By Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson
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 she answers a question about becoming an abortion doula.
“How can I become an abortion doula?”
I’ve probably heard this question more than any other in the last few months. It seems that as the word gets out there more and more people are really resonating with the idea of working and/or volunteering in abortion support. Given that I just finished facilitating my first large-scale training, I thought that I should address this question in this month’s edition.
To begin with, there are no regulating agencies or organizations when it comes to abortion doula work. That means that there is no standard training format nor do you need any kind of training or a license to do this work. This is both good and bad. It’s good because it is in keeping with the roots of doula work which are grassroots feminist and relational, not bureaucratic. It’s bad because it means that any dingbat can hang up a shingle and call it good. I’m going to go ahead and assume that the majority of people reading this are not motivated by anything more sinister than a love of justice and a desire to learn. For you, I would suggest one of the many training options now available.
Just a year or two ago, your options would have been pretty limited in terms of abortion doula training. The best you could do was find enough money to hop on a plane to New York City to work with the amazing people at The Doula Project. But in the last couple of years, more and more groups have been springing up and adding abortion doula training to their repertoire. Full Spectrum Doulas, Full Spectrum Doula Circle, Colorado Doula Project, and Abortion Support Services Atlantic are just a few of the organizations offering in-person and sometimes online abortion support training. My own organization, the Alberta Abortion Access Network also runs in-person training sessions anywhere anyone wants us. Next month, I plan to be in Calgary, Alberta to help train even more people to do this important work. Whichever program you choose, make sure you also shadow an experienced doula at least once. This will help you to feel more confident and ensure that you are prepared for the reality of the work.
While it’s vital to find yourself some good formal training, I also highly recommend continuing self-education. As part of the AAAN, I run mini-learning sessions each month that focus on a specific aspect of abortion support work. For instance, this month I am going to be talking about working with cis male partners of abortion patients, the ups, the downs, the opportunities, how to support them, etc. I also offer those I train a continuously updated Amazon list of the books I’ve found most helpful in my work. I think continuing education is really where the bulk of the learning takes place.
In the end, the answer to the question of how to become an abortion doula is to learn as much as you possibly can and then learn more. And by learn, I don’t mean just books and courses, but also learning how to really listen, communicate, and center others. In my estimation, twenty percent of this job is knowing the facts and eighty percent is knowing how to shut up, listen, and hold space. So, I encourage you to look for opportunities to learn new ways of listening and communicating, whether that be workshops, more books, or simply by observation and practice.
I hope that this very, very brief post gets you started on your journey. I hope that you get out there, help others and that together we eradicate the idea of the abortion doula altogether because so many of us have just learned how to be decent human beings supporting each other through a common medical procedure. As always, hit me up if you need any help or have any questions. It’s what I’m here for.
Canadian Atheist 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, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists,American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
Image Credit: Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson.