Content warning: abortion. Leafly took care to exclude triggering information, while still detailing emotions and autonomy but does not discuss the abortion procedure or its justification in this article.
The last few weeks have been difficult for pretty much everyone with a uterus, regardless of their family planning needs. Right now we are surrounded by unsolicited opinions and discussions about a topic that, for many, isn’t just philosophical but a reality.
“I was 42 when I had my abortion, and for me, it was a defining moment. A clear dividing line between one life, with all its hopes and imagined futures, and the life I was choosing for myself and my family.”– Darlene*
Abortion is an extremely sensitive topic and personal decision, regardless of faith, gender identity, or age. The public discussion left me wondering, is there a space for a weed writer to talk about something as serious as abortion and cover it in a meaningful way through a cannabis lens?
You see, cannabis isn’t a just vice product like tobacco or a purely medical product like pharmaceuticals. Cannabis lives in a space between those two places where plants meet medicine (and have for thousands of years).
Cannabis has been a comfort to a number of women, non-binary, and trans people going through the abortion process.
Whether recreational, therapeutic, or doctor-prescribed, cannabis has helped numerous people Leafly spoke to in a number of ways—psychologically, physically, and spiritually.
Turning to cannabis in turbulent times
“I was 42 when I had my abortion, and for me, it was a defining moment,” shares Darlene*, “a clear dividing line between one life, with all its hopes and imagined futures, and the life I was choosing for myself and my family.”
It was 2020, at the height of the pandemic, so Darlene chose to do an at-home abortion, wanting to avoid the hospital. She shares that her choice to use cannabis on the day of her abortion was thought out and intentional. Since she had been using cannabis for years, she knew the ways it could support her emotionally and physically on the day of the procedure.
For Annabelle*, cannabis was invaluable emotional support when she found out she was pregnant. It was during a particularly stressful time in her life and she hadn’t realized that she missed her period. When Annabelle and her partner went to Planned Parenthood, they found out that she was, indeed, pregnant.
“They did a pelvic exam which triggered old medical trauma. I smoked immediately afterward to try to return to my body,” shares Annabelle, who has been using cannabis for years to manage anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
She explains the entire abortion process as emotionally turbulent. Also doing an at-home abortion, Annabelle says she used cannabis the entire day and “couldn’t have imagined getting through without it.”
How cannabis can assist with abortion
“I was in bed for a week just like smoking weed, taking oil, and using suppositories. It was just kind of all hands on deck.”Maia shares cannabis was invaluable during her abortion.
There are numerous ways to incorporate cannabis for therapeutic reasons before, during, or after an abortion without getting high. Cannabis products like creams, patches, suppositories, high CBD vapes, and flower make plant medicine more accessible for those looking for low-to-no THC content.
For Maia, pregnancy was especially unexpected.
After years of endometriosis, they had assumed it wasn’t possible. The first thing they did after finding out she was pregnant was smoke a joint “to quell the anxiety and kind of just process a little bit what was happening.”
“I was in bed for a week just like smoking weed, taking oil, and using suppositories. It was just kind of all hands on deck,” shares Maia. “The physical symptoms were awful, I couldn’t imagine feeling that way for nine months. Cannabis was instrumental, especially that week.”
For Darlene, cannabis was instrumental in aiding the emotional and spiritual aspects of her at-home abortion. But she felt that cannabis alone wasn’t enough for her pain management.
“Ultimately, the cannabis did help centre me in the experience, although I do wish I’d paired it with stronger painkillers. I was given Tylenol 3s for the procedure, but I knew from previous surgeries that I don’t like how they feel, so chose regular Tylenol and cannabis instead. In retrospect, I wish I’d just asked about alternate painkillers.”
Reclaiming autonomy through cannabis
Unless you have been pregnant, it is impossible to understand the way it feels to share your body and grow another; let alone comprehend the complexities of being pregnant when you don’t want to be.
For the people Leafly spoke with, cannabis didn’t just help with their mental and physical health; it was also a way to take back their bodies.
“There was a bit of rebellion in my decision to use cannabis at that moment. I had given it [cannabis] up when I was pregnant with my much-wanted and much-loved child,” writes Darlene.
“Continuing to use it through this unwanted (and high-risk) pregnancy was a way of affirming my bodily autonomy. A way of saying this is what I need and that’s what matters now.”
As a non-binary person, Maia shared that their pregnancy spurred emotions akin to the ones they experienced with being labeled as female. It just didn’t feel right.
“It was wrong. I now describe that feeling as dysphoria, since coming out as non-binary. It was just something that felt like it didn’t belong in my body.”
Maia shares that the decision to have an abortion actually helped affirm them as non-binary. Cannabis wasn’t only a physical comfort for Maia, it helped with the hormones and other symptoms that were unwelcome in their body.
Reproductive rights are not guaranteed in Canada
In the past few weeks, I have seen women boasting with pride that Canada has reproductive rights for all in comparison to news in the United States, but that just isn’t true.
Abortion isn’t legal in Canada, simply decriminalized. Some experts say that conservatives are watching the US overturn Roe vs Wade closely (and may follow suit if successful).
Not to mention, the reproductive rights of Indigenous women in Canada are far from progressive. There is an extensive history of coercion and forced sterilization of Indigenous women in both the US and Canada.
In times like these, it is important to remember that legal and safe access to abortion (and cannabis) is not a guarantee anywhere, even in Canada. And no matter what country someone is living in, the right to access safe abortion is the right to proper healthcare.
*names have been changed by request