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DC Doulas for Choice volunteers provide inclusive and compassionate abortion support. We have partnered with two area clinics and propose to expand our reach in the future.

The Political vs. the Human Side of Abortion Care

The past two years I have spent working at an abortion clinic have been without question challenging, rewarding and life-altering. My patients set my moral compass and inspire me on a daily basis. As a reproductive justice advocate and doula I feel it is my duty to constantly evolve my skills to better serve and work with my patients. I also believe I am obligated to learn from each woman I interact with to help answer age-old “social justice” questions. Recently, my girlfriend rekindled a question I have not formally visited in too long: How do I work with women in a way that is not solely political?

As a white, upper middle class woman I find myself constantly evaluating the politics of my privilege and harking back to my roots in women’s studies and its teachings of oppression and power. Most will agree that we cannot take the “political” out of abortion care. The government and our society at large have instilled a need to politicize everything women do. As advocates, is it possible for us to transcend the political for our patients to view our interactions as human, personal and essential? I always see the political in conversations I have with low-income women who cannot use their Medicaid to cover their abortions in Virginia. I also see the political in situations where patients cannot access childcare two days in a row to come for their ultrasound at least twenty-four hours before their abortion. It is also political that most of the low-income women I obtain abortion funding for are women of color. Systems of racism, classism and sexism are a harsh reality for too many in our society. To ignore or normalize these oppressions is, in many ways, to perpetuate them.

Working to eradicate these systems is one of the main reasons I work in abortion care, but it is not the only one. I show up to work every day because I truly love and respect every woman who walks through our doors. I respect their stories, their strength, their families, their passions, their goals, etc. As an abortion doula, I am allowed into the intimate space of a woman’s abortion and establish a connection with her that is unique, often times spiritual and always human. At its most essential place, I do this work because I believe every woman has a story that deserves to be heard and the ability to make a contribution to our society. I hope to continue to learn from my patients and fellow activists to find the best way to balance the human and political elements of our work to push for a better, more just world for women and their families.

A Doula’s Reflections on Thanksgiving

This post was authored by Emily C., a doula with the D.C. Doulas for Choice.

I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. I have a wonderful family, great friends, a safe place to live and the all the resources I need to accomplish my dreams. On a professional, activist and, for me, spiritual level I am thankful for many elements of the reproductive justice movement. I am thankful for the honor of knowing such wonderful and compassionate people through this Collective. I am thankful to work at a clinic that provides safe and accessible abortions and has a staff dedicated to serving women. I am thankful for abortion funds that help my patients get seen. I am thankful for reproductive health organizations that combat racism. I am thankful for the doctor at our clinic who has provided abortions for almost fifty years and continues to do so because he truly believes in women. But mostly, I am thankful for my patients. Every day they share their wisdom with me and trust me with their stories. They grant me the privilege of entering their space during their abortions and births. Their journey fosters solidarity between us that drives me get out of bed each morning. I am constantly in awe of their strength and the efforts they make to achieve their own form of liberation.

We, as advocates plan, organize and collaborate to help women access care, but sometimes we forget that it is our patients who create their own change. They sell their jewelry, cars and couches to raise money for their abortions. They walk through lines of protesters to enter clinics. They power through hours of contractions to bring new life into the world. They call abortion hotlines for days on end to get funding. They organize childcare and get themselves to clinics. They stand up for their birth plan during labor. They make choices that honor themselves and their families. I am thankful for all they do. They are the most powerful people I have the honor of knowing. I hope you too can give thanks this holiday and every day for these women and the efforts they make to enrich and progress our communities.

A Moment of Justice in Virginia

This post was authored by Emily Creveling, health educator and funding manager at the Falls Church Health Center. In addition to her work at FCHC, she is a member of the DC Doulas for Choice Collective Leadership Circle.

Friday, June 15th, 2012 marked a historical day for women’s health in Virginia. The Virginia Board of Health was poised to approve permanent regulations on abortion clinics that had the power to close all twenty clinics applying for licensure in the state. Hundreds of pro-choice demonstrators stood in front of the Health Department building in silent protest as we waited to watch the fate of women’s health Virginia. High on our list of demands: amend 12 VAC-412. This section of the proposed TRAP (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers) laws was the most controversial and required the structure of abortion clinics be regulated like hospitals. Among other requirements, it included standards for hallway width, the dimensions for a janitors closet, and regulations on room temperature in operating rooms. Falls Church Healthcare Center (FCHC) would have to spend roughly a million dollars to meet these regulations. Abortion in the sate of Virginia, as in the rest of the country, remains one of the safest medical procedures a woman can undergo. FCHC has had nearly 11,000 abortion-care patients in its ten years of existence and, of those, only four patients have suffered serious complications. These proposed regulations are not founded in medical fact or necessity, but instead have only one purpose: to close abortion clinics.

We filled the Board of Health meeting to the point where the fire marshal had to ask for some to leave. Most of us were waiting with somewhat heavy and nervous hearts as the future of our clinics hung in the balance. Before the meeting commenced, we watched the Board congratulate each other on the low rates of teen pregnancy in the state and improved access to healthcare for people of color. Ironically, it is often our abortion clinics that provide resources to teens about sex, birth control, and their bodies at little to no cost.

During personal testimony we heard from doctors, lawyers, grandmothers, social workers, clinic staff, fathers, and many others who believe women have an innate right to abortion-care for their own betterment and that of their families and communities. One courageous woman testified about her own abortion and her thankfulness for being able to walk home from her appointment where she received compassionate medical care. One mother breastfed her baby who wore a sign on her back reading, “Say no to TRAP.” There was an air of solidarity among audience members as we heard testimony after testimony imploring the Board to seek justice before politics and make the right decision. We would not be silenced when asked to cease our applause after testimonies. For once, it felt like our voices were being heard. The Virginia Board of Health voted 7-4 to amend regulation 12 VAC 5-412. This amendment, championed by Board of Health members, Dr. Anna Jeng and Jim Edmondson, will “grandfather” in existing abortion clinics so they do not have to meet costly building requirements. We all were counting each “yes” and “no” on our hands and jumped, screaming and clapping, when we realized we had won.

While the Board of Health removed the most restrictive of the regulations, abortion clinics will still have to meet many unnecessary requirements such as having to be “on call” for inspection 24 hours a day and allowing the inspectors full access to patient and staff medical records. We, as abortion providers, are already forced to run the gamut in Virginia. We cannot schedule same-day appointments for abortions, we have to report the race, marital status, and education level of abortion-care patients within two weeks of their procedure, and (starting July 1st) will be required to perform a patient’s ultrasound at least 24 hours before her abortion. These restrictions, among many others, are cumbersome, costly and stressful for our staff and, most importantly, the patients we love. They single out abortion-care patients and perpetuate the stigma surrounding a medical procedure.

Dr. Jeng and Mr. Edmondson did far more than amend an unethical law, they stood up for women and their families. They fought with passion and vigor not only arguing the unconstitutional nature of the proposed permanent regulations, but took it a step further to say that the legislation is a deliberate attempt to restrict women’s access to healthcare. Further they argued the importance of women’s healthcare to the vitality of our families and communities. Their speeches were eloquent and brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience. For the first time since I started working at an abortion clinic in Virginia, I felt like we are not alone. While our fight is not over and we still have a long way to go to solidify this change in the regulations, I consider this a victory for Virginian women and communities. Read more from the Washington Post.

If you are interested in ways you can help make sure this amendment stands, or want to thank Dr. Jeng or Mr. Edmondson for their courage to stand up for Virginian women, please email the Collective at dcdoulasforchoice@gmail.com. Together we can fight to make sure pro-choice centers stay open in Virginia!

Dirty Dancing Movie Night!

Stay tuned for more details, but mark your calendars for April 28th for a Dirty Dancing Movie Night!! We are raising money so that we can host a late spring training to bring on more volunteers and buy needed supplies. The movie night will have cheap snacks and beer for purchase and a $5 cover. We strongly encourage participation from all movie watchers: think cuffed jean shorts, canvas tennis shoes, dance attire and dresses with full skirts that will twirl when you dance. Check out the Facebook page for the event, RSVP so we can estimate food and beverage needs properly, and then invite your prochoice friends to join in the fun! 

Come Say Hi This Friday!

Looking for plans for tomorrow evening? Well, come say hi to us at the Big Hunt, in Dupont Circle. The GWU Law School chapter of the National Lawyers Guild is hosting a “radical dance party” Friday, March 2, starting at 7pm until “bedtime” and we’ll have a table set up. Check out the Facebook page for more, or stop by and see us! We will be accepting donations to help cover the cost of our trainings and supplies. You can also purchase one of our snazzy mugs! Looking forward to seeing you there!

Doulas a Part of “Growing Dream City”

The folks at DC Jobs with Justice have published an awesome summary of  grassroots organizing in the District throughout 2011 . I can’t help but feel warm and fuzzy when the larger progressive community recognizes the important contributions toward reproductive health, rights, and justice done by volunteers and organizations like the DC Abortion Fund and the DC Doulas for Choice. On the flip side, it is crucial to remember that our work does not exist in a silo, and that increasing access to compassionate doula care during the termination of a pregnancy is enhanced by the work for justice in the realms of labor, education, housing, gender, food, policing, and more that is being done by incredible activists throughout DC.

Check out the excerpt below and click here to read more about activism and progress in DC!

Facing a perennially corrupt and ineffective local government and several years of national bank bailouts for the 1%, DC change-makers turned to each other. Grassroots projects to create a human economy took off in 2011. The two Occupy DC** encampments churned out hundreds of free, daily meals and provided basic medical care and a library for hundreds of visitors, including some who had been recently laid off or evicted. Other volunteer-run projects like DC Doulas for Choice and DC Time Bank continued to expand opportunities for a human-centered, solidarity economy.

Just a few other examples: A new grassroots, all-volunteer foundation — the Diverse City Fund — distributed $45,000 to 23 organizations led by people of color, and the long-running DC Abortion Fund stepped in when Congress blocked Medicaid abortion reimbursement. Several large housing coops consolidated and began to plan to play roles in spreading coop values & housing rights. New worker and consumer cooperatives began exploratory work, like a potential Shaw food coop, a GWU coop cafe, and cooperatives of day laborers and child care workers seeking greater control over their economic lives. And collective farming projects continued to take root in neighborhoods like Edgewood.

Jezebel on supporting a friend through abortion, miscarriage

Jezebel recently published a blog post entitled How to Help a Friend Through an Abortion, a follow-up to another post about How to Help a Friend Deal with Miscarriage. It is heartening to see abortion and miscarriage discussed in a public platform in a way that highlights the uniqueness of everyone’s experiences, as well as the importance of a supporter, a listener, a friend. Sounds like a doula to me!

Abortion doulas do get a shout-out, though as Radical Doula notes, most abortion doulas work through partnerships with clinics, and less commonly as sought out through individuals.