Let Me Hold Your Hand
Abortion Doulas: Post-Roe, abortion care is more stigmatized and stressful than it’s been in nearly half a century. But networks of volunteers are stepping up to help.
These days, reproductive healthcare in the US is fraught. But history has shown abortions will continue, whether they’re legal or not. So it’s no surprise abortion doulas are in demand. Their work can vary — the field isn’t regulated — but generally, they provide mental and emotional support as someone goes through the process. According to Lisa Hamilton, a doula from Brooklyn, NY, that looks like…
Focusing on patients: “I usually ask them, ‘How do you best like to be comforted?’ Some people wanna talk [or] know what's gonna happen every step of the way. Others wanna talk about TV, movies, [or] anything but what's happening. Other people don't wanna talk at all — they just want somebody there. Some people wanna be touched, [others] don't. So I try to figure out how they can best be comforted.”
Being an advocate: “A lot of the focus of [being a doula] — especially with volunteer work — is more human rights oriented. Making sure that the person is being treated with dignity and respect…There's a huge discrepancy in how people of color and white people are treated in medical situations. It's important for us to be educated on that and to be able to advocate [for them].”
Fighting the stigma: “It's really rewarding knowing that I'm comforting somebody who's going through something that maybe they can't talk about with anybody else. I think the biggest problem is the stigma, backlash, and [anti-abortion] protests. What people have to go through to get to a clinic and an abortion is just abusive [and] demoralizing.”
That’s a lot of work.
Yes. And it’s becoming even more. For the first time, abortion pills have outpaced surgical abortions, according to a recent report. That trend seems likely to continue, particularly in states where access is restricted. So the Doula Project is launching a hotline for people taking abortion pills at home. And in the 20 states that protect abortion, some are now helping out-of-state patients with logistics as they travel in order to access care. All of this is happening as in-person support becomes riskier, forcing doulas in some states to stop working. But Hamilton and others have no intention of backing down.
Throughout history, people have helped each other with abortions. And those networks of care continue today. Post-Roe, abortion doulas are even more needed — and continue to welcome volunteers.
PS: To read more about Lisa Hamilton and her work as a doula, click here.
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