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Abortion Doula Diaries: Advice for supporting a friend

There was a post on Jezebel last week that tackled the question of how to help a friend through an abortion. It was a follow-up to a similar post about helping a friend through a miscarriage. Both posts are worth checking out, as they give good advice to friends and support people.

The main takeaway from both, which happens to be my main tactic as an abortion doula, is listen and don’t assume.

Most of the time people looking for support really just want to be heard and to have their feelings validated. They don’t want to be told they should feel differently than they do, or even necessarily helped to cheer up. Think about it next time you are struggling–what do you really need?

Because pregnancy, and especially abortion, are such hot-button political issues, we’ve all got an opinion about it. We’ve all got the latest anti-abortion injustice on our minds.

People are often surprised when I tell them that my work as an abortion doula is mostly about listening, and hand-holding. Not a lot of talking, or educating, or even really doing. A lot of smiling, a lot of encouragement to breath and relax, and a whole lot of listening.

With friends and family members the temptation to give advice is really strong, because we know them and their life and might think that means we know what is best for them. But unless someone is asking us for advice, or asking questions, the best thing we can do is listen and validate how they are feeling. The reality is we don’t know what’s best for anyone other than ourselves.

This is something I’m working hard to apply to my everyday life, but it definitely applies in the context of abortion or miscarriage support.

The only correction I’ll provide to the Jezebel post is to this part:

Baumgardner notes that abortion doulas can offer support to women going through the procedure — you can help her figure out if a doula is right for her, or help her locate one.

While abortion doulas do obviously exist, I know of no programs where individual people can seek out and bring a doula along with them to a clinic. Most of the abortion doula programs partner with clinics directly, so if you went to one of those clinics, you’d most likely encounter a doula there who would accompany you.

What the article references is more like a birth doula situation. It’s possible that abortion doulas will shift to that model some day, but for now it’s primarily clinic partnerships. If there is an abortion doula group in your area (I have a list here, any programs with asterisks) you could get in touch with them to see what clinics they serve, and choose your provider that way.

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