Abortion doula services were unheard of until three years ago, when pro-choice activists within the birth community decided that they should serve the full spectrum of pregnancy choices, whether it’s birth, adoption, or abortion. Mary Mahoney and Lauren Mitchell created New York City’s Doula Project, a volunteer-based service that provides free doula services to women in New York City. They work with pregnant women who can’t afford doulas, expectant birth-mothers at a pro-choice adoption agency, and provide abortion doula services in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Though the public perception of doulas is that they are liberal crunchy types, the community has a strong pro-life contingent. These anti-abortion doulas are less-than-thrilled with the Doula Project. And they’re not the only ones who are skeptical. Even as a pro-choice feminist, when I heard about abortion doulas my first thought was: Are women really so fragile that they need to hire a complete stranger to hold their hand at the doctor’s?
Meltzer is writing about this new phenomenon because of an article about the Doula Project in the February/March issue of Bust where Lisa Hix reports:
Currently working out of a public hospital in New York City, the diverse group of 20 volunteers keeps women company and provides relaxation techniques during abortion procedures for no cost. “To me, it seemed like a very intuitive idea,” says Lauren Mitchell, who co-founded the Project. “Why aren’t there doulas for abortions? It’s usually an un- comfortable procedure, it can be emotional, it encompasses a huge range—life, sex, death. It’s intense.”
Three things struck me. The first is that there is no getting away from the truth about abortion: notice that Mitchell acknowledges that there is death in abortion. I assume she is (inadvertently?) referring to the unborn child who is killed. Second, don’t most abortion facilities frown on anyone joining the abortion-minded patient during the procedure for good reasons (it is surgery and there are safety and privacy concerns) and bad reasons (lest anyone talk the client out of the abortion). Which leads me to my last thought: perhaps abortion doulas are exerting an influence on women to stick by an initial decision to have an abortion, thereby preventing them from changing their minds.