Simone Kern's "The Propagator" is set in a future where abortion is illegal, and anyone who tries it is persecuted for "reproductive crimes". During the story, we learn about the "friends of Lilith", who are a group of underground folks who help people with abortion, and the phrase "visiting Lilith", which refers to attempting to get an abortion.

Suddenly it clicks. Friend of Lilith. “She’s gone to see a friend of Lilith.” That’s what kids would say when someone met a doctor at a sunken home, late at night, maybe never to emerge. “She tried to visit Lilith.” That meant one of our classmates was in the hospital for eating a box of laxatives. Or digging inside themselves with an unbent coat hanger.

Is there any significance in invoking the name "Lilith"? Was it simply an arbitrary choice, or is there something deeper here?

2 Answers 2


The Lilith Fund is a real thing helping people to get abortions.

From the about page at LilithFund.org:

What Does Lilith Fund Do?

Lilith Fund assists Texans in exercising their fundamental right to abortion by removing barriers to access. Lilith provides direct financial assistance to empower people seeking to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, and education and outreach within the community about reproductive rights.

There's also a page about it at AbortionFunds.org.

This organisation isn't universally known - it operates specifically in the US state of Texas. But Simone Kern lives in Texas, so they likely would have heard about it (they also follow it on Twitter).

Why the connection between Lilith and abortion, though?

Maybe "The Lilith Question", an article in another organisation (this time a magazine) named after Lilith, provides some clues:

The most ancient Biblical account of the Creation relates that God created the first man and the first woman at the same time. Jewish legends tell us that this woman was Lilith.

Lilith, we learn, felt herself to be Adam’s equal (“We are both from the earth”) but Adam refused to accept her equality. Lilith, determined to retain her independence and dignity, and choosing loneliness over subservience, flew away from Adam and the Garden of Eden.

For this reason, Lilith is sometimes used by feminists (especially Jewish feminists) as a symbol of a strong independent woman who wants to do her own thing. More information on that connection may be found at Ann R. Shapiro, "The Flight of Lilith: Modern Jewish American Feminist Literature", Studies in American Jewish Literature 29 (2010), pp. 68-79.

I can't find any direct currently visible evidence that Simone Kern is Jewish, but their Twitter bio says "feminist" and used to put Jewish there too (or so Google search previews are telling me), and apparently Kern grew up in a Jewish family. A Jewish feminist writer would likely be aware of the cultural connotations surrounding Lilith.

  • Great answer - and thank you especially for linking to the "Lilith Question" article, which I found fascinating! Apr 21, 2020 at 6:01

I have no idea if this is what the author was referencing, but Lilith appears in Jewish folklore in a number of instances that might relate to this. In particular, there are two ancient sources in which Lilith seems to be associated with abortion in some way. The Talmud (Niddah 24b) states:

אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל המפלת דמות לילית אמו טמאה לידה ולד הוא אלא שיש לו כנפים תנ"ה א"ר יוסי מעשה בסימוני באחת שהפילה דמות לילית ובא מעשה לפני חכמים ואמרו ולד הוא אלא שיש לו כנפים

Rab Judah citing Samuel ruled: If an abortion had the likeness of Lilith its mother is unclean by reason of the birth, for it is a child, but it has wings. So it was also taught: R. Jose stated, It once happened at Simoni that a woman aborted the likeness of Lilith, and when the case came up for a decision before the Sages they ruled that it was a child but that it also had wings.

(Soncino translation)

There is also a Midrash which records a critique Moses offered to God about what people would say if God destroyed the Israelites:

ואף לאלו שקרא אותן בני בכורי ישראל הרי הוא מכלה אותן כלילית הזו שאינה מוצאה כלום והיא הופכת על בניה כך מבלתי יכולת ה' להביא את העם הזה אל הארץ אשר נשבע להם וישחטם במדבר

And even to these whom He called "my firstborn son Israel" behold he destroys them, as this Lilith who does not find anything and turns on her children, so too it is beyond the ability of God to bring this nation to the land that He swore to them and he [instead] slaughtered them in the wilderness.

(My translation)

In this passage it seems that Lilith is known for killing her own children, something which some people consider abortion to be similar or equivalent to.

This being the case, the name Lilith would be apropos to the situation described in the book. Again, I have no idea if this is what the author intended; I offer it merely as a possible association.

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