Doulas are trained professionals who provide personalized help during maternity, childbirth, and newborn care, and abortion doulas can also be someone who helps you understand restrictions and new rules. abortion matters.
[By Johanna Ochoa Luna; Photos by Carla Hernández Ramírez]
As abortion in some neighboring states is now illegal or heavily restricted, doula support for abortion has become even more important.
Maybe you’ve heard of doulas, trained professionals who offer personalized help during maternity, childbirth, and newborn care. But these professionals are also trained as abortion doulas, being a support system and companion for people who have decided to terminate their pregnancy, regardless of the situation.
“These are women who have sometimes been through the same thing and by their own decision and from the bottom of their hearts they decided to train to become a doula,” said a 28-year-old patient who received abortion care at Doulas Telar, a group that provides support for Spanish-speaking women in San Francisco and surrounding areas. “They are the support you need, that neutral friend who has the right words for you and the ability and knowledge to support you in this very difficult time.”
Cera Merrick (pronouns they/them) is an Oakland-based professional who offers Doula abortion services.
“Providing compassionate care is like keeping space, really being a space for people to talk about their story because too often abortion is stigmatized or silent in people’s family structures, so I’m just making space to listen, sometimes I’m the only person people are talking about their abortions, and just not being judgmental and being open,” said Merrick, who has been providing services for five years. “On top of that, I really helps prepare people for what they’re going to be going through, whether they’re having a medical abortion, a clinical abortion, or a herbal abortion.”
Since the United States Supreme Court struck down the federal constitutional right to abortion in late June 2022, laws and regulations regarding this issue have changed rapidly across the country.
“I think one of the worst things on the long list of bad things that’s happened since Roe v. Wade was canceled is people don’t know what’s going on,” Merrick said. . “People who are in places where abortion is still legal, they don’t know because they hear a little about it on the news, or they hear a little about it on social media. And the laws change too so quickly back and forth, even though it is a shorter period of abortion blockage, there are still people during this period who are pregnant, who will be affected, and children who will be born in from this period that will be affected.”
Martha Franco, director of Doulas Telar, said the country is going through a “very difficult time with tremendous misinformation and fear,” but that’s where abortion doulas step in, being that friendly, non-judgmental companion. .
“The person’s decision is respected, what we do is listen to them, guide them to get through this situation in the best way,” Franco said. “We fill out a questionnaire because we want to know their story, and little by little we come to a trust, any conversation that takes place is confidential, it’s part of our commitment, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a close a relative or friend who approaches us, no information can be revealed.
Abortion doulas can also be someone who helps you understand abortion restrictions and new rules.
“All these women and girls need support but they also need information. That’s why Doulas offer this information based on science and statistics so that the person can make a better decision based on their own biases,” said Maya Herrera, doula and chef. of the training committee in Doulas Telar. “As doulas, we have an enormous capacity to be compassionate, to listen, to inform and to provide that person with the necessary resources.”
Between all the misinformation and doubt, having a professional connect you with the right resources can be a big relief.
“I think a big part of it for me is connecting people with resources where you can search for legit abortion clinics, because unfortunately there are a lot of fake abortion clinics that will actually put themselves in the face. from a legitimate abortion clinic, so people get confused and go wrong,” Merrick said.
Abortion doulas in California, where abortion is still legal, are seeing their work increase.
“I think my work has quadrupled much more than before. Because not only is abortion restricted now, but also the emotional distress and shame that was already there before is now magnified because the government says it’s not “okay,” and the government allows people to be forced into labor,” Merrick said. “And so, I think the emotional room is amplified, which is where the role of doulas comes in is to provide that emotional support.”
Now, groups like Doulas Telar are gearing up to train more people as the need for their services grows.
“We are about to inaugurate our new Casa Doulas training center,” Franco said. “It took us two years to carry out this project, here we will be able to have a large space for more mothers and women who want to be trained or receive our personalized services.
This new facility in the Mission District will be the first of its kind in the state, with services for mothers such as nutrition, yoga, meditation, and pre- and post-birth family training; ditto conferences and certifying training for future doulas.
Franco says meetings are underway where people from the medical group and representatives from major universities in the state are involved, discussing the possibility of making doulas a professional career.
“We are looking for Doula to be a new career in the future, just like nurse and midwife,” Franco said. “We said in those meetings that it won’t be easy, but we think it will help us get more recognition.”
Doulas services will be available with Medi-Cal
Starting the first day of 2023, the three-year Medi-Cal pilot program will take action, which will provide doula care as a covered benefit for pregnant and postpartum women in California.
“We are at the moment when we are starting to be recognized by both society and hospitals, thanks to them who are also concerned about how we will join their team,” Franco said.
Anyone on Medi-Cal will be able to request doula services as part of their insurance, which means more mothers will be able to have access to a doula and doulas will be fully compensated for their work.
This program should be a pilot for other states to take the same measures in favor of doulas and pregnant women.
If you want to train or need doula services, you can contact Doulas Telar at doulastelar.org and Cera Merrick at ceramerrick.com and on Instagram @ceramerrick.
Courtesy of Cera Merrick
Exhale Pro-voice: https://exhaleprovoice.org/text line for abortion support (Spanish available)