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Samantha Zipporah On the Politics of 'Womb Sovereignty'

"You can't be sovereign if you can't understand the ecology and geography of the area that you're governing. It's a very political statement."

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The harder Samantha Zipporah looked at how women conceived, gestated and gave birth to children, the more troublesome the process looked. For years a worker and volunteer at Planned Parenthood, she came to see modern medicine as impersonal toward women's bodies, treating them like facets of consumer culture.

A Boise native, Zipporah now bounces between the City of Trees and Portland, Ore., teaching "womb sovereignty" classes and the "womb continuum" of ovulation, menstruation, birthing and orgasm. She also delivers holistic health services tailored to individuals.

Her practice is philosophy, anthropology, science-backed medicine and spirituality—one she says helps her clients be at home in their bodies even as they experience profound life changes.

What's 'womb sovereignty'?

It's for the woman with the womb to have absolute power and self governance over the womb. To be sovereign over it means to be literate. You can't be sovereign if you can't understand the ecology and geography of the area that you're governing. It's a very political statement. To be able to be sovereign, you have to be able to know where your boundaries lie and how to defend them.

What are threats to womb sovereignty?

Whether it's through penetration or the dominant paradigm of consumer culture, women are constantly under attack. Hormonal birth control is something people think is a path to liberation, but in reality it's castration. Our ability to ovulate is on physical and spiritual levels. Women are choosing to suppress ovulation without being educated about what they're giving up.

What do you mean by ovulation on the 'spiritual level'?

Our bodies are not just a metaphor for the cycles of the earth and creativity: They're part of it. One of the most tangible metaphors I like to share is the four seasons the earth goes through and the four weeks of the menstrual cycle.

What's holistic birth control?

Birth should not be controlled. What people are talking about is "ovulation prevention." Most conventional synthetic birth control controls ovulation. Birth control is a scheduled Caesarian. Holistic contraception is awareness of your fertility signals.

You describe yourself as an ally for women having abortions. What does that mean?

One of the most important things I like to tell women who are avoiding pregnancy or ending pregnancy is to find the "sacred yes." Our culture focuses on the fear of conception all the time, but being able to identify what it is you're saying "yes" to and by claiming it balances the "sacred no."

You also talk about having better sex.

I think the ultimate key is self awareness and presence. The individual being aware of their own body's landscape and communicating it. That's why I'm working with the multiple dimensions of self. For better sex and orgasms, you have to be aware of energetic and physical anatomy. You cannot compartmentalize energy that gets you through your day.

What made you passionate about this?

I was blessed to have a path that was illuminated by flashing neon signs. My mother and sister struggled with health issues around their wombs and menstrual cycles. I was able to observe what they were going through and know intellectually I wanted something different for myself.

What have you learned to do this?

I've had to un-learn job titles in a big way. I thought I wanted to be a midwife for a while, and I thought I wanted to be a doula—and I was a doula for several years—and that container was not built to hold me. It started in Planned Parenthood. I realized what I had been doing there was treating fertility as a pathology. I stopped working at Planned Parenthood. Two years ago, I stopped attending births to focus on people avoiding and ending their pregnancies.

How do you assist in ending a pregnancy?

It's as individual as that person. I will support a woman who is terminating a pregnancy at any point of gestation. Professionally, I provide tools and consultation and education, and postpartum care that acknowledges that they just released a pregnancy—and emotionally and physically, they're postpartum. The words I like to use are "pregnancy release."

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