The underground gets ready

One bright afternoon in early January, on a beach in Southern California, a young woman spread what looked like a very strange picnic across an orange polka-dot towel: A mason jar. A rubber stopper with two holes. A syringe without a needle. A coil of aquarium tubing and a one-way valve. A plastic speculum. Several individually wrapped sterile cannulas—thin tubes designed to be inserted into the body—which resembled long soda straws. And, finally, a three-dimensional scale model of the female reproductive system…

Ellie snugged the rubber stopper into the mason jar. She snipped the aquarium tubing into a pair of foot-long segments and attached the valve to the syringe’s plastic tip. In less than 10 minutes, Ellie had finished the project: a simple abortion device. It looked like a cross between an at-home beer-brewing kit and a seventh-grade science experiment…

I had read about such devices before. But watching the scene on the beach towel brought history into focus with startling clarity: Women did this the last time abortion was illegal.

For Ellie, the Del-Em was more symbolic than pragmatic—an amulet from the past to carry into an uncertain future. After all, pharmaceuticals can now be used to end pregnancies in the first trimester, when more than 90 percent of legal abortions occur. (Almost 99 percent of abortions occur within the first 20 weeks.) There are also modern, mass-produced manual vacuum-aspiration devices for doing what the Del-Em does. Community providers have talked about stockpiling such supplies in case Roe falls…

Given the uncertainties, she suggested, it couldn’t hurt to have a do-it-yourself tool like the Del-Em. “Just knowing the people who came before you had other ways of managing these things, not necessarily through a doctor or condoned by a government—there’s something really powerful in that,” she said.

Nothing new about some portion of your life kept ready to deal with corrupt politics, politicians with the ethical standards of criminals. RTFA, folks. You may need it as reference, some day.