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Media Gushes Over Abortion Papaya Trainings: ‘It’s Working!’

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Many in the media are gushing over learning how to perform abortions – on fruit. 

Just this year, the trend has garnered coverage by outlets including Glamour magazine, the Cut, and, most recently, Vice. On July 24, Vice published the latest piece with the headline simply stating, “I Learned How to Do an Abortion on a Papaya.”

For the report, writer Marie Solis attended an abortion workshop hosted by New York City-based abortion provider Zoey Thill – at the offices of a Brooklyn book-publishing house, Verso Books. While 38-weeks pregnant, Thill used a papaya to represent a woman at 10 weeks of pregnancy. 

“The narrow part of the papaya, where the stem would be, is like the cervix,” Solis remembered Thill teaching. “The broader portion of the papaya is like the upper area of the uterus known as the fundus—and it's that part we would want to avoid puncturing with our tools when, in just a few minutes, we would practice performing an aspiration abortion.”

The workshop gave insight into a sickening high that abortion providers – and their trainees – appear to enjoy when it comes to abortion.

While demonstrating a first-trimester abortion, Thill “inserted a finger into the ‘cervix,’ then pantomimed inserting the speculum; she pretended to apply the local anesthetic and then began inserting the metal tapered rods on the table one-by-one to dilate the opening,” Solis continued.

Then, Thill “placed a plastic tube called a cannula inside and attached it to a manual vacuum aspirator, a plastic, syringe-like device, sucking out the inner contents of the papaya: what, for our purposes, was the pregnancy.”

Or, rather, the baby. 

“This is a really f**king good one,” Thill exclaimed. 

When it was Solis’ turn, she “felt slightly nervous.” That quickly changed when she became “surprised and pleased to see that my amateur skills could produce the same result.”

She wasn’t alone. “Next to me, others were doing the same, rejoicing with every successful extraction. 'Yes!' they exclaimed each time,” Solis remembered.

Thill concluded, “It’s even more satisfying when it’s a real abortion.”

Or is it? Imagine the uproar if media delighted in a workshop training on “how to administer the death penalty” with fruit. Even then, there’s a difference. Those facing the death penalty have been found guilty; the unborn have not. 

But whether born or unborn, guilty or innocent, a human life – a unique and unrepeatable person – is inherently sacred in that, while other humans can end it, they can never resurrect it.

According to Solis, Thill had her reasons for teaching the workshop. She hoped it would be “empowering those who might one day have an abortion” as well as “educating advocates—as well as doctors—about how shifting our rhetoric around the procedure might strengthen arguments for people’s right to access it.”

She also “wondered if participants might capture some of the buoyant energy they felt while extracting seeds from fruits and use it to undo some of the seriousness and reverence we’ve placed around the procedure.”

But reverence and seriousness shroud abortion for a reason: It’s the ending of a human life. To celebrate it is to not only mock the pro-life movement but also make light of the women who regret their abortions.

Solis stressed that “workshops like the one Thill hosted are nothing new.” They’re also nothing new for the media to cover – not even for Vice. 

Five years ago, Vice published a story by Amanda Sperber who watched a papaya “abortion” with Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP) as part of a “feminist camp.” Glamour contributor Meghan Racklin also attended an RHAP training she wrote about in January.

“I insert a thin metal instrument into the top of my papaya to create an opening before inserting a small suction device called an aspirator,” Racklin wrote. “There’s a slight slurping sound as the papaya seeds are sucked into the aspirator’s main chamber. Slurp. Slurp. Slurp. And then it’s done.”

And, in July, the Cut published a book excerpt by Jennifer Block about papaya abortion with the headline, “Not Your Grandmother’s Illegal Abortion.” Block remembers shouting, “It’s working!” while performing her “abortion.” 

Afterwards, her anonymous teacher tried to recruit her. 

“I would feel comfortable with you doing an MVA [manual vacuum aspiration] on me,” the teacher told Block. “You could totally do this.”

But “could” and “should” are two very different things.

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