This article is transcribed from a discussion on “Ecofeminism.” Here we see that the Ginette Paris’ writings on “Abortion as a Sacrifice to Artemis,” have a wider recognition among feminist and Wiccan groups. Paris’ “Sacrament of Abortion” is not an isolated idea, but is accepted among a growing number of abortionists.
The following discussion took place among a group of women on Birthing and Abortion. The discussions were transcribed by Cathleen and Colleen McGuire and resemble the minutes of a meeting.
– Jay Rogers
A Feminist Reading Assignment
Date Readings Were Discussed: October 5, 1992
“Abortion as a Sacrifice to Artemis” by Ginette Paris. From Pagan Meditations: The Worlds of Aphrodite, Artemis, and Hestia, By Ginette Paris, Spring Publications, 1991.
“Toward a Womanist Analysis of Birth” by Arisika Razak From Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism, edited by Diamond, Irene and Gloria Feman Orenstein,.San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1990.
Present: Catherine C., Colleen M., Robin Z., Gwendolyn C., Cynthia L., Molly R., Stephanie R., and Cathleen M
Birthing & Abortion
This month’s discussion on birthing and abortion compelled the women present to contemplate the themes of life and death. Voicing our sentiments, Arisika Razak writes: “Birth is the primary numinous event … the first act of magic.” Although much of the magic has been lost through male-dominated obstetrics, we were clear that self-determination of the birthing process must be reclaimed. As an alternative to anesthesia, one woman told of an acquaintance who is a stand-up comic. By cracking jokes during her daughter’s labor, spontaneous laughter released endorphins, facilitating a smooth joyous birth. Another woman intrigued us with an article which suggested that ancient mothers may have eaten their placentas in a postpartum feast of renourishment. One woman intends to ask her mother, a midwife, whether it is true that hospitals sell placentas – rich in hormonal nutrients – to drug companies. We felt this was an unethical expropriation of women’s magic.
Complementing Razak’s essay on birth, Ginette Paris’s article on abortion confirmed that the goddess is paradoxically both “protector of life and giver of death.” Women offered examples from nature of the ways in which death often sustains life. One woman explained that to ensure a fertile garden, excess sprouts are pulled so that the overall crop can thrive. Another woman mentioned a recent scientific article describing how certain animals eat their young so that the rest of the litter will survive. In this vein, we agreed with Paris that “the excessive use of women’s fecundity brings about ecological catastrophe.” One woman remarked that it would be a planetary disaster if every human egg conceived actually survived. In affirming women’s innate ability to self-regulate, she declared that many miscarriages are natural forms of abortion. Although most of us believe that a fetus at a minimum has a psychic consciousness, our support for abortion was grounded in a profound understanding that, as in nature, the taking of life is sometimes necessary. One woman remarked that for millennia abortion was carried out responsibly, conscientiously, and sacredly. A woman’s decision to sacrifice a fetus was contingent upon the resource capacities of the woman, her community, and the earth. As Paris writes, “Birth control and abortion may be highly developed forms of feminine conscious, upon whose exercise and refinement the equilibrium of the entire human community may depend.”
One woman philosophized that with the rise of patriarchy humans began to conceptualize themselves above and apart from nature and the cycles of life. The control of death became an obsession inevitably matched by an impulse to control life and, by extension, those who produce life, i.e. women. As men muscled in on that exclusive female domain, women’s power to make sacrificial choices for ecological harmony became stigmatized and eventually usurped. One woman asserted that war, genocide, mass starvation, and targeting females for infanticide are but a few of patriarchy’s unconscious and perverse versions of population control. She also speculated that womb envy may have been a seminal cause for the rise of patriarchy. Several women longed for a society in which it would be truly safe for women to share reproduction and abortion decision-making with men in both the public and private spheres. Most of us, however, were adamant that the actual birth-givers themselves should always have ultimate say-so over whether to abort a fetus or carry it to term.
Although we all unequivocally support women’s legal right to abortion, a few women were ambivalent about the politics of defending clinics which, for the most part, practice AMA-oriented gynecology. They wondered how productive it is to expend so much of our energy buttressing technological solutions instead of struggling for a revival and proliferation of effective natural means to limit births. One woman said chemical birth control is just one big toxic experimentation on women. Other women expressed dismay that so many feminists and health activists regard hormonal technologies such as RU486 as beneficial to women. The last thing women need is more corporate pharmaceutical colonization of our bodies. We recognized that for thousands of centuries women practiced birth control respectfully and safely with an array of natural herbal remedies. Ancient wise-women techniques are practical, inexpensive, and still work. Instead of tethering ourselves to the misogyny of modern science, we advocate actively supporting women-identified groups.