Abortion doulas offer emotional and practical support. Now their work can become critical
By Brooklyn Neustaeter
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May 6, 2022 (CTV Network) – As tens of millions of women in America risk losing access to abortion, experts in Canada say the services offered by sexual health groups and doulas in the abortion to help navigate the process could become more crucial on both sides of the border. According to data from the Canadian Medical Association, it is estimated that one in three Canadian women will have an abortion in her lifetime. However, it remains difficult to obtain in many provinces. Monica Reagan says that’s where she comes in. Reagan is a full-spectrum doula who focuses on abortion support and works with the nonprofit Birth Mark doula organization in Toronto. A doula is a trained companion who is not a medical professional, but who supports another person through a significant health-related experience, most commonly pregnancy and childbirth. Reagan told CTVNews.ca that as an abortion doula, she provides emotional, informational and logistical support to someone seeking or having an abortion. “We provide impartial, non-directive emotional support to help the person manage their feelings about the abortion. We encourage self-advocacy and informed decision-making through evidence-based information and resources, and we can help develop a realistic abortion plan that aligns with the client’s values and needs,” said Reagan. during a phone interview with CTVNews.ca on Thursday. Often, Reagan said, those seeking an abortion contact a doula because they don’t know how or where to access an abortion, and may be confused by information they find online. “A lot of the time harmful propaganda like pro-life movements hides on the internet and appears as a safe space where people can talk to someone about access to abortion and they can be misled. So reaching out to a doula can help mitigate that misinformation,” she said. In addition to helping gain access, Reagan said doulas can also help find providers specific to location or gestational age, as well as clinics that “provide culturally competent and inclusive care.” Reagan, who does not charge for her abortion support services, noted that abortion can be an upsetting and sometimes frightening event in life. She said abortion doulas can be there to offer support not just before the procedure, but also during and after. During the procedure, Reagan said abortion doulas can suggest comfort measures such as position changes, comforting touches, movement, visualization and breathing techniques, as well as reflective listening and other supports in the postpartum period that follows. “We will stay with the client until they feel they are done with doula support,” she said. “We are not advisers, but we… can be a very big comfort to the person, so we will talk to them or support them physically afterwards. Reagan said an abortion doula is an important resource for those who may not have anyone else to turn to during the abortion process. “You might not have someone close to you who is a safe person to talk to about abortion…or you might have these people but somehow don’t want to establish a relationship with them. Having an abortion doula provides that comfort and support while providing the security of keeping it separate from their personal life,” she said.
THE IMPACT OF ABORTION-RELATED STIGMA Jessa Miller, of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, says the stigmatization of abortion as something wrong or shameful is one of the biggest barriers to access to care. Miller told CTVNews.ca that makes it harder for people to get care or seek help when they need it. “The stigma around abortion contributes to a lack of education, training and informal conversation on the subject. Because abortion is stigmatized, it is often shrouded in secrecy and not discussed openly, leading to a lack of knowledge,” Miller said in an email Friday. Miller said stigma can lead to a lack of abortion providers, leading to longer wait times for services and sometimes the need to travel long distances to reach a provider. To help fight abortion stigma, Miller said everyone working in medical fields should receive education and training about abortion services, as well as make information about abortion and how readily available online and at medical clinics. “People can also help de-stigmatize abortion by talking about it more openly in social situations where they feel safe and by responding with kindness, acceptance and support when someone talks about abortion with you,” he said. -she adds. Concerns about access to abortion in Canada have resurfaced over the past week after a leaked draft document suggests that US Supreme Court justices plan to overturn the Roe v. . Wade on abortion rights south of the border. The release of the draft itself will not immediately affect access to abortion in the United States. However, if the majority votes as expected, the decision would be overturned with the official publication of the court’s decision, which is expected to take place in June. If the decision is overturned, Reagan said the support offered by abortion doulas and sexual health organizations would be critical to getting care. “As an abortion doula, I will continue to bridge the gap between factual information about abortion access and people seeking abortions,” she said. “I’ll listen to their story — as much as they’d like to share — and connect them with the health care service they’re looking for, regardless of their situation or gestational age. “I will support you and that includes the people of the United States”
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