Birth(ing) Justice

At the most recent Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective conference in Miami, I heard a number of midwives and doulas talking about birth(ing) justice. A few people called it birth justice, others called it birthing justice.

The articulations of what this term means vary from person to person, but I understand it as a way to frame our work for a better culture of birth and reproduction within an intersectional politics.

I’m really excited about the people behind these movements. Similar to the history of reproductive justice, it seems birth(ing) justice is being pushed and developed by women of color in the birth activist community. Three groups that I connected with in Miami connected to this birth(ing) justice work: Mobile Midwife in Miami, Florida, Black Women Birthing Justice in Oakland, California and Black Women Birthing Resistance in Atlanta, Georgia.

All three have different focuses, different projects, different collaborators–but seem to share a vision for centering birth work in the context of social justice, while centering the experiences of marginalized populations.

I am beyond overjoyed to see such energy around birth activism, in particular by and for women of color. Also to see birth activism articulated within a much broader political framework is exactly why I started Radical Doula over four years ago–because I felt alone in my politics and passion for changing the culture of birth.

I am so glad to be able to say that I am no longer alone.

More information after the jump about each group.

Continue reading

Help a radical doula with her dissertation research

An awesome doula and activist who I had the pleasure of meeting last year, Monica Brasile, is working on her doctoral research about the doula community. She’s looking for folks to take 20 minutes to fill out her survey.

I hope you will participate in my study about doulas. I am a practicing childbirth educator and doula, midwifery activist, and graduate student in the department of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Iowa.

I am currently doing research for my doctoral dissertation about the role of doulas in the culture of the childbirth and reproductive justice movements in the U.S. I invite you to take my survey to help bring attention to the exciting work that doulas are involved in! All doulas are invited to participate.

I am particularly interested in the work of those who identify as radical or full spectrum doulas, and those doing community-based or volunteer work.

Link to survey here!

Celebrating Mama’s Day

This year I’m working with the folks at the Strong Families Initiative on their Mama’s Day campaign. Mama’s Day is about turning mother’s day around and focusing on the moms in our communities who often get left out of the celebrations, particularly young moms, immigrant moms, queer moms and low-income moms. Not only do these mamas often not get love on mother’s day–in today’s political climate, they get scapegoated and targeted.

As doulas, our work is just that: to provide love and support to all the mamas we work with, regardless of who they are or what phase of pregnancy they are in. That’s why I support this campaign.

We’ve also got a ton of blog posts from these Mama’s here, as well as some beautiful images like the one below to show your support to the mamas in your life.

Babies need love, Moms do too. Tell an immigrant mom, "I stand with you."

Check out the campaign on facebook and twitter to learn more.

Proof that anti-abortion laws hurt ALL pregnant women

We’re only just starting to see the impacts of new extreme anti-abortion legislation that has been passed around the country.

As I argue in this post, these laws also restrict the choices of women who want to parent. I’m going to try to keep an eye on the stories that highlight these connections because I think it busts open the myth that anti-choice activists are only focused on restricting abortion. They’re actually focused on restricting women’s autonomy in a myriad of ways related to pregnancy.

From Nebraska State Paper:

Nebraska’s new abortion law forced Danielle Deaver to live through ten excruciating days, waiting to give birth to a baby that she and her doctors knew would die minutes later, fighting for breath that would not come.

And that’s what happened. The one-pound, ten-ounce girl, Elizabeth, was born December 8th. Deaver and husband Robb watched, held and comforted the baby as it gasped for air, hoping she was not suffering. She died 15 minutes later.

The sponsor of the controversial Nebraska statute, Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk, told the Des Moines Register that the law worked as it was intended in the Deavers’ case.

“Even in these situations where the baby has a terminal condition or there’s not much chance of surviving outside of the womb, my point has been and remains that is still a life,” Flood said in an interview with the Iowa newspaper.

The law, the only one of its kind in America, prohibits abortions after the 20th week. It is based on the disputed argument that a fetus may feel pain at that stage. It took effect last October.

These situations, while rare, do happen. Not all women, when faced with a fetus that is known not to be viable, would choose to terminate early. Some would want to carry the fetus to term, and spend that time in whatever way they choose.

The point is: she should have a choice. No one should be forced to carry an unviable fetus to term. No one should have lawmakers interfering with a medical decision that should be kept between the family and the medical providers.

“Our hands were tied,” Danielle Deaver of Grand Island told The Register in a story published Sunday.  “The outcome of my pregnancy, that choice was made by God. I feel like how to handle the end of my pregnancy, that choice should have been mine, and it wasn’t because of a law.”

Also, what kind of BS argument is that about fetal pain? For one thing, the research behind the idea of fetal pain is super sketchy. And for another, what about the suffering of this newborn as it died?

I’ll keep saying it over and over: anti-abortion laws don’t just hurt women who want to terminate their pregnancies. They also hurt women who want to parent.

h/t Mary M.

How reproductive rights and disability rights go together

This statement was crafted and released by a group of activists this week, in response to recent events, about how reproductive rights and disability rights go together. Thanks to Laura Hershey for reaching out to me about it. I started a very 101 conversation about birthing rights and disability justice with this post, but this statement takes the connections to a much bigger and more political level.

It is a must read.

An excerpt:

As people committed to both disability rights and reproductive rights, we believe that respecting women and families in their reproductive decisions requires simultaneously challenging discriminatory attitudes toward people with disabilities. We refuse to accept the bifurcation of women’s rights from disability rights, or the belief that protecting reproductive rights requires accepting ableist assumptions about the supposed tragedy of disability. On the contrary, we assert that reproductive rights includes attention to disability rights, and that disability rights requires attention to human rights, including reproductive rights.

We offer the following statement in response to two recent events that promote eugenic reproductive decision-making, and that further stigmatize disabled people by presenting disability exclusively in terms of suffering and hardship. Although seemingly disparate events, they share the presumption that disability renders a life not worth living and that people with disabilities are a burden on society. Moreover, they seem to imply that the only appropriate response to disability is elimination, thereby limiting women’s reproductive choices; they suggest that all women must either abort fetuses with disabilities or use IVF to de-select for disability.

Read the full statement here and sign on.

We’re a growing movement ya’ll

It’s been almost four years since I entered into the world of blogging, and almost six since I became a doula and a birth activist.

And you know what? We’re a seriously expanding movement.

It’s been absolutely amazing to watch. Since starting this blog to try and connect with other radically-minded, pro-choice, activist doulas, since collaborating with Mary and Lauren on the seeds of what have become a flourishing Doula Project in NYC, from writing this first article about some of the pioneers of the abortion doula movement.

So much has changed in such a short time.

Let’s break it down:

First of all, the birth activist movement is blowing up. We’ve got doulas coming out of our ears, amazing fired up midwives and birth activists pushing for better access to midwifery care, improved policies in hospitals, insurance coverage of midwives and home birth and doulas. We’ve got parents around the country waking up to the bad state of birth in the US, and trying to change it. We’ve got a movement of folks trying to eradicate the inhumane practice of shackling incarcerated women. We’ve got prison doula projects, volunteer doula projects, all sorts of birth activism.

Then we’ve got this amazing community of “full spectrum” doulas–folks like you and me who have a radical intersectional view of their doula work, who want to support folks in every phase of pregnancy: birth, abortion, adoption, miscarriage, even other basic reproductive health services like colposcopy.

Thanks to the amazing work of the Doula Project NYC, there are doula projects popping up around the country–in at least 4 other cities and counting.

A lot of the folks involved in this movement have been doulas for a long time, and are now expanding their services. But many of them, like me, are young, childless activists (many from the reproductive justice movement) who have been called to doula work because of this amazing intersectional stuff happening. How rad is that? I had someone tell me at an event recently–I thought all doulas were hippy earth mamas with long flowing skirts, until I met you. We’re queerer than ever before, more diverse than ever before.

We’re changing the face of birth activism every single day.

Laurel Ripple Carpenter from Cuntastic (and one of the first Radical Doula Profiles) just launched a social networking site for all of these amazing doulas, the Full Spectrum Doula Network. Check it out. Join, connect with other bad-ass doulas like yourself and let’s keep this movement growing.

I feel blessed to be a part of this amazing new wave of activism. From profiling all the amazing doulas on this blog, to helping to found the Doula Project in NYC, to coming back to the project (yay!) after years away and getting to be part of the work of a full spectrum doula again, it’s amazing to be here and to work with all of you.

So let’s keep this work going ya’ll. For serious.

Victory in Kentucky: Fetuses cannot be legally disconnected from the pregnant woman carrying them

Via the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, some good news on the legal front:

I am thrilled to let you know that the Kentucky Supreme Court once again refused to advance the war on drugs to women’s wombs and made clear that pregnant women, no less than other persons, are protected by the rule of law. By refusing to accept the prosecution’s argument that the “unborn” should be legally disconnected from the pregnant women who carry them and treated as if they were separate legal persons, this decision protects the civil and reproductive rights and health of all women in Kentucky.

In this case, a pregnant woman was prosecuted in flagrant disregard for Kentucky law, embodied in its Maternal Health Act of 1992, and binding Kentucky Supreme Court precedent. NAPW worked extensively with the defendant’s talented public defenders (including Jamesa Drake, who presented a brilliant oral argument) and many treatment, recovery, and health allies in the commonwealth. NAPW, with attorneys Allison Harris of Shearman & Sterling and Kentucky Attorney Michael Goodwin, filed an amicus brief to highlight the negative public health consequences that would arise if drug-using women were to be punished for becoming mothers. Twenty-five public health organizations, advocates, and experts were represented on our brief (see list below) and more than sixty were represented as amici in the case. Today’s opinion reinforces the importance of Kentucky’s public health approach to the issues of drug use and pregnancy, and the fact that prosecutors should not be allowed to legally separate the fetus from the pregnant woman who carries and nurtures it.

Some of the scariest changes in laws regarding women, autonomy and pregnancy happen at the legal level, across the US. This is a big victory. Read the rest of NAPW’s post here.