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BY Jimmy Akin
Yes! No longer do pregnant moms have to make do with the services of ordinary doulas—women who assist them during or after the birth of a child and who aren’t midwives.
No! This is the twenty-first century, and now women—in New York City—have a brand new service available to them: the abortion doula.
These service-providers hang out on a web site called DoulaProject.Org, where they blog about their services and experiences. They have an e-mail list and a Facebook fan page, and their suggested reading section includes titles like, “The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden Story of the Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade.”
Imagine that! It’s so much better now that we have Roe v. Wade and mothers can simply terminate their children rather than having to surrender them to adoption.
But let’s meet some of the abortion doulas themselves, shall we?
First, there’s E. Kale Edmiston, who describes herself as “a college-educated, white genderqueer,” who works as “a research scientist” and who is “a reproductive justice organizer.” She’s committed to her work as an abortion doula, as she has to take the train from her home in New Haven, Connecticut to her abortion gig in New York City. She says that she became “pro-choice because I grew up in the rural Midwest and saw how abstinence only education, coupled with limited access to abortion, exacerbated class disparities in my hometown.”
When she first became an abortion doula, she worried that she might not be able to relate to her clients, “who are mostly lower-income women of color and immigrants,” but fortunately . . .
What I found after my first few shifts of work was that I had worried way too much about saying the right thing. With most of my clients, I barely speak at all. In the waiting room, I sit next to her as I hold her hand. During the procedure, I try to be a solid presence- I plant my feet squarely next to the table and I face her; I try to make our dynamic her focus- whether its letting her squeeze my hand or looking her in the eye with absolute confidence that she is going to be ok. Afterward, we mostly sit in silence together, only really speaking if I sense that she wants to talk. This is a huge departure from my normal way of being in the world. I live mostly in my head; I over-think everything; my 9-5 job is working as a research scientist. Being an abortion doula is my one much-needed chance to be embodied emotion with another person.
Another abortion doula is “Lauren Mitchell, a petite redhead from Williamsburg” who is one of the founders of the Doula Project and who, according to the Meet the Doulas page on their site, “firmly believes in the inherent interdisciplinary connections that appear in the context of the body and throughout the spectrum of pregnancy.” She also is evidently a firmly-committed believer in the singular efficacy of bafflegab. Her bio notes, “When she’s not thinking about women’s health (which is rare), she writes. Her work can be found under the pseudonym L.A. Mitchell,” but the bio quickly qualifies this by saying, “(please note, she is not the L.A. Mitchell who writes sci-fi Christian romance novels).”
Whew! I am so relieved to hear that. (Not that I read sci-fi Christian romance novels, mind you.)
Another founder of the project is . . .
Miriam Perez, 25, an editor at Feministing and author of the blog Radical Doula, found that some people like herself felt isolated in their doula communities because they were queer, pro-choice or uninterested in making a full-time career of doula work. For Perez, it was also an issue of reconciling her reproductive rights work with being a doula.
And so the Doula Project was imagined when Perez met the Mitchell and the project’s co-founder, Mary Mahoney, at a meeting of The New York Birth Coalition in 2007. The idea of installing a doula unit at a local hospital or clinic became a passion project that Mitchell and Mahoney eventually carried to fruition (Perez had relocated to Washington, D.C.). And it continues to grow. Besides the partnership with the Manhattan hospital, the project appoints abortion doulas on an individual basis to women undergoing abortions at other hospitals and adoption doulas to Spence Chapin Adoption Agency. It’s also set to open a chapter in Atlanta.
There are 20 active abortion doulas in New York, mostly women under 30, and they work in shifts on a volunteer basis, serving up to 25 patients a week. To become doulas, they must complete 20 hours of clinical training, but the bulk of the job is intuitive — being present with the patient before and after the abortion, responding to her cues and providing necessary support. The intimacy of the experience can be wrenching. “What you get very used to is this weird mix of tragedy and relief and sex and death — this wild variety of emotions,” Mitchell says. “There’s always this interesting mix of remorse and relief.”
Not everybody is cut out to be an abortion doula, of course.
“A lot of people are interested in this politically, but don’t have the warmth,” Mitchell says. “You need more than just your conviction to do this.”
So it’s not enough, you see, to want to assist in homicide out of a sense of sheer ideological driven-ness. You have to have a human touch, too. Got it?
Elsewhere co-founder Mary Mahoney writes:
Three years ago I became a doula. Early in my training, I became part of a conversation that focused on providing doula support for all of a pregnant person’s choices, including abortion. Since that time, I have served more than 100 pregnant people as part of The Doula Project in New York City. The project was founded on the idea that pregnancy is a spectrum and that as female-bodied people we may experience any and all of the possibilities that spectrum contains in a lifetime. Within that, we should also have access to doula care for each of our pregnancies.
Presumably, most of the “pregnant persons” that Mahoney works with are also “female-bodied people” Probably most of them aren’t “genderqueer.” But such is the life of a “reproductive justice organizer.”
It’s interesting in how Sin-As-An-Ideology (as opposed to a weakness) causes language to be warped as a way of masking the hideous distortions it introduces.
File this one under Dr. Frankenstein’s Medicine Show.
Your thoughts on this amazing new service?