A Note from the School Nurse, by Harper’s Staff
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November 1993 Issue [Readings]

A Note from the School Nurse


From a one-page handout on “herbal abortion” distributed as part of a sex-education class last spring to students, some as young as fourteen, at the Cazadero Academy, a private high school in northern California. After receiving complaints that the remedy could be dangerous, a school administrator explained to a reporter that she had “told the kids [that] if they are going to attempt an abortion on their own, they should also have guidance from a midwife.”

This is a very difficult task. It should be undertaken only if you are very clear that this is what you want to do. It requires a great deal of focus of time and energy, and clarity of mind and heart.

If started early in pregnancy, the process can take a few days; if not, it can take several weeks, which is agonizing. Be prepared to test for pregnancy within a day or two of your first missed period.

Herbs: Black and blue cohosh will be used, and can be supplemented with pennyroyal.

Soak one ounce of each herb in one quart of vodka for two weeks, then decant the herb into clean, dark bottles for storage. Take about one ounce of the tincture per day (in at least four separate doses) until bleeding begins.

The tincture tastes vile, especially when you’re pregnant, so you may want to chase it with a pleasant-tasting drink. Hold your breath and chug the tincture, then immediately swallow the chaser before breathing. If there is no bleeding after two weeks, you may need to increase the dose.

Your body naturally resists this treatment. At some point you will want to stop. When this happens, you should instead increase the dosage. You will feel ill, and have strange dreams and backaches.

Bleeding should be normal, perhaps with heavy cramping. Clotting is normal, and the placenta usually passes toward the end of the bleeding.

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