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 clients paying her and funding her work.
“Do your clients pay you? How do you fund your work?” Kaitlin
Hi, Kaitlin! The answer to your first question is no but sometimes and the answer to your second question is complicated. But I’ll begin by saying that I don’t ask my clients for any money. With full respect to doulas who charge for this service, I don’t feel like abortion doula help is terribly accessible to the people who need it in the first place even without adding the barrier of cost. What I mean is that there are already several barriers in place for those seeking doula care. First of all, many of the people I see are secretive and scared. They’re not about to put it out there that they’re pregnant, let alone need help in terminating the pregnancy. So, instead they start Googling and, as I’ve made clear in past posts, most people will soon run into pregnancy care centers or, as they’re also known, crisis pregnancy centers. Sometimes clients are confused and think that these are legitimate health clinics. They might call and ask about resources. Unfortunately, by the time a client has realized that they’re dealing with an anti-abortion organization, they’ve wasted sometimes days, if not weeks, doing things like talking to “counselors” or going for ultrasounds at the “clinic”. At that point, they may go back to Googling and sometimes they find me. At that point it has usually been a week or more since they found out they are pregnant and the last thing I want to do is to tell them that yes, I can absolutely help but that it will cost them x number of dollars. Besides being another hurdle in general, the client may not have any money or they may need time to gather it together meaning they will be pregnant and miserable for even longer. And since the entire philosophy of my work is that everyone is entitled to dignity and to accessible reproductive health care, I do not think it would be helpful to charge.
So…what then? You ask how I’m funded and the short answer is that I’m not. I am a very privileged upper-middle-class white woman with access to at least enough money to make what I do feasible. But I’m a former poor white trash child who remembers how scary it is to need something and not be able to afford it. So, I let these two experiences inform what I do. Having been poor and, at times, homeless, I know how to search out resources and, thankfully, there are a few great ones that exist for people experiencing unwanted pregnancy. The National Abortion Federation Canada has a patient assistance fund that I often direct people to if they need money to travel to Edmonton or have other related financial needs. And Hope Air can pay for airline travel if they’re really far away from a clinic.
It’s when they can’t access that fund that I use my privilege as a now reasonably comfortable person to throw a few bucks in the pot, so to speak. There are times when someone contacts me and their appointment is tomorrow which leaves no time for contacting the fund. Rather than tell them, “tough luck,” it seems more humane to just jump in my car and go get them, bring them to town, and set them up in a hotel if my cat, four-year-old, and spare bedroom don’t sound appealing or private or quiet enough. I don’t say this to demonstrate how great I am but really to show how much more often I can do this when there is a fund to pick up the tab for most of the other patients. But I don’t want you to think it’s just me doing all this. I’m hugely aided by friends and supporters who sometimes throw me a few bucks or send awesome things for the care packages. I even sometimes have patients that I can’t persuade not to pay me which I think is really sweet and generous as it all goes back into the pot for the next patient.
But you’re probably also wondering about time as well as money. “Doesn’t she have a job?” Once again, I have to plead privilege. After years of having a job like regular people, I am now lucky enough to be a 40-year-old PhD student (my lifelong dream). That means that unless I have a class, my time is (mostly) my own. Or at least mine to rearrange. But in reality, trips to the clinic don’t interrupt my study time as I just bring my work with me for the hours that I sit there waiting for the client as they go in and out to see various professionals during their visit. And impromptu road trips are a great chance to get out of the house or office. Besides, I can always listen to lectures or books on the way to get a client.
I really hate it when I hear people say that people can do anything they want to if they really want to because people that say that kind of bullshit don’t often consider the many barriers put up to ensure that certain “kinds” of people can’t do anything much at all. Or they don’t take the unrelenting exhaustion of poverty very seriously. Or racism. Or sexism. Or transphobia. But for whatever reasons (I’m white, got lucky a couple of times, etc.) I now find myself in a place of at least relative comfort and having a bit of spare time which allows me to do this work that I absolutely love. So, I do.
If you feel like helping the cause, the best thing you can do is to send your money not to me but to either of the organizations I just mentioned.
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.
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.