While women have been helping other women have abortions for centuries, self-induced abortions have an equally long history. (“The New Abortion Underground,” by Nina Liss-Schultz, Mother Jones, March/April, 2018, pg. 49). Generally, the procedures were safe. Nonetheless, in the late nineteenth century, a fledgling institution, The American Medical Association, (AMA) campaigned to criminalize the activity. Their goal wasn’t to protect women, according to writer Nina Liss-Schultz, but “to monopolize the market and restrict competition from midwives.” (Ibid pg. 49.) To justify their agenda, they wrapped themselves in a vision of a white America and called it patriotism.
…Anglo-Saxon American women should reject abortion to preserve cultural dominance. ‘Shall [America] be filled by our own children or by those of aliens?’ (Ibid. pg. 49.)
These white males, joined by conservative Christians, managed to rob women of their reproductive rights. Over time, women forgot how to self-induce and, thanks to the AMA, midwifery fell into disrepute. Not until 1973, when a group of women published Our Bodies, Ourselves, did females have a plain-speaking manual that reacquainted them with their bodies. Not surprisingly, among the first lessons was how to self-examine one’s vagina .
In the same year, the U. S. Supreme Court legalized abortion. (Click) Women regained reproductive authority over themselves, and the AMA’s stranglehold was over. The religious right continues to fight, however. In some states, they have managed to pass legislation so narrow, the term “legal abortion” is meaningless.
Not surprisingly, women are opposing these setbacks. Midwifery has returned with a vengeance. Women from all walks of life have joined the new movement, dedicated to a common goal: to teach and/or assist other women to abort safely at home. The era of the wire coat hanger is over, even in communities where no abortion clinic exists.
Needless to say, the interest in self-induced abortion is skyrocketing. Family planning isn’t a charity. It’s a woman’s right.
Sadly, this new liberation comes at a time when the manual which started the revolution has died. Our Bodies, Ourselves, which continued to publish revised editions over the years, has been forced to shut its doors, due to a lack of funds. (Click) Perhaps they have succeeded in their mission. I like to think so.