Abortion Bouquet
An Action

On May 2, 2022, the news organization Politico published a leaked Supreme Court document--an initial early draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito--that overturns the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights.

UPDATE: Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022.

"Not if you add a dose of pennyroyal?"

- a punchline by Hermes in "Peace," an ancient Greek play, 421 B.C.E.,

by comic playwright Aristophanes aka The Father of Comedy

Plants used to terminate a pregnancy--aka abortifacients--have a long history in world societies. The names of herbal abortifacients populate literature from ancient Egyptian cuneiform texts and Greek and Roman plays of classical antiquity to early medieval illustrated herbals and Islamic medical texts. Even ancient Greek coins were minted with the image of a giant fennel-like plant long known primarily for its contraceptive and abortifacient qualities and which became a major commodity crop exported around the Mediterranean in Greco-Roman times for this very reason.

The early modern period's " father of botany" himself, Carl Linnaeus, listed five abortifacient plants
in his ground-breaking work on plant species classification. Historically in the Americas, Native American indigenous societies and First Nation peoples of Canada had extensive knowledge of antifertility and abortifacient plants while European exploration in the New World yielded dozens of new and previously unknown species of plants historically used to terminate pregnancies. In early America, midwives, apothecaries and physicians employed a wide range of antifertility botanical agents in their practices and knowledge of abortifacient plants was shared amongst enslaved women.

Much of this plant abortifacient knowledge has been lost. In great part because, today, medical abortions are one of the safest procedures you can have. In like manner, self-administered medication abortion with pills--now the most common way to end an unwanted pregnancy--are an FDA-approved safe option. But new or proposed laws in many states have curtailed, restricted or outright banned abortions. My own state of Texas has passed some of the most draconian laws in the entire country including criminalization of those who perform or assist in abortions, including a $10K bounty enforced by private citizens.

Roe v. Wade--the landmark Supreme Court case that would guarantee abortion rights--was brought against Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade by Dallas women lawyers Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee on behalf of their client Norma McCorvey, aka "Jane Roe." Twenty-six year old Sarah argued the case and her co-counsel and former law school classmate, Linda, wrote the brief. The eventual 7 to 2 Supreme Court landmark decision in 1973 legalized abortion and guaranteed a person's right to privacy in their reproductive matters.

Now with the real possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned after 50 years of precedent, folks will seek other ways not nearly as safe as medical and medication abortions to terminate their pregnancies. This is a dangerous future.

After attending last week's abortion rights march in Dallas quickly organized the day after the news broke of the Supreme Court leaked draft document, I began thinking of ways I could amplify the fight. As a symbolic gesture, I started making "Abortion Bouquets" of traditional abortifacient plants--herbs, flowers and fruiting plants--cut from my abundant late spring garden to donate to friends.

In turn, these friends--fellow artists, activists, abortion rights advocates, and allies--agreed to post a photo of their bouquets in a virtual social media campaign to highlight the abortion rights fight in the days before the Supreme Court vote scheduled for late June. We all agree that a person's right to terminate a pregnancy should remain constitutionally protected and that banning abortion--after 50 years of precedent and the reproductive freedom it guarantees--would be a radical act.

Beautiful at first glance, the bouquets also portend a dark future of severely restricted access, abortion bans by state, prosecutions and the burden that will fall most especially on lower income and marginalized communities and those who won't have the resources needed to travel elsewhere for their reproductive healthcare.

Please look for the hashtag #AbortionBouquet on Instagram in the coming days before the vote to see the bouquets and folks who agreed to participate and amplify the project. Thank you to everyone who is meeting the challenge. And with gusto in the brave spirit of Dallasites Sarah, Linda and Norma who gave us the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion and ensuring our bodily autonomy for the last 50 years. We fight on.

- Cynthia Mulcahy, Dallas, May 16th, 2022

Above image: #Abortion Bouquet I (flowering herbs of parsley, celery, dill, fennel, mint and cilantro, flowering onion and asparagus, poppies and larkspur flowers, curly dock and fig leaves--all traditional abortifacient plants)

Update: Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24th, 2022.

References and Resources:

Riddle, John M. Eve's Herbs: a history of contraception and abortion in the West. Harvard University Press, 1997. Available for free check-out at the Dallas Public Library.

Aristophanes: The Complete Plays, new translations by Paul Roche. Includes the 421 B.C.E. play "Peace." New American Library, 2005. Available for free check-out at the Dallas Public Library.

Recent NPR interview with Gloria Steinem on the leaked document, the patriarchy and abortifacient history. From NPR's Special Series: Roe v. Wade and the future of reproductive rights in America // Gloria Steinem's calls to protect bodily autonomy live on as Roe faces reversal ( 8 minute free to listen podcast ): https://www.npr.org/2022/05/06/1096929128/gloria-steinem-roe-wade-abortion-rights-contraceptives-birth-scotus

Much of the U.S. could criminalize abortion. But how will those laws be enforced? From NPR's Special Series: Roe v. Wade and the future of reproductive rights in America, Emily Feng, Jonaki Mehta, and Justine Kenin, May 20, 2022. Link to free 8-minute podcast: https://www.npr.org/2022/05/20/1099914068/abortion-roe-v-wade-supreme-court-laws-states

The upcoming May 30th/June 6th issue of The Nation Magazine: The Fight for Abortion After Roe Falls. Free downloadable PDF: https://www.thenation.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/nation20220530_r1.pdf

Forget ‘abortion.’ Bring back ‘Relief for Ladies. Op-ed by Kate Cohen in The Washington Post, June 3, 2022. Link to free op-ed and audio: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/06/03/rename-abortion-as-natural-health-reset/

Bruder, Jessica. The Abortion Underground in a Post-Roe America: Inside the covert network preparing to circumvent restrictions. The Atlantic, April 4, 2022. Link to free article and/or audio: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/05/roe-v-wade-overturn-abortion-rights/629366/ * Thank you to Terri Thornton, Abortion Bouquet VI recipient, for giving me The Atlantic magazine hardcopy.

Post Reports (The Washington Post podcast): The untold story of the Texas abortion ban: On the anniversary of the Texas abortion ban, we bring you the story of the activist who helped craft the law, the doctor who tried to challenge it, and the lessons both sides have taken away from its unprecedented success. 32 minute podcast, May 19, 2022 Link to free podcast: https://www.washingtonpost.com/podcasts/post-reports/the-untold-story-of-the-texas-abortion-ban/

Smith, Jordan. Oklahoma’s Total Abortion Ban Will Mean Surveillance, Criminalization, and Chaos: The state’s new ban is the most extreme in the country, going further than Texas’s notorious S.B. 8 by banning abortion after fertilization. The Intercept: May 20, 2022. Free link:https://theintercept.com/2022/05/20/oklahoma-abortion-ban-surveillance-criminalization/

The Nation's Start Making Sense with Jon Weiner Podcast: Amy Littlefield on the Abortion Fight: How Americans are fighting back to protect abortion rights. Free listen at this link: https://www.thenation.com/podcast/politics/amy-littlefield-on-the-abortion-fight-and-chesa-boudin-on-progressive-prosecutors/

Economists weigh in on the abortion debate. Adrian Ma and Wailin Wong for NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money podcast, May 19, 2022. Link to free 10-minute podcast:https://www.npr.org/2022/05/19/1100277520/economists-weigh-in-on-the-abortion-debate

A Practical Guide to Accessing an Abortion, Today and Tomorrow How to exercise reproductive autonomy in an increasingly hostile environment. New York Magazine Introduction by Irin Carmon and Maps by Marcus Peabody, May 23, 2022. Free access to cover story:https://nymag.com/magazine/toc/2022-05-23.html

Benjamin Franklin gave instructions on at-home abortions in a book in the 1700s, from NPR's Special Series: Roe v. Wade and the future of reproductive rights in America, Emily Feng and Manuela Lopez Restrepo, May 18, 2022 podcast. Link to free 8-minute podcast:https://www.npr.org/2022/05/18/1099542962/abortion-ben-franklin-roe-wade-supreme-court-leak

Levine, Judith. Abortion Activists Need to Win Back the Culture Before We Can Win Back the Court: Make Abortion Normal Again. May 18, 2022. Link to free opinion article in The Intercept:https://theintercept.com/2022/05/18/abortion-roe-v-wade-supreme-court-culture-war/

Abortion Texas Style: Everything's big in Texas! (Except for the amount of knowledge about healthcare or women's bodies required to completely gut abortion access.) // March 1st, 2016 episode of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee I TBS // Free viewing on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSMXwzH-moc

Seelye, Katherine Q. Sarah Weddington, Who Successfully Argued Roe v. Wade Dies at 76: She successfully went before the U.S. Supreme Court with almost no legal experience and won one of the most consequential cases in American history. December 27, 2021 in The New York Times. Free link to article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/27/us/politics/sarah-weddington-dead.html

Abortion Funds

In Dallas, I can recommend supporting the organizations TEAFund, Janes Due Process and The Afiya Center (POC focused org). In Austin and Houston: Lilith Fund and Avow Texas. In the Valley: Frontera Fund. In West Texas: West Fund. And statewide: Fund Texas Choice and ACLU Texas. And nationwide: Planned Parenthood and ACLU.

* Thank you especially to Dallas lawyer and activist Melissa Thrailkill, Abortion Bouquet IV recipient, for her suggestions with many of these organizations she works with as an abortion rights activist.


Click here for a recent The Dallas Morning News article about Cynthia Mulcahy's Abortion Bouquets action and related work by arts writer Lauren Smart, Rooted in History, Sunday Arts Section, July 3rd, 2022


June 2023 Fundraiser for Texas Equal Access Fund

Abortion Bouquet Seed Packets (for the Morning After Bake Box fundraiser sale. All proceeds going to the TEAFund non-profit)

UPDATE: The Morning After Bake Boxes sold out and we raised $2,000 for a donation from our Dallas community to Texas Equal Access Fund.

The seeds contained in the Abortion Bouquet seed packets include traditional abortifacient herbs (parsley and dill), wildflowers (larkspur) and vegetables (mustard greens), all grown organically and sustainably and harvested from my gardens in Dallas, Texas.

Seed Identification

* mustard green seeds (small round brown and back seeds)

The seeds originally came from the Dallas Public Library's free seed bank at the downtown central library location, donated by a local gardener. These are heirloom mustard seeds from east Oak Cliff passed down through four generations. I've been growing them since 2018 and they are the best mustard greens I've ever grown. Heirloom seeds can be saved every year for the next season's crop. These seeds were harvested from my 2022 crops. The oils from mustard green seeds are a traditional abortifacient with a long history in world societies, especially in India.

* larkspur wildflower seeds (very dark black seeds)

Larkspur are also known as delphiniums and are a wildflower that grows every spring all over the United States. They reliably appear every year in my garden and are a favorite of pollinator insects and make gorgeous cut flowers. Seeds are from my spring 2022 flower garden harvest. The United States Department of Agriculture publishes extensive reports every year on larkspur's abortifacient effects on cattle in western states.

* dill (flat tear drop seeds) and parsley herbs (brown chunky seeds)

Fernleaf dill and Italian parsley are traditional herbs grown in many gardens all over. Both are basic culinary herbs that are easy to grow, even in pots, for daily harvest. The packet seeds were harvested from my recent herb garden crops. Dill and parsley--both from the mint family--are both traditional abortifacient plants known to the ancients with anti-fertility recipes dating back as far as 1300 B.C.E in Egypt.