Sunday, July 03, 2022

This is from Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles. I spent a year researching abortion prior to Roe v. Wade. What I discovered from the beginning of time if a woman wants to end a pregnancy she will. Now they have a pill that is less dangerous than some of the methods used below.


What women will put in their mouths or up their vaginas to end a pregnancy is horrifying, especially when many of the treatments are poisonous.



All societies have found ways to prevent pregnancies with varying degrees of efficiency.

Sanskrit texts have been found which suggest pressing the front of the testicle with a finger during sex, hopefully blocking sperm from escaping.

Other methods included:

       Sperm-barring suppositories were sometimes covered with honey, acacia leaves, palm leaves, red chalk, even crocodile dung, depending on the locale. They were placed in the vagina to block or create a hostile environment to any ambitious sperm.

       Pessaries such as peach seeds or other items were inserted to block the opening of the uterus and later removed.

       Sea sponges were attached to a string for removal.

       Douching with vinegar and other liquids. Recipe books have been found with abortion methods. Douching methods are available on the internet today. It is a practice used mainly by American women.

       Coitus interruptus (studies in the 1920s showed this was one of the most popular forms in New York).

       Coitus reservatus–the man holds back completely.

       Rhythm–unfortunately a woman’s fertility cycle was not fully understood until the late 19th and 20th century.


The exact history of condoms is lost to us, although in 16th century Italy, Gabriele Falloppio (15231562) claimed to have invented them. His was a chemical-soaked, penis-shaped piece of linen. It was dried before use and tied onto the penis at the base with a ribbon. I wonder if the color of the ribbon was important and how many times the condom was resoaked and reused.

The purpose of the condom was more to stop venereal disease than prevent pregnancy.

Birth control was condemned by Jewish and Roman Catholic leaders in various documents as “a crime against nature.”

Just as women have a variety of terms for their periods, they had a variety of terms for being pregnant and for trying to get rid of it. Most documents of the time thought of the timeframe before the baby quickened as a missed period rather than killing a child. Different phrases were used to explain the process between women discussing the problem or in advertising by abortionists:

       Restoring the menses

       Taking the trade

       Restoring female regularity

       Removing from the system every impurity


Physical Abortion Methods Mentioned in Historical Documents and Art

The methods of pre-modern abortion were varied with differing degrees of efficiency and results:



                 Coconut heated and then laid on the stomach




                 Hot water poured on the abdomen

                 Jumping up and down, touching the buttocks with the heels at each leap

                 Miscarriage-encouraging drugs

                 Pressure on the abdomen

                 Sitting over a pot of steam

                 Sitting over a pot of stewed onions

                 Candles shoved in the cervix (no reference on whether they were lit or not)

                 Any pointed device shoved into the vaginal canal

                 Water flushed into the uterus

                 Liquids of many types, some that burned the vaginal cavity beyond recognition

                 Foreign objects that would create an infection if left in the vaginal canal Surgical attempts were less frequent, but they did exist.

Oral Abortifacients

What women will put in their mouths or up their vaginas to end a pregnancy is horrifying, especially when many of the treatments are poisonous. To them, the risk was better than bearing a child at that time in their lives.

Over the centuries plants and metals have been used to bring on abortions alone or in combinations with varying effectiveness including:



       Diachylon, a mixture of lead and plant juices





       Hellebore, white and black

       Iron chloride

       Iron sulfate

       Italian catnip




       Potassium permanganate tablets



       Savin (juniper)




       Slippery elm

       Spanish fly

       Squirting cucumber


       Tea marjoram



       Watercress seed

       Worm fern or prostitute root

       Spanish fly


*Ergot, a fungus found on rye, was most often used by doctors, nurses, midwives and others for abortion. In the late stage of labor, it reduces hemorrhaging, blood loss and postpartum. The negative effect is that it causes unremitting contractions. If the fetus did not move as expected, the drug could cause the uterus to mold itself around the child, rupturing the uterus and killing the child and/or the mother.


Extreme Oral Abortifacients

Other remedies for unwanted pregnancies flash through historical references. The list may show the desperation to have an abortion. They include:

       Black-tailed deer dissolved in fat

       Camel saliva

       Crushed ants 



Euphemistic Terms in Advertising for Abortion Products and Services

Advertisements during the 1800s for abortion and abortifacients were common until various states declared such advertisements illegal. The words were often couched in delicate terms rather than direct.

       Delayed period

       Female complaints


       Menstrual suppression


       Restoring female regularity

       Removing from the system every impurity








Statistics are one thing, but they don’t reveal the stories behind the statistics. When a woman dies from abortion it is more than the loss of her own life. It hurts her parents, siblings, friends and other children. 


When the woman lives, most often the story stays with the woman. Court records, documentaries, movies, newspaper articles, books have made some of those stories personal. The next section delves into some of these stories.

Friday, July 01, 2022

U.S. is NOT a Christian Country

 I'm sick of hearing the U.S. is a Christian nation and was founded by Christians to reflect this.

It is not.

“The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” This was by John Adams.

George Washington Washington believed in religious freedom. Perhaps the most telltale indication of how religious Washington was came at the end of his life. On his deathbed no priest was called; no minister summoned. In life, he’d imparted to his children the importance of honesty and character, but no mention of religion. 

Thomas Paine wrote “Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God.” 

I suspect the well educated founding fathers knew history and the atrocities committed in the name of a god be it Henry XIII, Mary Tudor, Oliver Cromwell. The early Puritans in New England committed atrocities such as the hanging of Mary Dyer in the name of religion. Why would the founders want to go back to this bigotry and cruelty to prove my god is better than your god?

People who claim the United States is a Christian nation do not know history.


Thursday, June 30, 2022

Tina Turner is Liquid Sex

 A short story from my future anthology of my short stories and poetry.



 “MUM?” Whenever Jennifer turns that one syllable word into four, Stephanie knows whatever comes next, she doesn’t want to hear. The last time her daughter did it, the next sentence tumbling out was, “I’ve been kicked out of school.”

That time, Stephanie had been relieved to learn it was for leading a demonstration against under-funding of school sports. School can’t be an issue. Jennifer graduated two weeks before.

“I know why Tina Turned is liquid sex.” She pops a can of coke.

“Shit!” My daughter has lost her virginity, Stephanie thinks. For a minute she hopes she’s wrong. A glance at Jennifer’s face makes her file the idea under Wishes Impossible.

As one, mother and daughter sink into the hall carpet, their backs to their opposite bedroom doors. Marks on the wallpaper record where their heads have rested so often that Jennifer has renamed the hall, “The Conference Room.”

The grandfather clock chimes 10:00 p.m. Stephanie, tired from a too-long day in court, wants to say, “Just once can’t we hold a major conversation before 10 p.m.?”

She doesn’t.

It’s this particular conversation, she doesn’t want to have. Jennifer reaches up to close her bedroom door, hiding the chaos inside.

Stephanie isn’t thinking about dust balls, larger than the cat, under the bed. She imagines her daughter on the bed, her face washed in passion. The image fades, replaced with flashbacks: Jen’s head pops up over the bumper guard in her crib; Jen at three scooching down to look at a toad during an evening walk in the neighborhood; Jen as Cinderella in a school play.

Memories melt into the present. “Be cool,” Stephanie tells herself — she wants her little girl back.

Fresh from showers, the two women wear oversized T-shirts. Jennifer’s came from a local concert she’d gone to with David. Stephanie’s T-shirt reads, “When I’m old, I’ll wear more purple.” It’s purple, a gift from Barbara, the same friend who had sat in Stephanie’s kitchen six years before holding a conversation that elephant-memory Jennifer just referred to. Once again Jen has tested Stephanie’s resolve to be better mother than her own.

“You aren’t saying anything,” Jennifer crosses her legs Indian style and pushes her long hair, still damp from the shower, out of her eyes.

“We’re not talking about a real Tina Turner concert are we?” Stephanie asks.

Jennifer blushes. “No, well yes, in a way.” The one you and Barbara went to. When I was 12.”

Stephanie remembers her college chum’s visit. They’d sat in her kitchen, a bottle of Pinot Noir and several cheeses between them on the oak table salvaged from Goodwill.

Barbara had come for a conference. To thank Stephanie for saving her from a hotel, she produced two Tina Turner concert tickets.

“Admit it, you came for the concert, not the conference.” Stephanie has cut a piece of Roquefort and put it on a piece of her home-made, three-grain bread.

Barbara did her shrug, the one Stephanie knew said, “You caught me. Tina’s incredible. I can’t believe the energy. Two hours and she never stopped moving.”

“And she’s older than we are,” Stephanie had said.

“That woman is liquid sex,” Barbara bit a piece of bread spread thickly with Boursin.” She picked up her glass. “Love red wine with that cheese.”

Jennifer sat in a chair in the family room part of the kitchen. Closing her book, Blubber which she was reading for the fourth time, asked, “Why is Tina Turner like liquid sex?”

“Ooops. Didn’t know she was around,” Barbara had said. She wasn’t the type to mouth clich├ęs about big ears and little pitchers. Neither was Stephanie, but her mother would have said that.

“Don’t worry Barb,” Stephanie said. “Jen, we’ll discuss when you become sexually active. Stephanie had forgotten the conversation — until now.

The phone rings.

“Let the machine pick it up, Please, “Jennifer says when she sees it’s her grandmother.

The recording says, “Meow. This is Caramel. My owners can’t come to the phone ‘cause they are doing dumb people things. Leave a message and I’ll say you called. Tell them to give me catnip.”

Jennifer, bored with the normal, “No one can come to the phone …” had recorded the message a week ago.

“Hello Jennifer. Tell your mother that that is not a proper message for an attorney. Call Granny when you can. I want to take you shopping, Saturday. Oh, and Jennifer. Tell your mother that it is not a proper message for an attorney. Call Grammy back.”

Stephanie tenses, disliking herself for once again letting her mother get to her. Instead, she says, “I assume it was David.”

“Of course.” Jennifer looks at her mother sideways. “Last night.”

Caramel ambles over placing himself between mother and daughter. Jennifer scoops him up. Purrs barely drown out Stephanie’s racing heart.

Stephanie thinks how as she’d eaten dinner with her date, her daughter’s hymen was disappearing. Floating in her brain is the annoyance that when her date had propositioned her, she’d said, “Let’s not rush it.” Mother and daughter had started dating the men the same day. Her daughter had rushed it.

“This morning, you asked me if I got lucky.” Stephanie reaches for the Coke and takes a long swig. “I wish I’d said, no, did you?”

Jennifer looks at the cat. “David was worried, you’d come home and find us.”

Stephanie’s eyes drift toward Jennifer’s room where it happened. She wonders why she feels so uncomfortable.

Hasn’t she spent all of Jen’s life trying to develop an honest relationship?” Then when Jen comes to her the way she always wanted, all she wants to do is to cover her ears and say, “Stay my little girl.”

Jennifer stretches and turns. She lays on the rug, putting her head in her mother’s lap. The cat curls up in the hollow of Jennifer’s tummy, reminding Stephanie of her daughter in a sleeping bag in a corner of the classroom, where Stephanie plodded toward her law degree. Jennifer takes the Coke from her mother. “I told him you’d be cool. He asked what I’d thought you’d say.”

Just yesterday, Stephanie  had told her secretary how much she liked David. That was before he deflowered her daughter. Deflowered?

She pictures him sprawled on their worn couch saying how he wanted to open a clinic in his old neighborhood after med school. His idealism reminds Stephanie of Jen’s father. A bomb in Vietnam had put an end to his idealism.

“What did you say?”

“I said you’d ask if we practiced safe sex?”

“Did you?”

“Of course. I borrowed a condom from your dresser. Safe from babies, safe from AIDS.”

“Good.” Stephanie pictures her daughter at five in a hospital bed after the car accident that made her a widow for the second time The image is replaced by Jen starting first grade still on crutches.

She sees the two of them writing down Jen’s rules each fall for the new school year. “If you’ve done something wrong, tell your mother before she finds out.” Sometimes Stephanie thought that one was a mistake, because Jen felt she could really mess up then confess.

The rules were posted on Jen’s bedroom door, provoking a number of clucks from Stephanie’s mother, who also clucked at the worn furniture, Stephanie’s insistence of getting her J.D., at Jennifer’s unshined shoes — almost everything Stephanie did or didn't do.

Stephanie’s earned her mother’s contempt because she never stayed home as a “proper mother” should.

“I’m teaching my daughter how to survive in the world,” Stephanie had hollered at her mother one night.

“Spend the energy in finding another husband, “her mother had said.

She and her mother will never agree. No common ground exists between them.

“There’s no common ground between her and her secretary either. She’d found Maureen in the ladies room, her head on the sink, dissolved in tears.

“What’s wrong?” She scooped Maureen into her arms.

“I found birth control pills in Mary-Catherine’s school bag.” Mary-Catherine is Maureen’s 15-year-old daughter.

“At least you don’t have to worry about her being pregnant.”

“It’s a sin to practice birth control,” Maureen had said.

Stephanie didn’t know what to say.

“Mum?” Jennifer’s voice brings Stephanie back. “You unhappy?”

“No honey, I’m not.” Stephanie strokes Jen’s damp head resting on her lap.

“You always told me to make my first time worthwhile? I did.”

Stephanie laughs. “I’m thinking of my best friend in high school.”


“Yes. In my day, the idea was only bad girls had sex before marriage, but she was too in love to wait. Anyway, her mother noticed her period was late. Claire confessed all. Her mother took her to the doctor, but Claire wasn’t pregnant.”

“What’s funny in that’”

“On the way home, Claire’s mother said to her. “'Oh Dear.’ She started a lot of sentences with ‘oh dear.’ Then she said, ‘I suppose now you’ve done it once, you’ll want to keep doing it.”

“That’s neat. What year?”

“Nineteen fifty-nine.”

“What would Grammy have done?”

“She talked a lot about keeping a boy’s respect. Translation: Don’t do it. But when I was about to marry your father she told me, if he respected me, he wouldn’t want to do it very often.” Stephanie pushes Jen’s head off her lap and stretches.

“Did Daddy respect you?”

“Thank goodness no. And neither did your stepfather.”

“I want to keep doing it. I don’t want David’s respect like that.”

“I want what you want.” She means it more than any thing she’s ever told her daughter. “And if David wants to stay over, it’s okay.”

Standing, they hug. Jennifer is a good five inches taller than her mother. “I’m going to bed. Early shift tomorrow.” She works as a guard at the Holiday Inn pool.

Stephanie can’t swim.

“I took your last condom. I’ll replace it tomorrow. Her bedroom door click shut, almost a whisper.

Stephanie looks at her closed door before going across the hall to her own room. She feels very old, but it’s all right. As she falls asleep she hears Tina Turner singing “Simply the Best" from Jen’s room.