On Abortion as a Doula and Birth Professional

Three days ago, Texas governor Greg Abbott "signed into law a so-called "heartbeat ban" abortion bill -- barring most abortions at the onset of a fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy," says CNN.

I'm disgusted. There's plenty to love about Texas, but a heartbeat bill is absurd and harmful to women. Plenty of women are not even aware they're pregnant yet at 6 weeks, so they've even taken away the ability to make informed decisions.

This has nothing to do with 'saving lives' of either mothers or the unborn - it's about control over girls and women.

Back when I was a full-time doula, I remember having a conversation with my husband's best friend. Something came up about abortion, and he kind of fumbled over his words and mumbled an apology to me.

I was confused for a moment, then asked him directly - "Wait - do you think I'm pro-life because I'm a doula?"

And he said, "Well, yeah....aren't you?"

He was surprised (and relieved!) to learn that not all birth professionals are pro-life.

I explained that actually, a large number of birth professionals are supportive of women--which means that we support women in making whatever choice she personally feels is best, even if it's not the one we'd make ourselves.

Birth professionals who come to this work as zealots with an agenda often end up frustrated and hurt, as do their clients.

Just because I chose to have 5 children, birthed at home without a midwife, and skipped the epidural, doesn't mean I automatically judge you for choosing differently.

Long ago, I used to think I was anti-abortion. I tried to make sense of it as a young adult, when I was trying to be Catholic, but never could reconcile my soul with that religion. I think it's easy to imagine you're anti-abortion at first, because who doesn't want to save babies?

I vividly remember asking my mother what abortion was when I was around 10 years old, and she took the time to share her memories of when she was a teenager and young adult in the 1950s and 60s, before Roe v. Wade.

She remembered friends seeking illegal and dangerous abortions, and even knew someone who lost her life to one. She also knew of girls who missed nearly a year's worth of school due to a "trip out to the countryside for their health", which was the polite way to explain that they had gotten pregnant and - regardless of whether they gave birth or not - needed to keep the ordeal a secret for propriety.

Preventing, avoiding, and managing pregnancy is solely the domain of women and girls, even though we do not become pregnant solely by our own actions.

Our culture simultaneously wants to hold women and girls culpable for new life, while insisting that we are not competent enough to know whether we should be able to decline that responsibility.

I cannot hope to understand the many factors at play in each individual's mind and heart. As a birth professional, my job is simply to hold space safely, to provide compassion and empathy, and to offer (but not push) unbiased information.

Someone who truly believes in the sanctity of all life would naturally seek to preserve the life and sovereignty of a girl or woman who is already here...right? Is it really 'pro-life' to tell her that she's incapable of determining her own fate?

So let's pretend that abortion is about protecting life for a moment: Every time we breathe in, millions of bacteria die in our throats. Living necessitates eating, and eating necessitates the death of other beings, regardless if you're a vegan or whatever.

It's impossible to live a truly "cruelty-free" life, and it's just as impossible to know for certain the full impact and consequences of our decisions.

Is the life of an already-living female person of so little value that she should be forced by law to become a mother when she desperately does not want to? What kind of a life will it be for a child growing up unwanted, perhaps neglected or abused, perhaps even hated?

What kind of a life will it be for that girl or woman, forced to endure an alternate version of her own life, against her will? (Saying she "should've been more careful" is like blaming a rape victim for what she had to drink or what she was wearing--so check yourself.)

I do not see so-called 'pro-life' individuals or organizations stepping in to pay for childcare so mothers can go to school or work, or to perhaps rescue her and her child from an abusive relationship, poverty, drugs, etc. I do not see them offering resources for food, shelter, medical care, or education for the important new life they were so keen to preserve.

There is a distinct difference between pro-birth and pro-life - because "saving babies" is a charade unless we're also willing to help MOTHERS.

Otherwise, don't fool yourself into thinking that preventing abortions is good, righteous work. It's lopsided, incomplete, and little more than ego-stroking unless we look at the larger picture, where mothers also matter - including those for whom the right to choose is an act of mercy.

As a person who believes deeply that our souls are eternal, I think that the psychic scars of unwanted motherhood and/or being unwanted as a child are MUCH worse than abortion as a medical procedure.

I believe that abortion is scarcely a blip on the radar of universal consciousness, and for all we know, the souls of mother and child were in agreement that this was not the time, that an exit was part of their divine plan. The science and research of consciousness is fascinating, and highly complex (For more on this, check out cosmiccradle.com's abortion and miscarriage stories).
If you're against abortion, you're effectively saying that fetuses qualify as fully capable beings worthy of life and liberty--but women and girls do not. Have you personally spent any time talking to women and girls seeking abortion? Have you listened to their stories?

For over 7 years now, I have been virtually supporting women who are faced with the immensely complex decision of abortion, and it's so much more involved than anyone can guess at. While I'm not an abortion doula per se, I am glad that the full spectrum of doula care is being widely acknowledged and better understood.

A woman or girl facing abortion is usually desperate, terrified - and often alone and in agony, whether or not she chooses abortion. Abortion is haunting and heavy, and that profound energy stays with you on some level even if you ultimately choose motherhood. However, that doesn't mean the solution is to ban abortions!

Criminalizing abortion does NOT stop abortions from happening. Medicine women and healers of every flavor retain the knowledge of the old ways, and pregnancy termination has been a thing since before history was recorded. However, legislation against abortion does take away access to safer abortions, which means women will suffer.

Anti-abortion folks seem to believe that death is the WORST thing that can befall a being from conception onward. However, full spectrum doulas understand that there are things much worse than death.

Being anti-abortion is saying, "I don't trust women to make the best choices for the potential life they may carry. I must make sure to support punishments for them, so they will do what I think is right."

I think at the core of the anti-choice movement is a heinous belief that women and girls are terrible - so their fertility must be objectively managed by laws that govern their bodies and choices.

I believe that virtually all women who choose abortion are making that choice out of the deepest love and compassion for their potential child.

Female bodies are not empty vessels, only valuable insofar as they can and do carry life.

We each have our own worth, and bodily autonomy cannot be separated from the question of whether or not to bear a child.

We're not talking about two separate beings, really - there is no such thing as 'just' a baby, alone and separate from its mother.

A baby is nourished at its mother's breast, its heartbeat is entrained to her own, its breathing rhhythms intertwined with hers. They are one, long after the umbilical cord is severed.

The mother's conscious choice has to matter more than some objective idea of "saving lives". No point saving a fetus' life if its mother's life is considered unworthy of saving.

Saying that "women deserve better than abortion" is something that anti-choice folks like to say to make it sound like they're looking out for women, but in reality - it's a refusal to accept the systemic challenges to sovereignty, dignity, and right-to-life that women and girls face.

There are systemic issues that are MASSIVE, and preventing safe and legal access to abortion in our current culture will not "save babies", and it will kill, maim, and torture women and girls--both literally and psychologically.

For many (sad as it sounds) death can be such a lovely friend--it's far from the worst thing that can happen.

I send love and clarity to each person who's reading this. Stay open, and approach this with your heart instead of your mind.

Sometimes, love and death are woven together so tightly it's hard to discern one from the other.

If you're interested in becoming an abortion doula, or simply deeping your practice of compassion, these works have helped me to see with eyes unclouded.

Click the covers to purchase if you're called to the path of full spectrum doula work.