The Doula Project: What To Expect When You're Aborting


“Why aren’t there doulas for abortions?” The Utne Reader points the way to Bust magazine’s write up of an emerging movement. In order to support women “across the spectrum of pregnancy,” the Doula Project has started to rethink its role.

Lisa Hix, writing for Bust, explains that the Doula Project is still in its humble beginnings – currently, it is comprised of twenty volunteers who focus on one hospital in New York. The doula is there to help explain the procedure, and to provide a caring touch that doctors (due to professional constraints) cannot. The project plans to expand to two more clinics in New York City and provide doula training kits for areas outside of their reach.

Over on RH Reality Check, Mary Mahoney shares her experience as an abortion doula by relating one experience with two women who were aborting in their second trimester:

Since patients are normally under general anesthesia during this procedure, doulas spend the majority of our time with them before they enter the operating room. The first woman I supported that morning was in her early 30s, Spanish-speaking, religious, and scared. I spent my time with her holding her hand, wiping her tears, and telling her it was going to be ok and that she would be safe, in my own broken Spanish. My next client was having strong cramps from measures that were taken to dilate her cervix, and so I gave her a lower back rub and massaged a pressure point on her hand. After her procedure, at her request, I went to the waiting room to tell her husband and sister that she was fine and would be discharged in a couple of hours. The next woman I met mostly wanted to be alone, so I checked in with her every few minutes to see if she needed anything and pulled the curtain closed around her bed. My final patient was a gregarious, talkative young mother. I brought a warm blanket and a hot water bottle for her cramps, and spent the next 30 minutes with her talking about her future job prospects, different kinds of birth control she might like, and just joking around.

Mahoney notes that the doulas are there to support both the women and the clinics – clinic staff are frequently under immense financial and political pressure, the Doula Project hopes to provide a service that will ensure the clinics can continue humming along and patients feel comfortable and protected throughout their visit.

Over on the Doula Project website, one volunteer relates her feelings after going through the process, which can range from fairly peaceful to deeply emotionally charged:

Sometimes I will replay something a client said to me, ruminating on its meaning. Frequently I wonder if she got home okay, I worry about how she’s feeling. Every time, I wonder about what her life was like before and what it will be like now. I think of the women who, groggy after the procedure, smile and dreamily tell me what they want to do next- that they want to enroll in college, or finish school, become a teacher or a counselor, or have kids someday. Frequently they tell me about a child at home, and how much they love their son or daughter. So on the ride home, I like to think that, because I was there, whatever they decide to do next will be a little easier.

Image via.

Abortion Doulas Provide Support “Across the Spectrum of Pregnancy” [Utne]
Official Site [The Doula Project]
Official Site [Bust Magazine]
The Doula Movement: Making the Radical a Reality by Trusting Pregnant Women [RH Reality Check]
Thoughts from an Abortion Doula [The Doula Project]

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