Herbal Abortion is not D.I.Y.

I ate chocolate pudding while I waited for the home pregnancy test to react in the bathroom. It’s funny how the packages all make it sound as if we’re dying to have babies. Well, some people have died trying to get safe abortions. I didn’t want to end my pregnancy with drugs or surgery, if possible, and this is a lot of the information I found out about herbal abortions.

Abortion isn’t about playing god anymore than anarchism is. If we as anarchists support self-determination, then the moral component of the abortion debate becomes defunct. Abortion is killing, but not murder. Americans would like to think that death is avoidable, and for that reason liberals have tried to sugarcoat a women’s right to choose with an it’s-not-about-the-fetus argument that disregards the emotional intensity that everyone I know has experienced when choosing to abort. When we recognize that something is dying—if only a possibility of life—then it’s possible to grieve and move forward.

In countries where abortions is legal, accessible and (gasp!) subsidized—most of Western Europe—pregnancies result in 1/3 to term, 1/3 miscarried, 1/3 aborted. These are Catholics, folks. Most women who seek abortion are over 20, many with children already. The “posterchild” (16, whore) for anti-choice campaigns is just as deserving, but less common than they’d like you to think.

So, it’s not rare, and it shouldn’t be shameful, to abort a fetus if one reasonably believes it’s a bad idea to bring another life into the world for any reason.

It’s all connected

From a purely biological perspective, birth control and abortion are dialects of the same language. Barrier and spermicidal methods generally prevent contraception by killing or averting sperm, hormones prevent ovulation or inhibit implantation of the embryo and “abortion” is the detachment and removal of the fetus from the lining of the uterus. But depending on your view, all of these things could be fucking with nature. If this bothers you, think about where you sleep and what you eat: we alter nature all the time, and some of it is really beautiful. Some of it, well, read the rest of this paper.

This is not DIY

While understanding herbal medicine can help each of us monitor our own health, by no means is abortion something to be undertaken alone. Besides the psychological crap, from the world and our own brains, inducing abortion is physically taxing. Don’t spare your partner’s weak stomach—they had a hand in this. Whether a one night stand or a long term partnership, it’s always the work of two. It’s fair to demand support and TLC. If you’re reading this as a partner or supporter, don’t wait to be asked! Offer to help without being condescending. She deserves to be cranky at this stage.

First you should know

Let me preface this section with a big disclaimer: I am not a doctor or health care practitioner. Though several herbalists and alternative health care practitioners were interviewed to verify safety, etc., everyone’s body is different. If you believe you need to use an abortifacient, at least give your doctor or local clinic a call. They may freak out, but it’s NECESSARY to have somewhere to go in case you hemorrhage. My homeopath was really supportive and offered more ideas for taking care of myself. If you choose to use any of the methods listed here, and they do not cause a miscarriage, you must receive a medical or surgical abortion. Also, don’t go it alone. Your body will really appreciate the support of someone cooking, massaging, accompanying you through this.


Two complimentary herbs that work together are black and blue cohash. One strengthens the uterus and the other induces contractions. Other herbs to combine (often referred to in herb guides as “harmful to pregnancy”) are angelica, parsley leaf and root, tansy, rue, and cotton root bark. If you decide to use pennyroyal tea, be sure to drink it hot while you are warm (think: in a hot bath). NEVER, ever, ever ingest pennyroyal oil, as you will die. It’s lethal. If you use homeopathics, take a 30c remedy of cauliphylum with the herbs. While you are taking any abortifacient, and generally for endocrine health, it’s good to also take nettle tea. It may help shorten hemorrhaging afterward and help you return to a normal menstrual cycle. Getting sufficient iron, magnesium and calcium from greens will also quicken physical recovery. Arnica, after your bleeding has slowed, will also help recovery.

The best way to take many herbs is by an infusion—a tea steeped over night and often reheated to ingest. Drink at least a quart a day as soon as you miss your period. Tinctures—distillation of herbs into alcohol—are the strongest remedy (therefore, most likely to work) and require either an herbalist or several weeks preparation. Choose a clear liquor (vodka is good) and soak the dried herb in a sealed container for 3 weeks to 3 months. Then, dilute the solution with half water and take a daily dosage of an eyedropper full 3 times a day. If you are having sex that could get you pregnant, it’s a good idea to prepare one just in case you need it in the future. Once you’re pregnant, you don’t have time to wait for distillation.

For most efficacy, take no more than two herbs at once, and for at most a week at a time. If you’ve tried two remedies, and haven’t started bleeding, see a doctor. Whatever’s inside you has been subject to enough toxicity that you need a medical or surgical abortion. After 6-8 weeks, it’s probably too late to induce abortion yourself.

Thoughts on self-care

-Take sick days, if you work and can.

-Allow a friend or lover to help you out.

-Write or draw or talk or meditate on your -thoughts and expectations and emotions.

-Prepare for some grief, but don’t force it.

-Eat food that doesn’t traumatize your body, and some that’s just plain comforting.

-Talk about it, to people you feel safe with.

Regardless of whether herbal abortion works, there is something satisfying about understanding your body and how it responds. As much as Western medicine has tried to distance women (and men) from their bodies, we can take ourselves back. Reproduction isn’t an abstract argument over population, it’s a personal choice and experience that most of us face eventually. And because each of us will respond according to our own lives and realities, we should have as many tools available as possible to help us through it.