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15 Desperately Unsafe Ways Women Gave Themselves Abortions

1973 was a huge year for women's rights. After endless amounts of protests, parades, bills and deaths -- abortion finally became legalized in the United States thanks to the groundbreaking legal case Roe v. Wade.

During this current presidential term of our Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump, this Supreme Court decision has been a hot button political issue. Trump is working to make changes to the national legalization of abortion -- mostly, it seems, to attempt to make abortion illegal once again.

"I’m putting pro-life justices on the court," Trump said about overturning Roe v. Wade. "I will say this. It will go back to the states and the states will then make a determination."

But, what was life like before Roe v. Wade? Personally, abortion has been legalized my entire life. I didn't have to see friends make life-threatening decisions when it came to unwanted pregnancies, a simple trip to a local clinic took care of their decisions in the safest ways possible. However, my ancestors didn't have such simple or, most importantly, safe alternatives when it came to aborting their pregnancies.

In the 1950's and 1960's hospitals across the country had to have units just to treat women who's at-home, back alley abortion techniques turned deadly. These rooms were always full and even had private areas for family to visit when the women couldn't be saved from their actions.

What were these women doing to take care of their unwanted pregnancies themselves? Here are 15 of the most desperate ways women used to end their pregnancies before national legalization:

15 A Bath In Scalding Or Freezing Water

A Bath In Scalding Or Freezing Water

A lot of the archaic forms of abortion stem mostly on hearsay. Women across the world whisper about what they think will cause an abortion and nothing much makes sense. Remember, there were a lot of women before the internet. This first option was a form of torture with no real scientific support -- in other words, not very effective.

Women would force themselves to sit in scalding baths -- or sometimes, ice baths -- in hopes their vaginal mucus membranes open and cause the woman's body to reject the fetus and abort.

Some women, who weren't so keen on full body scalding, would have their friends or sisters pour the boiling water directly on their abdomen in hopes of the same results.

14 Throw Themselves Down The Stairs

Throw Themselves Down The Stairs

We've all seen the movies, a pregnant woman dramatically trips going down the stairs, falls into a pile at the bottom and then the scene cuts to a hospital room where she is told she lost her precious unborn child. While it is extremely tragic if it happens by accident, some women have purposely thrown themselves down flights of stairs in order to miscarry.

The woman in the above photo is actually showing women in a YouTube video how to step by step abort a child by falling down the stairs. That is how tragic this world has become and how common this technique has become over the years.

“Don’t look down because you could back out. Close your eyes, breathe out, and let yourself fall,” the Chilean woman explains in her DIY video.

13 Draining Her Body Of Blood

Bloodletting was an ancient form of abortion before roe v wade.

Bloodletting is about as gross of a procedure as it is a word. The term refers to draining a patient's blood for therapeutic reasons. In this instance, the mothers choose to bleed out in order to (hopefully) out-survive the fetus growing inside of her.

Obviously, during the period in history where it was considered A-OK to drain a woman's blood for any reason, there wasn't a great measuring system for how much blood was just enough to abort the baby yet keep Mom alive. Therefore, many women died from blood loss.

This procedure is no longer used for any reason, much less abortion, since there is absolutely not a single case that supports a positive outcome to bloodletting or ridding the body of "bad blood." In modern times, we do remove patients' blood during blood transfusions, but that blood is replaced with donor blood and never to induce an abortion.

12 Beating Yourself In The Abdomen

Women hit themselves in the abdomen to have an abortion.

It pains me to say that, yes, this is a screenshot of a modern day woman beating her pregnant belly with a hammer, hoping to inflict deadly damage to the growing baby inside. Sadly, this is not a newfound technique and has been used by women for centuries.

Some women had others kick or squeeze their stomachs, while others sat and punched their abdomen as many times as they could physically stand in order to lose the baby.

Things like meat pulverizers, brickbats, canes, or anything else tough enough to do the job was very customary. Many may have employed the help of others to beat them in the stomach while they hoped they weren't causing deadly internal damage to themselves, yet just aborting their fetus.

11 Painkiller-Free Tooth Extraction

Painkiller-free tooth extraction was a way women had abortions through history.

This one sends shivers down my spine just reading about it -- yes, even more so then draining your body of blood and hoping for the best. Back as soon as the 1800s, it was widely thought that getting your tooth pulled would spontaneously cause a woman to miscarry.

Oh, not just pulling a tooth like modern day numb, foggy, drool-a-little tooth extraction. The idea was that pulling the tooth without any kind of pain medication or anesthesia would cause so much pain the woman would go into shock and miscarry.

The fund doesn't end there. Since women didn't always have rotting teeth to have removed, many women opted to pull perfectly healthy teeth just to have a glimmer of hope of losing their baby. Those were desperate times, ladies.

Women and doctors alike fancied this form of DIY abortion since they could camouflage the procedure as "necessary" and not a trip to get an unwanted pregnancy taken care of.

10 A Shot Of Poison

Turpentine was a shot of poison up your vagina to abort your child.

The real question is: what didn't women drink throughout history that they hoped would cause a spontaneous miscarriage? From motor fuel to arsenic to lye to turpentine -- women chugged it hoping something would happen to rid them of their baby.

These women were willing to: gamble their own lives, possibly get arrested, and be publicly shamed instead of add another child to their families. Even if the woman's body didn't rid the baby, the woman still had her fingers crossed the poison would do so much damage to her body that she would be hospitalized and the hospital would be forced to perform the abortion in order to save her life.

If women chose to take a cocktail or prescriptions or insecticides to DIY abort and failed, most of them had children with severe birth defects from being poisoned in the womb.

9 Popping A Squat Over A Pot Of Onions

Women used to sit on a pot of onions to have an abortion.

Similar to scalding their bodies in hot baths or pouring boiling water on their stomachs, Jewish women on the Lower East Side of New York City were often sitting on a cauldron of boiling onions in hopes it would be the catalyst for miscarriage.

This technique was described in 8th century Sanskrit and Jewish women held onto the hopes it worked for centuries afterwards -- far into the 20th century the ritual was still being performed

For the life of me, I cannot understand why women would want to steam-burn their undercarriage with pure onion stench just because they are told it might help them miscarry. However, I was never in such a desperate position, so I cannot be one to judge. It's a depressing situation if you're willing to put your life on the line in order to not become a mother.

8 Extra Tight Girdles

Extra tight girdles are a way women gave themselves abortions throughout history.

A girdle is an easy scapegoat when it came to miscarriage throughout history. Women could easily say they accidentally had it tied too tied and, oops, the baby is miscarried. It was a way women could discreetly miscarry without looking like they intentionally rid the baby from their bodies.

Women in the 1800's could confide in mothers, sisters and friends of their worrying situation and between the two of them get that girdle tight enough to hopefully do some internal damage and cause the body to go into rejection mode.

Obviously, this method was not 100% effective. Most of the times women passed out before damage was done to the fetus. Or, the women would suffer different internal injuries that would leave them much worse off than pregnant.

Just an FYI, this was in a time well before modern day Spanx. Women were tied into girdles with laces so tight ribs could potentially break. A lot different than your high-waisted briefs.

7 Starving Yourself Until The Baby Shriveled

Starving yourself until the baby died was a way to give yourself an abortion.

A barren environment doesn't breed well. If a pregnant woman isn't receiving the proper nutrients, the unborn baby will not thrive. Well, first it will rob the mother of all vitamins and nutrients and when that well runs dry, the baby starts to suffer.

This was the thought process pregnant women banked on when carrying unwanted pregnancies. The mothers-to-be would merely starve themselves until their baby had no choice but to no longer grow.

Starvation may seem like a viable approach to a DIY abortion, however, not giving a woman (let alone a pregnant one) the proper diet for extended periods of time can result in lifelong issues.

This was a popular option among impoverished pregnant women since there wasn't an item or chemical to purchase -- she actually saved money by not having to spend it on food.

6 Dangerous Chemicals Inserted In The V

Dangerous Chemicals Inserted In The Vagina

Whether it be by catheter, homemade tampon, douche or just manually inserted, much like oral poison, woman around the world were pumping their bodies full of any types of poison in hopes of igniting a miscarriage.

Ancient Egyptians have records as far back as the third century recording women making plant-fiber tampons coated with honey and dates -- rumored to stop a pregnancy in its tracks.

Some of the other preferred douches for pregnant woman included: urine, copper sulfate, arsenic, and strychnine. Obviously, absolutely zero of these items sound remotely safe and the end result was never the best when women used poison douches to abort their pregnancies.

Before the modern day syringe was invented, women inserted these chemical douches with bone or horn materials into their vaginas. Ouch.

5 Stabbing The Baby With Anything

Stabbing The Baby With A Coat Hanger

When most people think of back alley abortions, the metal clothes hanger comes to mind. It has been the non-official emblem of the pro-choice movement since Roe v. Wade. However, this apparatus wasn't the only thing women were stabbing up their vaginas in hopes of losing their pregnancies.

The coat hanger technique came around hundreds of years after women had already been stabbing up their vaginas. Women in oceanic areas used to insert whale bones in their vaginas. Other women used glass rods, curling irons, candles, knives, knitting needles, spikes, reeds, sticks, and even some varieties of produce.

As with stabbing oneself anywhere, this method was never foolproof. Many women bled internally after haphazardly stabbing in such a delicate area -- some of which never surviving their dangerous attempts.

4 Inserting A Catheter Into The Cervix

Some doctors chose to help women before abortion was legalized -- disguising abortions as everyday procedures.

One emergency room physician reported an infected woman appearing in his hospital who appeared to have received a dangerous procedure from her hometown doctor.

"One afternoon, my hospital's emergency room paged me to see a gynacology patient with a temperature of 106 degrees Farenheit," the doctor wrote in David Grimes Book, "Every Third Woman In America: How Legal Abortion Transformed Our Nation." "During the pelvic examination, I found a red rubber catheter protruding from her cervix. [...] A dietician in her hometown had inserted the catheter to cause an abortion."

This was an incredibly unsafe procedure and the 16-year old girl suffered a perforated vaginal wall and a herniated small intestine.

3 Jumping Off The Roof And Hoping To Survive

Jumping Off The Roof

When you're talking about jumping off a two-story roof and surviving, your odds are not that great. Well, not great enough for many people to want to try it. However, many pregnant women prior to Roe v. Wade made this dangerous choice as a desperate attempt to abort their pregnancy; Apparently, they thought if they died doing it, so be it.

While this might be a much more productive way to end a pregnancy, it also seems like a good way to end a life -- or severely injure or paralyze yourself.

It must be said, whether abortion is legalized or not, it appears women will not stop trying to do it themselves.

"I just want people to realize that it's not a question of whether abortion is legalized or not, it's a question of whether women are going to have one that is medically safe or terribly unsafe," Dr. Sadja Greenwood.

2 Electrical Shocks

Electrical shocks was a way women gave themselves abortions throughout history.

An archaic method of psychotherapy was electrical shock therapy. Doctors would jolt both women and men with ferocious currents of electricity in order to "cure" them of ailments -- most of the time of the mental variety. The fun didn't end there, though. Doctors were also known to shock pregnant women in order to abort their babies.

In the 1810 book, The Female Medical Repository, it was recommended that the electrical currents could restore discharge and cause the body to rid the fetus.

Some of these shocks were applied in the good old fashioned way around the head of the woman, while other doctors preferred to attach electrodes to women's thighs in order to be closer to the fetus and shock it into evacuation.

This procedure was completed before the electric motor was invented. So many women may have been zapped with the equivalent of the electric chair.

1 Overdosing On Opiates

Overdosing on opiates was a way women gave themselves abortions throughout history.

Back in the day, drugs like opiates and what we consider "hardcore" drugs, nowadays were readily available for consumption at any pharmacy. This made it extremely easy for women to overdose on the substances in a fleeting effort to not be with child.

By the mid 18th century, drugs referred to as "abortifacients" were available to women for purchase. While abortion pills were not legal, they were well known to cause the needed effects desperate women were looking for.

These products became quite the lucrative little drugs for pharmacies, doctors and other healers since women were forced to feel they had no other option than overdosing the hoping for the best outcome for themselves.

Since these drugs killed more women than they helped, they were quickly outlawed and considered poison.

Sources: Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Cracked, Thought Catalog, New York Times, Babygaga, "Abortion In History," Elle, Gizmodo, "The Moral Property Of Women," Thought Co.New York Post, "Every Third Woman In America," Telegraph,

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