Blog Post

Abortion Doulas

Last winter I posted a blog about doulas, women who provide non-medical assistance to a mother during and after childbirth. I found no evidence that doulas were connected with the New Age; however, I just came across an article announcing a new "branch" of doula service being offered to women who have chosen to abort their babies. According to WOMENSENEWS, a Manhattan-based doula organization known as The Doula Project is now providing trained volunteers to sit beside women while they have abortions. "One woman was so nervous during her abortion that her sweat soaked through her paper gown," the article describes. "A second apologized repeatedly for not being ready to have a child. A third sobbed quietly because she was forced to terminate her pregnancy due to health complications." Lauren Mitchell, co-founder of The Doula Project and the doula who attended these three women, says "Abortion is different for every woman, and though it can be straightforward and simple, it can in some cases be stressful. Regardless of the circumstances, we're here to help." Doulas, which take their name from the Greek word for "caregiver," typically assist mothers-to-be by offering guided relaxation and massage during childbirth and even changing diapers and helping out with housecleaning after the new mother comes home from the hospital. A doula typically makes $25 to $35 an hour. It was in 2007 that Mitchell and her colleagues decided to extend their doula services to women who need help during an abortion. They teamed up with two Manhattan abortion clinics and began to train "abortion doulas" who work free-of-charge. They typically chat with patients in clinic waiting rooms, hold their hands while on the operating table and provide them with warm blankets and hot water bottles after the abortion to help ease their cramps. The same services are provided for women who miscarry or opt for a chemical abortion (RU-486) at home. Womensenews claims that one of the reasons the doulas are "needed" is because of the current state of the abortion business. With fewer and fewer doctors willing to perform the procedure, the few doctors remaining in the field perform sometimes 25 -30 abortions a day, roughly one every 20 minutes, in what they describe as "an assembly-line fashion." This leaves doctors with little time to chat or offer any kind of comfort or counseling to patients. But this new idea isn't going over too well with either side of the abortion debate. Pro-life advocates, such as Jill Stanek, R.N., accuse them of facilitating abortion and for trying to "legitimize and de-stigmatize abortion by making it a component of maternity." On the other hand, abortion advocates accuse them of  drawing too much attention to the suffering women endure who undergo abortions, a secret many "pro-choice" fans would rather not be revealed. "We're also getting pushback from the pro-choice community," said Alison Ojanen-Goldsmith of Seattle's Full Spectrum Doulas, which is preparing to train abortion doulas this year. "Some pro-choice advocates don't want to admit that abortion patients may need support. They deny it because they're fighting anti-choice rhetoric and its insistence that women are somehow damaged by abortion." At any rate, I thought our blog readers should be aware that the doula field is expanding into areas that many will find offensive. God only knows what areas they'll stray into next.