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Using Papayas to Demystify Abortion: The Papaya Workshop

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Did you know that Hawaiian papayas serve as excellent, inexpensive uterine models for teaching procedures like IUD placements and manual vacuum aspiration? The Papaya Workshop has been used for many years as a clinical teaching tool for students, residents, and clinicians training in reproductive health care. RHAP has found that an adapted version of this workshop is a fun and engaging way to help “demystify” manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) abortion for non-clinical audiences. The RHAP staff, with support from our Reproductive Health and Advocacy Fellows, offers between three and four “Demystifying MVA” papaya workshops per year, including a session at the Civil Liberties & Public Policy conference every spring. A recent participant shared some thoughts about her experience with the workshop:

“The workshop is a great way to help normalize abortion. Something I kept hearing people say after the workshop was, ‘That’s it?’ And I thought, ‘Exactly! That’s it!’ Abortion doesn’t have to be a big scary thing that we shouldn’t talk about. It takes less equipment (and electricity) than a root canal. Having that hands-on experience is a great tool for anyone who believes in reproductive freedom.”

Abortion is often perceived as being a scary, intense, and complicated procedure— a very common myth, even for those in the reproductive health rights and justice movements. Using papayas as uterine models, participants “perform” a manual vacuum aspiration themselves. By introducing non-clinical audiences to the instruments, participants gain a comprehensive understanding of the actual medical procedure, making them better informed and equipped as abortion activists and advocates.

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