John M. Riddle’s Eve’s Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West and Catherine Marie Jeunet’s Reclaiming Our Ancient Wisdom: Herbal Abortion Procedure and Practice for Midwives and Herbalists, both ★★★★
It’s time for another #SpellbookSaturday reading recommendation, and this week is a “two-for-one!” Now, as many of my followers likely already know, I am staunchly pro-choice. Absolutely no one else should make decisions about if, when, and under what circumstances individuals have children, thus preventing us from exerting agency over our work, lives, relationships, and bodies. As far as I’m concerned, bodily autonomy is our birthright, its pursuit a pillar of radical self-care, and abortion is healthcare— end of discussion.
The fact is, humans have been using methods of birth control to prevent and end pregnancies for millennia. This history is thoughtfully and thoroughly illuminated in Eve’s Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West. Author John M. Riddle gives readers a comprehensive history on the subject, with chapters including “Ancient and Medieval Beliefs,” “From Womancraft to Witchcraft,” and “The Womb as Public Territory.” It was especially interesting to see the shift in cultural beliefs, particularly around the existence of a soul, paralleling the rise of Christianity, though it was personally rather infuriating, as a non-Christian. (Side note: hearing Christians talk about experiencing religious persecution drives me crazy—do you not understand just how much of western culture you’ve dominated?)
As something of a companion piece to Eve’s Herbs, I found the zine Reclaiming Our Ancient Wisdom: Herbal Abortion for Midwives and Herbalists to be particularly informative. Catherine Marie Jeunet provides readers with a concise and informative overview of commonly used herbal abortifacients, detailing efficacy, risks, and protocol, with a disclaimer from the publisher:
“As a working guide this information must be taken very seriously. Herbal abortion, like many health care procedures, carries certain risks. The information contained within this pamphlet is for the education of the reader, but does not constitute a comprehensive set of instructions.”
Reclaiming Our Ancient Wisdom provides useful information for herbalists, midwives, and birthing-folk looking to take control of their reproductive futures through plant-based medicines.
In conclusion, I’d like to add that though this knowledge is indeed empowering, it may not be appropriate for all, and just as I would not presume to judge one’s reasoning for ending a pregnancy, I also recognize that the procedure is as deeply personal as the decision. For this reason, I would like to acknowledge the incredible work of organizations like Plan C, a campaign to educate folks on self-managed abortion pills, and the Yellowhammer Fund, a nonprofit abortion fund and reproductive justice organization serving Alabama and the Deep South. Donations may be made to both organizations, and I would encourage all who are able to offer financial support.
And finally, I’ll implore you all one more time to VOTE like your rights depend on it— ’cause honey, they do.
LOOKING FOR MORE READING RECOMMENDATIONS?