New York Magazine


- julia craven

scouring the internet for answers on “how to have an abortion at home” will dredge up results that read like school-bus gossip: Some, like douching with Coca-Cola or taking a lot of vitamin C, are unlikely to be life-threatenin­g, but they’re also extremely unlikely to end your pregnancy.

Other methods are blatantly unsafe. They include inserting anything into the vagina, which poses a high risk of infection and sepsis; ingesting toxic substances, such as turpentine, bleach, and other household chemicals; and any type of physical trauma, such as hitting oneself in the abdomen or throwing oneself down the stairs. “These are all things that people heartbreak­ingly try to do to end their pregnancie­s due to lack of access to clinical care, or lack of informatio­n or awareness of safer methods,” says Heidi Moseson, a senior research scientist at Ibis Reproducti­ve Health.

Between the states that have affirmativ­ely safeguarde­d abortion access, abortion funds, and networks like Aid Access that get pills safely to those seeking to terminate a pregnancy, there will be medical options for abortion seekers even after Roe. Still, there have always been people who turn to undergroun­d alternativ­es. There are two DIY techniques particular­ly likely to reemerge because they never totally went away. One is the at-home vacuum aspiration, and the other requires consuming a concoction of herbs.

Many community abortion providers have used manual vacuum

aspirators (MVAs) safely and effectivel­y for decades, according to Sarah Prager, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington. The devices were designed as a way to empty the uterus outside the clinic by non-clinicians, she says. And its design has evolved with each

generation of community providers. While an MVA is a specific device that looks a bit like an oversize syringe, many devices function similarly—such as the Del-Em, which is an early model still in use, sometimes made with jars and tubing. The process, which lasts about ten minutes, creates a similar sensation to having an IUD placed, Prager says. Experts caution that the risks that come with not finding a

skilled provider are high. If the person performing the abortion has no knowledge of sterilizat­ion, there’s a high chance of infection. In addition, the uterus can be perforated, risking internal bleeding and damaging nearby organs.

Herbal abortions are thought to be the oldest method of ending pregnancy, but little is documented in western research literature on its efficacy, according to Moseson and Prager. Proper dosage can vary from person to person and herb to herb. And improper dosage or use can result in adverse outcomes,

including death. TikTokers have suggested concocting tea blends that incorporat­e herbs like mugwort, wormwood, or yarrow root, plants that, yes, have been historical­ly used to induce abortion. However, administer­ing without proper dosing, or without ensuring an herb doesn’t interact with any prescripti­on medication­s, invites a real possibilit­y of serious side effects. Large amounts of ginkgo biloba, for instance, could potentiall­y increase the risk of bleeding for people taking blood thinners or ibuprofen.

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