Today, disconnected from the resourcefulness we cultivated before institutionalized science, women have come to rely on surgery and Western pharmaceuticals to end pregnancies they don’t wish to continue.
As a writer who spent the last two years researching the herbal remedies of the granny midwives of Appalachia for my novel in progress, I began with the question of how “abortion” worked before modern medicine. It turns out this question is far too specific: Women didn’t always have that language for stopping pregnancy from advancing. The contemporary imagination that draws lines between fertility, conception, and personhood is relatively new. When doctors were unwilling to treat women, ancestral lore allowed them to care for themselves and each other.