Abortion Doulas: Care Work as a Principle of Change

In You or Somebody You Love: Reflections from an Abortion Doula, Hannah Matthews reminds us that there’s a lot extra to abortion entry than simply the legislation.

An abortion doula, Grace, holds arms with a affected person throughout an abortion process at abortion clinic Falls Church Healthcare Middle in Falls Church, Va., on Nov. 24, 2017. (Carolyn Van Houten / The Washington Put up through Getty Photos)

On the Friday morning in June that the U.S. Supreme Courtroom overturned Roe v. Wade and rescinded a basic proper for hundreds of thousands of Individuals, the main focus was understandably on the legislation. Did the Dobbs resolution instantly make abortion unlawful? What sorts of healthcare might abortion clinics proceed to legally carry out? What legal guidelines would Republican state legislatures go to regulate and coerce reproductive selections subsequent?

And now, a yr later, a lot of the main focus stays on the legislation. In my inbox on a regular basis seems Jessica Valenti’s wonderful publication “Abortion, Every Day,” which provides a researched rundown of the every day authorized developments on abortion and reproductive healthcare. After I activate the TV, legislation professors are pasted throughout cable information attempting to clarify the deleterious results of the most recent court docket case or state legislation on reproductive rights. Even now, when the legislation has failed in almost each option to defend reproductive rights, authorized evaluation stays the first lens by which abortion is roofed.

That’s comprehensible—the legislation is the explanation many fewer individuals have been capable of entry abortion since final June. The legislation is the explanation a girl in South Carolina was arrested for allegedly inducing an abortion with treatment. It’s the purpose girls have been forced to succeed in near-death situations, like going into sepsis, earlier than medical doctors might legally carry out abortions to deal with life-threatening pregnancies.

And but, in You or Someone You Love: Reflections from an Abortion Doula, Hannah Matthews reminds us that there’s a lot extra to abortion entry than simply the legislation. As an abortion doula and clinic employee, Matthews is a care employee, and he or she discusses the function care work can present as a principle of change inside the reproductive well being house.

Care employee is my function within the revolution,” she wrote.

Shifting our consideration to the significance of care work and networks of assist for increasing abortion entry, Matthews weaves in actual abortion tales with sources for accessing reproductive healthcare, together with occasional affirmations and acts of kindness.


The guide, then, is an act of care in and of itself.

It opens with Matthews’ personal abortion story, an act of vulnerability and openness that invitations in and builds belief with the reader. Although you may count on a simple, even celebratory abortion narrative from a proponent of abortion rights like Matthews, she delivers one thing rather more significant.

Writing with outstanding readability and honesty, Matthews describes the combination of feelings her abortion introduced up for her, in addition to the ups and downs of present process a vacuum aspiration process after an ineffective treatment abortion.

“The 2 abortion processes my physique went by had been completely crucial, they usually had been wholesome and protected, they usually had been made attainable and even joyful by my communities. … I’m so grateful for them. They had been stunning and optimistic experiences,” she wrote. “And likewise? I grieve them. I’ve felt deep disappointment, bodily ache and the deep hollowing of loss. And that’s okay for me to share.”

The remainder of the guide encompasses a variety of abortion experiences throughout race, religion, gender identification and circumstance.

In a single story, Matthews shares the expertise of Tessa, a former member of College students for Life. As soon as staunchly anti-choice, Tessa grew pissed off with the militancy of the group and finally recognized as pro-choice. Nonetheless, she described feeling grief after her personal abortion, saying, “As ardently pro-choice as I’m, I nonetheless felt that there was one thing of a soul once I received the abortion.” Whereas some may react with frustration on the hypocrisy in Tessa’s story, Matthews is assiduously nonjudgmental and compassionate in her telling of it.

In one other story, Matthews consoles a trans man by his abortion by describing the tacos ready for him after the process (“salt-sprinkled tortilla chips and heat queso, plates of citrusy, garlicky elotes and a fats margarita.’”). There are numerous extra tales like this within the guide as Matthews is commonly telling them from her expertise being the affected person’s care employee, whether or not as a doula or clinic employees.

In a chapter titled “Abortion is Care,” Matthews described her function as an abortion doula.

“As a doula, I reply solely to the individual I’m supporting. They write my job description and my worker handbook, although I could assist to present them among the language and parameters and concepts required to take action. Collectively, that individual and I, we make our personal guidelines, our personal house for one thing singular, one thing new, one thing that could be unusual, or stunning, or life altering, or all of these issues, or none of them.”

She brings this identical method to caring for the reader. As Matthews acknowledged, her guide “exists due to, and in dialog with, the considerable, important, stunning, and borderless our bodies of labor by [her] numerous academics and heroes, and the varied actions they lead.”

Crediting luminaries like scholar Rickie Solinger and activist Loretta Ross, Matthews gives the reader with instruments to grasp each their private experiences and the broader political panorama, just like the reproductive justice framework or the function of abortion storytelling from teams like Shout Your Abortion and We Testify.

Care employee‘ is my function within the revolution.

Hannah Matthews

Whereas the slender deal with the legislation has unnoticed too many individuals within the struggle for reproductive autonomy, Matthews exhibits us how centering care work and group networks provides a chance to make abortion extra accessible for individuals who want it most. Whether or not it’s by clinic employees, abortions funds or organizers offering logistical assist, Matthews wrote, “A patchwork of wants and skills necessitates a patchwork of care and assist.”

Although Matthews successfully made the case for recognizing the significance of care work within the aftermath of Dobbs by storytelling and data sharing, the guide isn’t in the end a piece of advocacy. It’s an illustration of the ability of care work and an try to re-imagine how we would shift our priorities contemplating how a near-singular deal with the legislation has, partially, led to a world by which abortion rights might be decimated by 5 individuals on a court docket.

Even there, although, Matthews doesn’t proselytize. She as an alternative gives the mandatory instruments to contemplate how care work can match into the persevering with struggle for reproductive justice and invitations us to think about our personal visions for the way forward for abortion care: “What is going to group abortion care and assist seem like for you? The place will you carve out some house for its presence in your personal life? Overlook the abortion care we want. What’s the abortion care we dream of? How can we, collectively, think about, and put money into, and create, and maintain that dream, in our personal communities?”

Editor’s notice: Final summer season, the Supreme Courtroom overturned the longstanding precedents of Roe v. Wade, representing the biggest blow to girls’s constitutional rights in historical past. A sequence from Ms., Our Abortion Tales, chronicles readers’ experiences of abortion pre- and post-Roe. Abortions are sought by a variety of individuals, for a lot of totally different causes. There isn’t a single story. Telling tales of then and now exhibits how essential abortion has been and continues to be for ladies and ladies. Share your abortion story by emailing [email protected].

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