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 the biggest challenges faced as a doula.
“What’s the biggest challenge you face as a doula?”- Melody
It’s funny you should ask. Though my biggest challenge shifts from day to day, I have a pretty regular rotation. At the moment my biggest problem is convincing people that there’s a problem with abortion access in Canada. While I don’t need to convince those who need my services that the situation is dire, there still remains a large number of Canadians who are unaware that access to abortion care is precarious and that not everyone in the country can exercise their right to care. In fact, I experienced this challenge recently in the comments section of an article on abortion doulas who said that doulas were superfluous because abortion is “not politicized” in Canada and a purely medical matter. This is the most prevalent attitude on abortion in Canada and it makes it difficult for people to see the need for abortion support people. That, in turn, makes it more difficult to raise money because who wants to support a cause that doesn’t address a real problem? Of course, the situation turns into an opportunity to get on my high horse and hopefully educate a few people but it does take time and energy from other things, given the frequency.
When I’m not struggling with other people’s doubt, I have other challenges, such as getting the word out to those who may need my services. I’m going to admit right now that about 98% of this is my fault. I’ve always been terrible at marketing and I’m always very busy either with school or work or my family – it can be a struggle to find the time to brainstorm ideas let alone carry them out. I try to meet with people running organizations that serve the same clientele as I do but those meetings can take time to generate or even several emails to get a single response as people are just as busy as I am these days.
Other challenges are logistical – what happens when I have a client in High Point who needs to be in Edmonton ASAP and I’m already scheduled? I am lucky that I can turn to a few other doulas in the network but it often happens that they are busy as well. Then the challenge becomes how do I live with not being able to help someone who needs us? That last one is perhaps the most emotionally fraught of all the challenges I face and it’s one for which I have no satisfactory answer. There was once a time when I had never yet had to say no and lived in dread of the day that I would. I prided myself on my “winning streak” and in the background frantically set up workshops to train other doulas so that the record would be unbroken. But life being life, there did come a time when none of us could take a new client. It sucked, but we dealt with the situation by offering as much support as possible by phone and by providing a hotel room and travel assistance. Still, not being able to actually accompany a patient is always going to be attended with some grief and self-recrimination.
So, I suppose that I don’t face one great challenge so much as a series of ongoing and repeating ones. Soon, I am going to add another to the list as the Alberta Abortion Access Network moves deeper into our rural advocacy role by reaching out to doctors about prescribing mifegymiso to their patients. This would improve abortion access, improve outcomes for rural patients, lessen stigma, and allow patients more comfort during the process. But it will be difficult work since rural doctors face social and religious pressure in their communities.
Thank you so much for your question, Melody. I suppose this work will never be without its challenges but I hope that I will always face them with the right amount of wisdom and compassion.
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.