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What’s a Full-Spectrum Doula? Introducing The Doula Project

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Protecting women’s bodily autonomy and ensuring they are able to exercise their own reproductive rights are at the core of HowToUse’s mission. That’s why we get so excited when we learn about other organizations that share these values and work towards them in nuanced, comprehensive ways.

One of these like-minded groups is called The Doula Project, a New York City-based organization that provides free compassionate care and emotional, physical, and informational support to people across the spectrum of pregnancy.

Traditionally, a doula is a person that assists women through birth. They are available to the birthing woman for physical, emotional, and informational support throughout labor and delivery. Over the past few decades, doulas have gained more formal recognition within western birthing communities, and are increasingly popular supports for pregnant women.

A doula can provide support during abortions too.

But other choices and outcomes from pregnancy, like abortion, necessitate just as much if not more support. That’s why The Doula Project embraces a full-spectrum doula model. Full-spectrum doulas value and support all pregnancy outcomes equally, whether a woman experiences a live birth, a stillbirth, a miscarriage, or elects an abortion.

It’s no small secret that abortion is a commonly under-supported service. Many women terminate their pregnancies alone, often because of shame or stigma that can accompany the abortion experience. The Doula Project seeks to fill this gap in care by training doulas to provide support during abortions.

Support can mean a variety of things and is dependent on the client and her situation—it could mean simply being present and honoring the experience, it could mean listening to a client talk about how she feels and what the abortion means to her, or it could mean helping the client self-advocate in a medical setting. According to The Doula Project co-founder Mary Mahoney, doulas “help create ‘a community of care’ and fill in the spaces that might otherwise be occupied by loneliness or anxiety or fear.”

The Doula Project also fills the care gap by providing access to support that would otherwise be unavailable because of financial barriers. Doulas who volunteer with the Project provide 100% free support to clients, in an effort to ensure all people-- regardless of income or financial circumstances-- can access the care and support they need. Removing this financial barrier significantly advances the goal of equal access to care, especially in places like the United States where formalized doula care is often associated with prices and privileges reserved for the white upper middle class.

Mary Mahoney explains why providing free care is so important: "Free doula services are crucial if we want all pregnant people to have access to compassionate, quality care during their abortions. Having doulas readily available for clients, at no cost, breaks through both financial and social barriers that often make this experience overwhelming and isolating."

Besides providing direct care, The Doula Project also puts on full-spectrum doula trainings around the United States. Trainings include workshops on pain management, diversity awareness, and professionalism in medical settings. All trainings include perspectives from experienced full-spectrum doulas who talk about the things that can be difficult at first, from knowing where to stand in a procedure room to being able to tell your client what to expect during a procedure. The Doula Project has now trained hundreds of people throughout the United States and has refined their original curriculum to meet the evolving needs of our doulas and clients.

The Doula Project has plans to amplify their work by providing more trainings in more communities around the U.S. as well as create more awareness of the full-spectrum doula care model. We are excited to watch what this organization does next and are grateful for their work to provide accessible care to all.

If you are interested in learning more about opportunities to train or connect with abortion doulas near you, feel free to contact The Doula Project with inquiries. If you’d like to learn more about safe medical abortion, visit our website, or follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or Flipboard. You can also email us with any personal questions: info@howtouseabortionpill.org.

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