Ask an Abortion Doula 1 – Abortion Doula: A Canadian Option

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson is an abortion doula and Ph.D. student in religious studies at the University of Alberta. She is the author of the Humanist Ceremonies Handbook (Humanist Press, 2018) and the upcoming The Companion: An Abortion Doula Handbook. You can visit her at her website www.electriceelpond.com.   

Here we talk about abortion doulas and abortion doula training in Edmonton.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You’re the only qualified abortion doula and abortion doula trainer through the Abortion Doula Training Program in Edmonton. In other words, you’re a one-woman enterprise.

I wanted to have this information available to the general public with this educational series. To start, for those who may not know, what is the main service of the Abortion Doula Training Program (Edmonton)?

Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson: Well, to begin with, I don’t actually have any name for my training program. I think Joyce over at the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (which you should totally check out) just gave me that as a heading! I’ve been working on my own until recently and therefore didn’t really give myself any kind of name. But yes, I do train people to become doulas so, in a sense, I run a training program. And my second book, which I’m working on now, will be something of a handbook for people who are interested in becoming an abortion doula.

But to answer your question, the main service I offer is…being an abortion doula! That means that I do everything from answering questions in person, on the phone, online, etc., about the different abortion procedures and walk people through getting appointments, filling out paperwork, etc. I also go with them to the clinic and even into the procedure itself if they want me there. Ultimately, a doula is an advocate. Many people accessing abortion care don’t have anyone to advocate for them or educate them ahead of time. They usually go through the process alone and with no idea what’s going to happen. At worst, they’ve run into anti-abortion pregnancy care centers which have filled their heads with all kinds of nonsense and doom. What I hope to do is put people at ease, educate them fully about their options and rights, and then help them navigate the process medically and emotionally.

Jacobsen: What is the amount of training required to become an abortion doula?

Reinhardt-Simpson: This is something that varies wildly. Legally, there are absolutely no requirements which is both awesome and kind of not great. Abortion doula work began as a very grassroots feminist concept of accompaniment based on relationship and so not having strict and impersonal official licensing bodies can be good. However, it does mean that anyone can set up as an abortion doula which, obviously, is not always good. I’m trying to find some middle ground by training doulas myself while also allowing for a high degree of flexibility. My concern is that I want to make sure that potential doulas are empathic and “other-focused”. It doesn’t help that many people are attracted to this work who see it as simply another form of visible activism. I want people to understand that we’re working with actual human beings in complex situations and with complex feelings.

Most interested people do tend to seek out training programs. I got started in this quite early on in the movement so I got somewhat grandmothered into this work before there were many official training programs but most people today would probably do something more formal. Some clinics have training and then use the doulas in-house. I’m an independent doula myself so I’m not tied to any one clinic which gives me some flexibility.

Jacobsen: For those who have an interest in training to become an abortion doula in the province of Alberta, what are your recommended steps for them?

Reinhardt-Simpson: I would ask them to contact me by email at areinhardtsimpson@gmail.com. We’d have a nice, long chat and, if they seem suited to the work, I’d have them shadow me a bit to see what it’s like and then, when ready, set them up with a few of their own patients. Part of the training does involve a background check.

Jacobsen: What are the professional ethics for working with patients as an abortion doula in Canada (or elsewhere)?

Reinhardt-Simpson: As I mentioned before, there are no legal or governing bodies that oversee abortion doula work so there is no official set of professional ethics. That said, the movement STRONGLY emphasises patient confidentiality and professionalism. That last one might mean various things to various people but in the training I offer it means that you should be confident that the information you are providing is true, accurate, and easily accessible to your patient. I provide each trainee with a list of resources that should help them to track down info when needed. It’s also very important to me that trainees understand that though they may love this work, it is never about them. The patient should always be the focus of all our efforts. Therefore, if you’re a very loud and proud activist – that’s awesome and we need that -but this work may not give you the buzz that you’re used to as we try to keep the patient front and center.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Autumn.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.

Image Credit: Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson.

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