the righteous anger the rest of the blogosphere will give you. You need more.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, when abortions were illegal in many places and expensive to get, an organization called Jane stepped up to the plate in the Chicago area. Jane initially hired an abortion doctor, but later they did the abortions themselves. They lost only one patient in 13,000 — a lower death rate than that of giving live birth. The biggest obstacle they had, though, was the fact that until years into the operation, they thought of abortion as something only a doctor could do, something only the most trained specialist could perform without endangering the life of the woman.

They were deceived — much like you have probably been deceived. An abortion, especially for an early pregnancy, is a relatively easy procedure to perform. And while I know, women of South Dakota, that you never asked for this, now is the time to learn how it is done. There is no reason you should be beholden to doctors — especially in a state where doctors have been refusing to perform them, forcing the state’s only abortion clinic to fly doctors in from elsewhere.

No textbooks or guides existed at that time to help them, and the equipment was hard to find. This is no longer true. For under $2000, any person with the inclination to learn could create a fully functioning abortion setup allowing for both vacuum aspiration and dilation/curettage abortions. If you are careful and diligent, and have a good grasp of a woman’s anatomy you will not put anyone’s health or life in danger, even if you have not seen one of these procedures performed.

Today, I will discuss dilation and curettage — what used to be the most common abortion procedure before vacuum aspiration took its place. Vacuum aspiration is an easier method, but sometimes remaining fetal/placental material necessitates doing a “cleanup” D&C anyway, so you should know how to do this procedure first.

DISCLAIMER: I am posting this as information only. Whether anyone chooses to act upon this information is their own concern. I believe in the free exchange of information and ideas. I believe this information has been kept from women for too long, and there is no reason they should not know about a procedure being performed on their own body, and no reason women should be kept in the dark about how to perform it — especially if someone they know is having their health jeopardized by this law.

Instruments needed and their uses

You will need:

One set of uterine dilators (any equipment may be purchased from numerous websites. If you need assistance in finding this equipment, do not hesitate to email me at
Vaginal speculum
Pregnancy test
One set of uterine curettes
One pair of uterine forceps
One pair of regular forceps
Sterile bags for medical instruments and medical waste
A course of antibiotics
Sedative medication
Pressure cooker
Container of bleach solution: one part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water
Strong soap
Sterile latex gloves
Water-based lubricant
Maxi pads
Clean plastic sheeting and towels
Exam table
Wet wipes

First, let’s talk instruments, before we talk implementation:

Cervical dilators come in many forms. Some hydroscopic dilators work by absorbing moisture from the vagina into the dilator, gradually increasing its diameter until it is workable. However, the “old-fashioned” way is with a set of dilators — metal instruments of varying sizes. It would probably be best for an illegal practitioner to use these, as they are essentially infinitely reusable as long as they are sterilized between uses. Essentially, the practitioner begins with the smallest instrument and inserts it into the cervix. Then, he or she moves on to the next smallest, and so forth, until the cervix is sufficiently dilated to allow the uterine forceps to be used. This is the easiest part of the abortion, and one that requires very little knowledge other than the placement of the cervix.

Uterine forceps look like a hybrid of a scissor handle and a bird of prey’s talon. Their use, once the cervix is dilated enough to allow access to the uterus, is simple: they remove the fetal material from the uterus — as much as can be removed in this manner.

Curettes are perhaps the most foreign-looking of the implements used. Essentially, they look like small spoons with sharp edges. These are used after the uterine forceps, to make sure the rest of the fetal material and placenta is scraped from the sides of the uterus.

A course of antibiotics is CRUCIAL. The most common cause of death post-illegal abortion is due to infection. When your uterus has been opened up, it is more prone to infection. Do not fool around with this: antibiotics are absolutely necessary post-abortion. Antibiotics can be purchased from Mexican pharmaceutical supply houses for less than $2 per course.

Now that we’ve discussed the more uncommon instruments, let’s move on to discussing the procedure itself.


Sterilizing instruments is absolutely critical. The most professional way to sterilize instruments would be with an autoclave — but this is something to get only if you have an extra few hundred dollars to spend in the name of efficiency. Sterilization is no joke, and nothing to be skimped on, but you can sterilize instruments very well with a household pressure cooker. Ordinary boiling water does not kill all pathogens; while boiling water was the best people could do 100 years ago, it is not the best we can do now. Check your pressure cooker’s manual carefully and figure out how much water needs to be placed in it to stay at 250-260 degrees for 30 minutes. Be sure to refer carefully to the manual, or injury and damage to the cooker could result. Place the water and instruments into the pressure cooker and allow it to “cook” them for 30 minutes at the 250-260 temperature. This will steam-sterilize your instruments. If you have an autoclave, lucky you! Follow its operating instructions.

Assuming you have no autoclave, follow the instructions for opening your pressure cooker, then remove the instruments with an already-sterilized pair of ordinary forceps. set them in the sterile bags. Now your instruments are prepared. From now on, be sure to only touch the instruments on the handle side, rather than on the side coming into contact with the cervix and uterus. Wipe down your table with bleach solution, allow it to dry, and then place clean plastic sheeting over it.

Your patient should be naked from the waist down and should have her pubic area shaved. Request that the patient does so the night before. Administer a sedative to the patient long enough before the procedure begins that it will be fully effective during the D&C procedure. Prior to the procedure, conduct an ordinary pregnancy test on the woman. This may seem like a silly step, but pregnancy tests are never 100% accurate, and women have been known to come to abortion clinics and test negative. Ask your patient how long it has been since her last period. If it has been eight weeks or less, the procedure itself will take less than 15 minutes after dilation begins. The length grows, however, until at about 13-14 weeks (the limit for a D&C procedure because of the limited dilation ability of dilators) it will last up to 45 minutes. Honesty is IMPERATIVE, because dishonesty could endanger the woman’s health.

Once the patient has “assumed the position” in the stirrups, wipe the vulva and anal areas with separate wet wipes, including the labia majora and minora. Once the patient is clean, lubricate the vagina with water-based lubricant and use the vaginal speculum to open the vagina and examine the cervix (information on how to use a speculum properly is widely available online and in print and does not need to be reprinted here, but please be sure you understand how to use the speculum prior to conducting this procedure).

The cervix is a small, round, smooth-looking muscle at the top of the vaginal canal. Please be sure to familiarize yourself with the female reproductive system prior to performing any procedure such as this. The cervix is the entrance to the uterus. A non-pregnant uterus is only as big as a small pear, but it grows bigger even in the earliest months of pregnancy — at 8 weeks, it is the size of a peach, and at 14 weeks, the size of a grapefruit. I didn’t make up all these fruit-sizing terms, other people did, and I apologize for making anyone uncomfortable whilst eating fruit salad from now on.

It is important to know the approximate size of the uterus because that’s where you’re headed. Get out your smallest dilator and insert it slowly and gently into the cervix. This hurts — it’s part of why your patient is sedated. Novocaine is sometimes injected to numb the cervix, but when you are just starting, it is probably preferable to stay away from needles entirely. Insert each dilator in turn. Even the largest dilator, as you will notice, doesn’t give you very much room — less than an inch of opening. There’s no way you can see into the uterus. From here on out — this is the scary part — you will have to operate on feel alone. Don’t feel too afraid. Each element in the uterus feels different from the others, and as long as you are careful and understand exactly what the procedure involves at each step, it will not be too difficult.

The first step is to break the membrane holding the fetus inside. You can feel around with the forceps for it. To get an idea of what each part looks like — and to see the texture so that you understand better how it will feel — I recommend looking at books with photographs of first trimester fetuses (personal recommendation for its astonishing photographs: A Child is Born), The membrane should be easily broken with the forceps. Depending on how far along the pregnancy is, varying quantities of clear or pinkish fluid may come from the vagina. As you grasp the sac with your forceps, twist it away so that it detaches. You will now need to remove small pieces of fetal material and membrane from the uterus with the forceps. Some of these pieces will be distinctly identifiable as fetal material. Save the material until the end of the procedure on a piece of plastic, so that you can be sure the entire fetus has been removed. If doing this sounds too ethically challenging, remember that fetuses do not have the capacity to feel actual pain until the third trimester. You are not “hurting” it, and it has no awareness, nor the capacity for awareness, that you are extracting it.

This portion of the abortion procedure should not be particularly painful for the patient.

While you are removing fetal material, you will also be removing pieces of placenta. However, because the placenta is attached to the uterine wall — and because it is the blood source for the baby — bleeding may begin at this time. It is imperative that if bleeding begins at this point in the procedure, you do NOT stop. Stopping the procedure and attempting to stanch the bleeding will not work. The bleeding will stop on its own once the placenta is totally removed from the uterus. It may be scary, but keep going.

Once you have removed most of the material that is removable, you must move on to curettage. By now you will have felt the walls of the uterus with the forceps, and you must move on to using the spoon-shaped curettes. Find the spot on the uterine wall where placenta still clings — the curette will make a sound much like metal on metal on a clean uterine wall, but will not make the same scraping sound on a place that still needs material removed. Scrape from the uterine walls, scraping material toward the cervix. Use the same general form of stroke you would use to scoop ice cream, and don’t be afraid to scrape fairly hard. Scraping softly could leave tissue behind, and if there’s anything you don’t want, it’s that. The other cue that will inform you the uterus is clean is that the patient will generally report feeling a cramp when the clean uterus is scraped, whereas a scrape of placenta will not feel as painful. Listen to your patient and listen to your curettes.

Once the material is removed from the uterine wall, any excess bleeding will generally slow or stop and it’s uterine forceps time again. Take the remaining material out with the forceps. Most pieces of fetal material will come out with a simple tug on the forceps (again, don’t be too afraid to use force and put a bit of muscle into it). However, at 13-14 weeks the fetal head may be slightly big to bring out. Pinch it with the forceps and take it out in pieces, as well. Make absolutely sure all bone fragments are removed from the uterus, as well as all other material. If necessary, use the curette again to remove remaining material and repeat the procedure with forceps.

By this point, bleeding should be no more than in a normal period, and likely quite a bit less. If the patient is still bleeding heavily at this point, get her to a hospital — it means you likely did not curette completely, and the hospital will generally complete the procedure as her life is assuredly in danger.

When you feel the curettage and removal is complete, make sure you examine the fetal material you have already extracted. If you’re missing anything obvious — for instance, a head — make sure to find and remove it.

Allow your patient to rest comfortably on the table if she wishes, or to get dressed. She will likely have some residual bleeding, so make sure you have maxi pads on hand (I would not risk infection from tampons so soon after the procedure). Give her the course of antibiotics and stress to her how imperative it is that she use them as directed. Make sure that she understands any bleeding or problems means she needs to call 911 immediately. When she is ready, allow her to leave — if sedated, do not allow her to drive home herself. Follow up in a few days and make sure she is not experiencing much bleeding or pain.


I will be following up this article with directions for performing vacuum aspiration for first-trimester pregnancies and inducing miscarriages for later ones. I hope this can prove educational for the next generation of women, who may have to start a second Jane program. I am sorry we live in times where it is necessary to publish this material, but if women work together, an abortion ban doesn’t mean that women and girls are left with no choices.

Monday, March 22, 2010

cherish the sponge!

In the 5th century, Jewish Talmudic law suggested three groups of women – young girls, pregnant women, and lactating women – avoid pregnancy by using sponges collected from the sea. Contraceptive sponges were later sold in mail order catalogs during the 1800s.

i am loving this artist's work. incredible. visually arresting and powerful words. if you are interested in seeing more of her work, or better yet purchasing it, you can purchase posters on etsy....

Heather Ault is an artist, designer, and activist who is creating visual narratives about the history of abortion and contraception around the world. She is currently engaged in a project called “4000 Years for Choice”. She is passionate about creating connections between artists, historians, and the pro-choice community in order to celebrate the ancient traditions of reproductive control we continue to practice today! She resides in Urbana, Illinois where she is a graduate student in the University of Illinois’ School of Art and Design.

More of Heather’s work can be viewed at

expect to see me highlighting more of her artwork over the next weeks.

what i dont understand is why would pregnant women need to avoid getting pregnant?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

experiments with the del-em

ok so last night habibi and i decided to experiment with a del-em after the baby had gone to sleep.

what is a del-em?

from wikipedia:
In 1971, a member of a feminist women's reproductive health self-help group, Lorraine Rothman, modified equipment found in an underground abortion clinic that was developed for a new non-traumatic, manually-operated-suction abortion technique. Rothman took the thin, flexible plastic Karman cannula (about the size of a soda straw), and the syringe (50 or 60ml), and added a one-way bypass valve, to fix two main problems.[1] The contraption could allow air to be pumped into the uterus, and also suctioned uterine contents directly into the syringe, thus limiting the amount that could be removed. Rothman's and Downer's group dubbed Lorraine's new invention the "Del Em." Lorraine added two lengths of clear plastic tubing, one from the cannula to the collection jar and another to go from the collection jar to the syringe. With this new set-up, the contents of the uterus went directly into the jar, allowing for the extraction of more material, and the two-way bypass valve diverted any air that may have been inadvertently pushed back toward the body to exit harmlessly into the air; this would prevent air from entering the uterus.[1] By making it possible for more than one person to operate the device, the skill level of the operators was greatly reduced. One woman could concentrate on guiding the sterile cannula through the vaginal cavity into the cervical os while another could pump the syringe to develop the vacuum. The Del Em made the procedure more comfortable for women, who could themselves control the suction.[6] Or, a third woman could stand by the woman's side, explaining what was going on, or handing her a mirror to watch the material coming down the tubing.

so, for the past month or so, habibi and i have been collecting the items necessary to build a del-em of our very own. habibi has been going to medical supply stores, asking for things such as: uterine catheters, speculum, syringe...ahem... ( i thought it would be best if he went and asked because he has this white boy thing going for him, so they would never suspect that he might be attempting to do something not so abortions...) so, i was on the second day of my period. and we figured we would try it out.
we decided to try it during the beginning of my period because the cervix would be a little bit open letting the blood out of the uterus, and thus it would be easier to get a cannula into the uterus. plus, i would be well lubricated. plus, there would be actual blood to suck out and not just whitish uterine contents...

our del-em pretty much looks like the picture above with the same equipment.

the main differences being that we used a plastic jar with a plastic top rather than a glass jar with a rubber top (couldnt find mason jars for some odd reason) and habibi had to rig a one way valve from a plastic bike pump and attach it to the syringe. also, we used a pink condom on top of the one way valve/syringe to help control the airpressure because there is a funky hole near the tip of the syringe. (i wish we had taken pictures of the syringe/condom/ was interesting...)

results: we were unsuccessful at sucking the menses blood out of my uterus. because the adhesive that we used to attach the tubing wasnt strong enough and let air out. thus we didnt get the suctioning power we needed.

future: we are going to re-work the del-em model. we learned so much from the experiment. ways to simplify the process.
habibi learned how to use a speculum, which was a crucial part of the process.
need to get a rubber top with a glass jar. then we dont need to use adhesive to hold the tubing into the top.
also, need to get a lamp with a flexible neck. when it is just the two of us, and only four hands, holding a flashlight becomes a real hassle. having an extra person would be really really helpful...

anyways, check out the pics below.

and our plan is to do this next month with improved equip!
the speculum. yep. now personally, i have never been a big fan of the speculum. especially dislike the metal kind.
a good amount of time during this experiment was habibi having to learn how to use one. which, well, was a bit awkward and painful. and me trying to be the calm voice of -- fuck! that fucking hurts! out out out! now! -- but after a few tries he got the hang of it.
i would highly recommend getting a plastic speculum if you can. the metal ones are heavy and cumbersome.
habibi warmed the speculum (and cannula)up in his hands and beside the heater for a couple of minutes before inserting it. which was also very helpful. cold metal in the vagina? not pleasant.
then he used the flashlight on his phone to locate the cervix and the os.
then he inserted the cannula (see pics in previous posts) through the os and into the uterus. while i held the speculum. so in one hand he had the flashlight and in the other he had the cannula. as for me, in one hand i had the speculum and in the other i had the syringe. yeah all hands on deck.
we didnt take pics during the experiment (our hands were full) so all these pics are after the fact.
but you should know that everything was sterilized and swabbed with iodine. (the brown spot you see at the bottom of the photo is not blood, but iodine, man does that stuff stain!)
and i took some pain/relaxing medication which really helped. both my mood and my pain threshold.
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the metal wand is the cannula. next time i think we will try a plastic catheter rather than a metal cannula. the cannula wasn't long enough to reach the fundus (the top) of the uterus. after habibi put it through the os (the opening of the cervix), i could barely feel it.
and it needs to be able reach all the way inside the uterus.
you can also see a tiny bit of menstrual blood (mixed with water) in the jar...
the tube coming out of the jar is cut because we cut it after we were done with our experiment. during the process that tube is not cut, it is connected to the syringe...
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here is the cannula in one hand and the collection jar in the other. the cannula is connected to plastic tubing. the tubing is connected to the jar. the primary problem we had with this extraction was that the adhesive we used to connect the tubing didnt create a strong enough seal and thus, there was no real suction happening...oh well. next time we wont use super glue from the corner store as an adhesive...
the cannula is what goes into the opening of the cervix, into the uterus, and sucks out the uterine contents...
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and here habibi is holding the syringe and tubing in one hand and the ring forceps in the other hand...these pics were taking after we were finished with the experiment. during the process, he was wearing gloves, and everything was clean and sterilized...
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this is the syringe and the tubing for the del-em. as you can see we had the heater on, because even though it was probably 80 degrees outside i live in the middle east and like to be warm and comfy when i am laying on my bag with my legs spread wide...
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Saturday, March 6, 2010

book review: natural liberty

i love love love this book. natural liberty: rediscovering self induced abortion methods. by the sage-femme collective.

1. it is available free online. you can read it online or download it as pdf. so accessible. 467 pp.
2. it is so well written and well organized. well researched. cross referenced.
3. includes so much folklore, mythology, and ritual use of the plants. accurate and clear black and white drawings of the plant.
4. discusses a myriad issues surrounding abortion. cultural, political, trans national, biological, health, and the various options for birth control and abortion that are available.
5. includes pretty detailed instructions for menstrual vacuum aspiration-mva.
6. srsly they have done such an excellent job with this book that i am srsly considering buying the actual paper book, b/c just having it on pdf means i cant carry it around with me as easily as i like and i like to take notes in a book with a pen.
7. and it is written by the sage-femme collective, who also produced the classic reproductive justice zine, herbal abortions, by uni tiamat.
8. it also has acupressure points for inducing abortion, and techniques for yoga, massage and hot baths to bring on that period.

natural liberty is also on the links page. and i reference this book so often. invaluable.


book review: woman heal thyself

last month i on brought my period early after stimulating a few acupressure points. that feeling of having that sort of decision making relationship with my body was amazing. srsly. here is my review of the book that gave me the tools to do this. and more.

another book that i received the same time as riddle's book was, woman heal thyself.
this is a completely different and complex book. written by jeanne elizabeth blum, it explores traditional chinese medicine -tcm- through the lens of modern day cis women's bodies.
there is a good amount of tcm theory in the book. and i really appreciated that. although im not sure everyone would. it can get a bit arcane with all the different relationships between the different meridians and i have been referencing it for the past month almost daily and am still learning new relationships to consider.
she claims that she reveals 24 'secret' points of chinese acupressure. but, every 'secret' point i can find easily on various tcm sites online as well as in my other -very popular- acupressure book. they aren't 'secret' they are just not indicated for pregnancy. in other words tcm warns not to massage these points during portions of one's pregnancy if one doesnt want to miscarry. well, blum realized through experimenting that these points often do cause menses that is late to come as well as relieve pms, alleviate cramps and overly heavy menses flow, and as a form of birth control. following the acupressure schedule that she outlines helps the period to come regularly and with less pain and discomfort. she claims that after following this schedule for at least three months, and achieving a regular and more comfortable menses, the contraceptive method of acupressure can become effective. and basically you use acupressure to bring on your matter what...
she also writes about menopause and alleviating common symptoms.
i am starting to work with her method. so far i will say that her points definitely helped the menstrual cramps die down last month. and my period was a day or two shorter. also less clots than usual. and lighter flow.
there is a lot more in her book.

frankly i find it very disorganized. i would love to take the info in her book and present it in a simpler, cleaner format. also, her pics for showing the acupressure points are horrible. when i read her book i have to take the essential extra step of going online to find a much more detailed illustration of the location of the acu point in order to stimulate it. really, really annoying. also, in order to read it, i have to slog through all the 'woman's essential nature' bull shit. and there is all this orientalism, 'secrets from the mysterious far east' woven throughout the book. ick.

it is a great resource for dealing with common problem's in the female reproductive cycle. she addresses a large list of complaints (inc. a chapter for prostates and penises). and she has an intuitive approach to healing that mixes with mine really well. i understand her story and her multi faceted approach. im a bit of an airhead so some of the disorganization doesnt throw me off. she focuses on the emotional and psychological reality that acupressure works with. how problems with the gall bladder meridian relate to issues around decision-making. strengthening the spleen meridian will not only strengthen the body's immune functioning, but also lower unnecessary or ciruclar worrying, focusing on the past and regrets, and allow us to be 'sweeter' to others.
also there are powerful tools for regulating our fertility. i love the idea of taking a few minutes a few times each day during the menses to massage points so that we can be more in balance and in time with our flows.

its not the easiest book to read. it is more like a disorganized reference book, than straight non ficition.

book review: contraception and abortion from the ancient world...

so this winter i read a couple of books on self induced abortions. all of them excellent and really different from each other. the first book, i mentioned in a previous post, john riddle's contraception and abortion from the ancient world to the renaissance. this is a history book laced with lots of botanical and medical information and studies. basically, he is proving that through out human history, around the globe, humans have known of various ways to induce abortion and delay pregnancy (contraception). historians before him have concluded that people in the ancient and medieval and renaissance, really up to a hundred years ago, knew very little about how conception occurred and thus could not have known how to prevent it or end pregnancy.
on the contrary, riddle argues that a lot of the ingredients that are listed in various ancient herbals, medicinals, medical canons, folkloric poems, etc. as abortifacients or contraceptives were plants and substances that did have the effect of creating conditions that led to a self induced abortion. or decreases the chances of conceiving.
for instance, ancient greek medical text, on the diseases of women, recommends mint, rue, juniper, celery seed, queen anne's lace and other herbs that have been shown in laboratory tests to cause miscarriage in small mammals. ( reading about all these tests of rabbits and mice and cows being impregnated and then fed extracts of plants to force abortions made me nauseated. brought up for me what we do to females of all species in our culture. also, none of these tests were necessary to achieve an understanding of the abortifacient qualities of plants. it is cruel and sad and horrific.)
this knowledge of herbs was women folk knowledge. passed down from mother to daughter. traditional knowledge. from wise woman to virgin.
and the male writers throughout antiquity made casual mention of women's knowledge of contraceptives and abortifacients. as a matter of course. the male doctors and physicians who wrote the great classical medical texts that were then added to and reformulated by islamic physicians such as avicenna, mentioned abortifacients. some more freely than others. and the argument around whether or not abortion was moral was not for most of human history and argument about whether or not the fetus was 'human', had 'rights', had a 'soul'. but rather focused on the right of the father to have as many living children as possible.
'..a woman who procured an abortion for herself should be sent into temporary exile by the governor; for it would appear shameful that she could with impunity deprive her husband of children' ... nowhere (in roman law) is there a clear statement that the embryo/fetus was being protected, only the rights of the living...

the working knowlege of fertility plants was llikely held by women and transmitted orally. men, who wrote on the subject, were dependent on women as well as on their written sources.

and once i think about it. of course, women have always known how to make decisions about their own fertility. our survival as a people as a species had depended so much on women's culture regulating the population numbers. a lot of the plants in classical mythology and rituals that are associated with fertility are actually abortifacients or contraceptives: pomegranate, pennyroyal, chaste tree (sometimes just the common name of the plant tells you a lot!), artemisia, myrrha, etc.
he also writes a bit about women physicians including hildegard de bingen's work, physica.
not relying primarily on texts, she described usages that she learned from her friends and neighbors. although she lived in a cloister, she was worldly enough to know of seven plants that she said were emmenagogues and abortifacients.

anyways i will probably reference this book a lot. he weaves a lot of disciplines together to make a convincing argument about the power of plants and women's culture.

check out some of the quotes and notes from his book

Thursday, March 4, 2010


image via aaminah hernandez

originally from 4000 years of choice

quote from john riddle's conception and abortion from the ancient world to the renaissance

ibn sina (avicenna, 980-1037) wrote the canon of medicine, which was a comprehensive text that had more influence in the west than the original arabic in the islamic world. ibn sina showed no inhibitions in discussing birth control measures. indeed, he began the discussion of contraceptives iwth a justification as to why it was necessary for a physician to intervene...

in the 'simples' section of the canon, he truly catalogued almost completely the contraceptives and abortifacients known to medicine and found in the sources.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

herbal contraceptive: queen anne's lace pt. 2

source link


Other Names: Queen-Anne’s lace, Bees’ Nest, Bird’s Nest, Carrot, Carotte, Carrot, Wild Carrot, Yarkuki, Zanahoria Wild Carrot, Birds Nest Weed, Devils Plague, Garden Carrot, Bee’s nest plant, Bird’s nest root

Biennial herb originally a native of Southern Europe, it has become naturalized throughout the United States and Canada.

Wild Carrot is easy to grow, it prefers a sunny position and a well-drained neutral to alkaline soil. Considered an obnoxious weed by some, it can spread very quickly. In its second year, from a taproot (the carrot) stems grows to a height of two to four feet or more, they are erect and branched, both stems and leaves are covered with short coarse hairs. The leaves are very finely divided-tri-pinnate, alternate, and embrace the stem with a sheathing base. The two to four inch “flower” is actually a compound of terminal umbels, made up of many small white flowers. The central flower of the Umbelliferae is often purple. A ring of finely-divided and leaf-like bracts grows at the point where the umbel meets the stem. Blooming from June to August, but often continues to bloom flowers much longer. Its root is small and spindle shaped, whitish, slender and hard, (tender when young), but soon gets tough, with a strong aromatic smell. Harvest entire plant in July or when flowers bloom, and dry for later herb use. Collect edible roots and shoots in spring when tender. Gather seed in fall.

Wild Carrot is edible and medicinal, root is edible cooked or raw, flower clusters can be french-fried for a carrot-flavored, quite attractive dish. The aromatic seed is used as a flavoring in stews and soups.

herbal contraceptive: queen anne's lace

wow. i really wish i had known that queen anne’s lace was an herbal contraceptive. when i lived in appalachia i used to pick the flowers in the spring and summer and put them in water next to the window sill for decoration. they reminded me of oversized dandelions.

i also really love this herbalist’s methodology. dedicating years to understand this one plant.

so queen anne’s lace, aka wild carrot, aka daucus carota(Dc):

It appears that taking wild carrot is the ultimate “withdrawal” method, because withdrawing it (stopping the dosage) is every bit as crucial as taking it in the first place. The women who use Dc this way are the only ones reporting a 100% success rate. Yes, I said 100%!I can now say with confidence that the most consistently successful method of using Daucus carota for natural, conscious contraception is the safest, easiest method of all. It is to use wild carrot one to three times after sexual intercourse, taking the first dosage within 8-12 hours and then repeating that dosage twice more every 8-12 hours.

and here she talks about the theory of why queen annes lace works as a contraceptive with the aforementioned method:

Phyllis Light is adamant that it is progesterone’s effect that is at work and that this is why it is key to give Dc and then take it away. She said “one way that doctors help complete a miscarriage is to give a woman progesterone for three days, and then withdraw it.” There are also some birth control pills that rely on progesterone for their effect. I noticed, too, that in at least two of the scientific studies, pregnancies were maintained by giving doses of progesterone to the rats that were being given extracts of Dc.3 Lise Wolff said that all the women she knows who are using Dc tincture report a copious increase in vaginal secretions within five minutes of taking the tincture, “almost like fertile mucous.” Interesting!Peter Holmes writes that estrogen stimulants tend to inhibit progesterone, but lists Artemesia vulgaris (Mugwort/Cronewort) as both an estrogen and progesterone stimulant. I think that Dc may fit into both categories, too. James Duke’s web site lists Dc seeds as containing the anti-estrogenic chemical, quercetin. I believe that taking Dc and then removing it causes the internal environment of the woman to become inappropriate for conception, perhaps by causing her estrogen/ progesterone balance to change temporarily. This could be from Dc’s tonic effects on the pituitary and thyroid glands. The plant has a history of promoting both healthy contraception and healthy conception. Of course it makes perfect sense that this is true, it is reflective of the essence of plant medicines – which is to naturally nourish and tone whole systems, rather than being aimed at artificially producing one specific, controlled and controlling effect as drug therapies try to do.

and susun weed reminds us that a healthy digestive system may make the queen annes lace more effective:

Herbalist and author Susun Weed stated that if it is hormonal action that makes Dc effective, then healthy digestive flora is necessary to turn the hormonal precursors of this (or any other plant) into actual hormones. This is a caution to be heeded by a woman taking antibiotics, for example. (The same warning is true for a woman mixing hormonal birth control pills with antibiotics.) One way to nourish the digestive flora is to eat organic whole milk yogurt.