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Doula perspective: response to abortion bans

When I witnessed an abortion procedure for the first time, I was shocked at how swift and commonplace it felt. As an abortion doula with CAN-DO (Carleton Advocacy Network of Doulas), I’ve witnessed and assisted in countless abortion procedures, and given recent rhetoric surrounding Alabama’s abortion ban, I wish more people understood how this procedure works and what they can do to make a difference in the lives of those who seek abortions.

In 2016, CAN-DO was chartered at Carleton College with the aim of training students as doulas (non-medical people who provide emotional, physical, and informational support). who Doulas assist with abortion procedures, as well as increase community awareness for reproductive justice. Hundreds of abortion procedures later, CAN-DO is in an important position regarding the current abortion bans across the country. 

Since the beginning of 2019, eight US states have passed legislation restricting abortion, perhaps the most pervasive being Alabama’s full-blown ban on abortion which passed last week. The threat to Roe v. Wade heightened following Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court last fall, but threats are growing with the recent bans and restrictions in Alabama and Missouri. 

Last Tuesday, May 14, Busy Phillips started the Twitter hashtag #YouKnowMe for users to share their stories of abortion. The hashtag has since gone viral with users sharing their stories and using the opportunity to bust misconceptions about who gets abortions and why.

In a recent CAN-DO meeting, we watched portrayals of abortion in contemporary TV shows and movies. It wasn’t all dismal—some shows were doing important work around the representation of different identities of people who get abortions, but there was still (as is often the case in TV) a lot of over-dramatization, and so much that the shows and movies got wrong.

In our meeting, we discussed how the reality is that a lot of people’s knowledge of abortion comes from what they read and see in the media, and how misleading that information can be.

For me, the more I’ve learned about abortion, the more I’ve felt equipped and empowered to take actions to increase abortion care accessibility and support reproductive justice.

From conversations I’ve had with my peers, there’s a lot of uproar surrounding the recent bans, but not a lot of knowledge about what we, as Carleton students, can do to make a difference. And while I definitely don’t think that tweeting or posting on Instagram about your anger is bad, I also think that there are a lot of other productive ways to get involved in this issue.

Know the facts and stay educated. The Guttmacher Institute is a reliable source for abortion information. For example, did you know that one in three women in the US will have an abortion by age 45? Or that 61% of people who get abortions already have children? Or that there is a less than 1% chance of major complications in an abortion procedure? It’s safer than a colonoscopy! In saying this, it’s also important to stay up to date on abortion politics to know when to act and where.

Think politically. Calling your representatives is any easy thing you can do. If you can, call to support legislation that advocates for reproductive care and protects the right to choose.

In Massachusetts for example, the Healthy Youth Act would fund more comprehensive and LGBTQ-inclusive sex education teacher training in schools.

Get involved. Carleton organizations like CAN-DO and SARC host escort trainings (open to anyone) and send people up to the clinic all the time to escort people getting procedures into the clinic so that they don’t have to face the sometimes very aggressive protesters on their own.

There are also so many non-Carleton organizations like NNAF, NARAL, Women Have Options and lots more which focus particularly on helping low-income minorities who are most affected by the recent restrictions.

Being a doula with CAN-DO has shaped my time at Carleton and has changed the ways in which I understand reproductive justice and choice. In holding people’s hands as they go through their procedures, I have heard not only countless stories of the challenges people face in accessing abortions, but also countless stories about their lives; their children, their jobs, the hours they had to drive to get here, their earrings, what time they woke up, what they want for lunch. I have connected with people from different walks of life. I have put so many human faces to these numbers. I have seen the ways this procedure and experience varies from person to person. I am empowered every time I help someone through this process, or help the doctors and clinic staff carry out this invaluable service that is so challenged by the politics of powerful, largely old, white men.

I am heartened to hear so many people who are up in arms about the recent legal restrictions and bans on abortion. But this threat is not new, and every time I’m at the clinic these restrictions and trials that people seeking abortions must face are made more and more apparent.

I’m glad you are angry. Stay angry. Be angry for the sake of everyone who will seek an abortion for any reason at any time. But if you believe as strongly in this issue as your Twitter suggests, please fight this fight with us.

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