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Contraception's medieval flashback on TikTok

Videos promoting the ingestion of herbs as a DIY abortion method are on the rise on TikTok

Contraception's medieval flashback on TikTok Videos promoting the ingestion of herbs as a DIY abortion method are on the rise on TikTok

The US Supreme Court's decision to overturn the landmark Roe vs. Wade ruling has set the country and the status of women back decades, to a time of obscurantism and clandestinity, and is prompting those who want an abortion but can no longer do so to seek alternative methods, especially online. There are those who defy the risk of being banned by Meta societies by trying to get abortion pills on Instagram and Facebook, and those who, gripped by desperation, try one of the herbal 'potions' proposed by TikTok users. As a survey by Input Mag pointed out, videos recommending poisonous herbs to cure "menstrual delay" are racking up millions of views on the Chinese app: the hashtag #pennyroyaltea (nothing to do with the Nirvana song of the same name) and #mugwort, believed to be abortive herbs, have 1.1 million and more than 157 million views respectively. Similar results were reported by Google, which recorded an 86% increase in searches for "do-it-yourself abortion", 62% for "pennyroyal" and 68% for "mugwort" over the past month.

Tiktoker @amidnightwitch, who has often ethically addressed issues of magic and is now leading an awareness battle against the use of these herbal preparations, shows how by typing #witch, #witchcraft and #witchtok or keywords such as "ab0rti0n" in an attempt to circumvent content guidelines can easily end up on feeds that talk about alleged natural abortion remedies, such as the use of mixtures of papaya seeds, goji berries, black cohosh, chamomile, evening primrose oil and mugwort.

@tales_apothecary This is a rough time for our generation no doubts. Stay educated and stay safe please. #fyp #rowvwade #roevwade #women #foryoupage #rights #abcxyz #foryou original sound - rinkomaniaa

Many videos do not directly promote abortion, but to avoid possible legal repercussions they use phrases such as "don't do it at all" or "Please don’t buy mugwort tea if you’re pregnant because it will cause a miscarriage!" even though they are in fact suggesting a DIY abortion technique to desperate women and to many young, uninformed women who are more susceptible to misinformation. As many doctors who seek to curb the phenomenon keep repeating, the safest abortions are medical and surgical, effective and thoroughly researched procedures, while there is no evidence to support the use of herbs for this purpose. On the contrary. These concoctions could have very dangerous effects, even death. Among the most commonly cited abortifacients on TikTok is pennyroyal or pennyroyal mint, a plant also used in essential oils or insect repellents. This herb contains pulegone which, when metabolized in the body, forms toxins that can cause liver necrosis. Side effects of its ingestion can include vomiting and abdominal pain, but also convulsions, coma, liver failure and death. Another plant that has been suggested as an abortifacient on the Chinese app is blue cohosh, which among its properties has methylcytosine. In high doses, this alkaloid can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, excessive drooling, cardiac arrhythmias, muscle weakness, convulsions, coma and death.

Abortion cannot be banned, only safe abortion. This is what millions of people around the world keep repeating to those who continue to deny them the right to choose, pointing out how making the termination of pregnancy a criminal act results in the proliferation of illegal abortions that endanger women's lives. Throughout history, many DIY remedies have been tried: from the ancient Greeks who drank wine laced with sylph, pepper and myrrh, to the women of the 1950s who drank straight gin in boiling baths to the use of coat hangers. If you think this is the past, you are sadly mistaken. According to a 2015 survey, between 100,000 and 240,000 women between the ages of 18 and 49 in Texas tried to terminate a pregnancy on their own. The most common method reported was taking the illegally produced Misoprostol, as well as 'herbs or homeopathic remedies, being hit or punched in the abdomen, using alcohol or illicit drugs, or taking hormone pills'. Now, after the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, herbal abortion remedies are becoming popular again. What will be the next chilling step? When will women and every other individual be allowed to decide freely for themselves?