It’s not crazy to want to participate in the fate of your cunt. And—surprise!—choosing to have an abortion doesn’t have to mean paying a wealthy HMO to do it. For those of us unhappy with inviting chemicals or surgery into the abortion scene, menstrual extraction (ME) is an alternative option that can be safe, effective & cheap.
While herbal abortion may be the most visible abortion option in radical culture, menstrual extraction provides another clear alternative to participating in the “health care” industry. And, despite what the medical profession, the church, and the state want you to believe, reclaiming this low-tech reproductive technology is possible, and it can be safe.
The first time this anarcha-feminist got pregnant, she also got a little confused. I didn’t want to be pregnant. But I also didn’t want to call some receptionist at a Planned Parenthood clinic, schedule an appointment, meet a doctor, fall asleep, and wake up groggy & un-pregnant, problem solved! I wanted to participate in my abortion, and I didn’t want to be separated from the physical & emotional sensations of it. Amazingly, I was lucky enough to have access to an experienced menstrual extraction practitioner, and I had the privilege of turning what could’ve been one of the most traumatic experiences in my life into one of the most empowering.
In the ME procedure, the contents of the uterus (i.e. the fetus) are manually suctioned out using equipment you can gather in your own kitchen and a science supply store for under $100. It usually lasts 15-30 minutes, and the pain is like experiencing a regular cycle worth of menstrual cramps in a few minutes. Yeah, it hurts, but I could take it. There’s no anesthesia, no painful & traumatic dilation of the cervix, and no high powered vacuums involved.
Oh yeah, and it’s illegal. A menstrual extraction performed on a woman without a confirmed pregnancy is legal, and can be used to get rid of an inconvenient period. But as soon as a fertilized egg is present, whoever’s performing it can be charged with practicing medicine without a license & lots of other bullshit. Obviously, anything that provides women with easy access to reproductive control should be outlawed.
The procedure was developed underground in 1970 by Los Angeles feminist activists, & was all the rage till ’73 when Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. The legal availability of surgical abortion pretty much squashed the ME movement, despite ME’s potential to serve as a low-cost abortion option for poor folks. There was somewhat of a menstrual extraction revival in the early 90’s, when the Supreme Court granted states new leeway to regulate abortion and fear was once again struck in the hearts of the pro-choice masses. Activists toured the country doing menstrual extraction workshops, selling ME kits, and showing the video “No Going Back” which demonstrates the specifics on how to perform an extraction.
That was the last time menstrual extraction surfaced into the public spotlight. Underground, though, the body of knowledge surrounding menstrual extraction still exists, as do networks of experienced women who’ve been performing them for 30 years—but these practitioners are few and far between. It’s amazing how many anarchist ladies & reproductive rights activists have never heard of this technique, which has the potential to change the way women experience abortion. It’s amazing that in 2002—30 years after the legalization of abortion—I found myself making a secret phone call and using code words to obtain an abortion. Roe v. Wade may have granted women the legal right to obtain publicly acceptable forms of abortion, but it didn’t grant me access to the low-tech, empowering abortion I wanted. Rebecca Chalker’s book “A Woman’s Book of Choices: Abortion, Menstrual Extraction, & RU-486” offers specifics on the procedure & equipment. But don’t be fooled: this is not a self-abortion technique, and not something you can do hastily. Menstrual extraction needs to be researched and practiced in the context of a women’s self-help or gynecological self-care group, under the guidance of a skilled practitioner. I am not a health care provider or doctor, but I am an anarchist, a feminist, and someone really grateful for having had access to a menstrual extraction.
The SlingShot Collective would like to add that Menstrual Extraction can ONLY be performed in the earliest stages of pregnancy, sometimes up to 7 weeks if you dilate the cervix. Also. anytime you extract things from the uterus there is a risk of infection, so insuring absolute cleanliness throughout the process is a necessity. Additionally, taking a pregnancy test is advisable, especially after an ME, to make sure that everything in the uterus was indeed extracted.