I debated over writing this. I’m writing it now, concerned about backlash. Because bad things happen to women who speak loudly and often of abortion. Regardless of the “side” they choose, someone will be unhappy. And then there’s me, standing here, saying doula support for those who choose abortion isn’t about pro-choice or pro-life. I debated writing about it, but it needs to be said. Because assumptions will be made. I list volunteer abortion services publicly. It’s just one of several services offered by my business. I know questions will be asked. I know misunderstandings will happen. I want to take this opportunity and get it all out there ahead of time.
It doesn’t matter what I believe. You can probably make educated guesses about my personal views, and if you asked me directly I’d answer honestly. But my feelings about abortion aren’t the issue here. The issue is that abortion is a legal, necessary part of reproductive health care. Period. I don’t doula because I like healthy, chubby babies born to mothers who labour a certain way. I love welcoming babies to the world, but it’s not why I’m here. I’m here because I believe in women. I believe in people of all genders. I believe no one needs to navigate the world of reproductive health alone.
I believe that support is not limited for those who do things a certain way. I choose to attend abortions because I believe in supporting clients through all options and outcomes. I don’t feel like I can preach unbiased care for all while shutting out those who opt for abortion. When I say unbiased, I mean unbiased. It’s not my uterus. I’m not there to make hard decisions for you. I’m there to support you, no matter what.
Often, abortion services fall under the umbrella of bereavement doula work. I have nothing but respect for bereavement doulas, I do bereavement work myself. But not all who choose abortion consider themselves bereaved. It’s not up to me to decide how much grief they “should” feel. So I opt to make clear that I’m here through thick and through thin.
I’m here for nuclear families welcoming bundles of joy. I’m here for single moms, teen moms, struggling families, nervously adapting to life with a new baby. I’m here when a surrogate hands a tiny bundle into eagerly awaiting arms. I’m here when a parent chooses adoption, with heavy hearts or big smiles. I’m here when tragedies happen, and families are changed forever in a moment. And I’m here when termination occurs. Because your journey is yours, I just walk alongside.
What abortion services look like is up to you. Sometimes it is bereavement work. Sometimes a parent is forced to make an incredibly difficult choice for medical reasons. They may make a decision out of compassion, and feel a tremendous amount of grief. That parent will know I will never turn them away. That I’ll be someone willing to talk out the details without being scandalized or making offensive comments. That I’ll be a shoulder to cry on, and not imply they’re wrong for not sobbing when there are no tears to cry. That I’ll help make funeral arrangements if so desired, and allow them to grieve their loss like any other.
For those undecided, and walking through the options of medically indicated or elective abortion versus alternatives, you deserve support. You deserve a sounding board to talk to, who won’t try to nudge you in a predetermined direction like many so called Crisis Pregnancy Centers. You deserve unbiased support, and that’s what a doula does.
And when you’ve opted for elective abortion, you don’t deserve to do it alone. You deserve support that doesn’t treat you as if you’re cold for feeling relief instead of grief. And you also deserve support that won’t make you feel as if you’re a hypocrite if you DO feel grief. You deserve to process your own emotions, not the emotions of those around you. Someone to cry with, or laugh with. Someone to comfort you when the process hurts, and walk you through clinic protest lines.
Full spectrum doulas appear to still be a minority. This is not intended to look down on doulas who choose not to offer abortion care. I get it. I really do. It’s our job to remain unbiased, and for many, abortion is not a subject that brings the word “neutrality” to mind. It wouldn’t be fair to the doula or their client to offer services they aren’t comfortable with. I don’t believe everyone should offer abortion care by any means. Pregnancy and parenting are full of uncomfortable topics. I think we all have a little internal dialogue moment, when exploring vaccination, circumcision, elective cesareans and inductions, formula feeding, extended breastfeeding, and on and on. It’s up to each individual to determine whether or not they can maintain professional emotional distance.
If you asked me why I offer abortion care. Why I, a feminist, and a mother, and a birth professional, have made this choice. I would tell you it’s because the words I preach in regards to pregnancy and birth apply to all. When I say I believe in unbiased support, there are no exceptions. When I say I believe in my clients, their undeniable rights to make decisions about their bodies, there’s no disclaimer that follows. When I say, if you have a cervix and need support, I’m there, I mean it. For all circumstances. For all clients.