An increasingly hostile abortion climate, bans in Texas, limitations on when and whether minors can have abortions, and little or no insurance funding for abortion have conspired to create a tragic reality: many pregnant people now attempt to self-induce their own abortions. In the wake of Texas’s 2018 abortion bans, 8% of women attempted to induce their own abortions. So what about “natural” herbal abortions? Are they safe? The short answer is no. Here’s what you need to know.
Herbal Abortions 101
Herbal abortions use a variety of drugs to induce a miscarriage, either by poisoning the fetus, inducing uterine contractions, or both. When an herbal abortion is successful, it causes a miscarriage, which may trigger cramping and bleeding. The symptoms of a miscarriage are indistinguishable from those of an herbal abortion. This means that if you need medical care following an herbal abortion, your doctor won’t be able to tell you self-induced an abortion.
Traditional societies and midwives have used herbal tinctures for thousands of years. But like other herbal remedies, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.
Are Herbal Abortions Safe?
There is some emerging research suggesting that there may eventually be a way to safely induce an herbal abortion. The challenge is that, for now, researchers have not tested and fully vetted the safety of various herbal abortifacients. Instead, people must rely on folk wisdom and word of mouth–neither of which are particularly reliable.
Even if you take the right herbs, you might take them at the wrong dose, or in a way that dangerously interacts with other medications. Herbal remedies are not fully regulated, which means the labels may be misleading, and the quality of the product can vary from bottle to bottle. This can cause poisoning, intense pain, and even death. Moreover, it is difficult to discern whether a home miscarriage is complete, which poses a high risk of infection.
The temptation to self-manage an abortion is intense, especially for people who want more control over their medical care and who prefer natural remedies. But until there’s more research, an herbal abortion is just not a safe option.