Carol Downer co-founded the Feminist Women’s Health Centers in 1971 in Los Angeles, which started the Self-Help Clinic, a group meeting where women shared vaginal self-examination and accompanied women to get abortions at a nearby hospital. She was arrested, tried and acquitted on the charge of practicing medicine without a license in 1972 for inserting yogurt into a woman’s vagina for the treatment of a yeast condition. The FWHC opened an abortion clinic 50 days after the Roe v. Wade decision.
She is the editor of A New View of a Woman’s Body and participated in editing/authorship of several other women’s health books, including Woman-Centered Pregnancy and Birth.
Since 2010, after attending conferences on improving maternal and infant health and talking with many doulas and midwives, Carol developed the Pro-Woman Agenda. In 2010, she mentored Pati Garcia and supported her founding of Shodhini, a group of women in Los Angeles who have completed a four week course in vaginal self-examination and monitoring menstrual cycle changes.
At the Birth Summit in Eugene, Oregon in 2013, Carol learned that the Witch Hunts in Europe, which were the persecution of women midwives and healers in the 15th through the 17th centuries destroyed European women’s knowledge of birth control and abortion and broke the power of the midwives. When European conquerors enslaved and colonized peoples in the African and American continents, they continued the destruction of the people’s culture, including Witch Hunts, that again destroyed the women’s knowledge of birth control and abortion.
Carol’s lifework is regaining our forbearer’s control of their sexuality and reproduction, and their lore of birth control, abortion and natural child birthing and nurturing, because she believes that this is the pre-condition for the transformation of society.