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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

When the streets go quiet

<ntent Warning: This article speaks about abortion.

Protest need not always arise from the screaming masses who fill the streets. Listening is protest. Care is protest. When basic human rights are at stake, empathy can become a form of radical protes.

We are CAN-DO, the “Carleton Advocacy Network of Doulas.” As doulas, we serve those in our community, providing emotional, informational and physical support before, during and after the abortion procedure. Because no patient reacts to abortion the same way, our role is flexible. Our goal is to provide care and support no matter which emotions arise. In any given procedure, our role can range anywhere from light-hearted small talk to providing a supporting touch. Sometimes, we help to alleviate the grief that often arises from a society filled with toxic depictions of what is a basic medical procedure. By sharing information and our experiences with our peers and others in our community, we hope to change the discussion and destigmatize abortion.  

What we do may seem radical, but it is actually simple. For example, if a patient must keep the abortion a secret from their family, we can look them in the eye to provide comfort. This isn’t a special role; it is being human. Being a doula can mean wiping away a tear, chatting about the weather, or breathing alongside patients. As human beings, we doulas are sensitive to the array of emotions that one in every three women will experience at some point in their life.

Typically, we don’t view our work as intentional protest; it is a support system for people in need. However, during the Women’s March, we began to see our work as protest. While millions of people flooded the streets, our doulas protested in the abortion clinic. They spent the day holding hands, distracting women during procedures, and reminding them of their strength. The impact that the Women’s March had on the world was intense and extremely visible. In contrast, doula-ing is a personal act between two people. While doula-ing might not gain national media attention, it allows women to gain confidence in their decision in a world that bars women from such autonomy.

At Carleton, we often think that a “protest” is bound by time and space. But we must expand these borders. Go to these demonstrations, scream in the streets. Be loud. Be visible. But the protest need not end when the streets go quiet. The loudest protests unfold in silence, or in the soft swell of doula and patient breathing together. We raise knowledge above our heads like picket signs. Talking about abortion in public is our chant.  Each person must protest in the way that resonates with them. If we want to make real change, we need variety in our collective protest.

*This article uses terms such as “women” with the recognition that anyone with a uterus may seek abortion.

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