Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 9:00AM
By Sarah Whedon, BADP doula and blogger
The Bay Area Doula Project is a full-spectrum doula organization. That means we support folks across the spectrum of their reproductive lives. We want all people to have access to compassionate support through all the possible outcomes of pregnancy, as well as for sexual and reproductive health issues that don't involve pregnancy.
But why does it make sense for us to bring these all together instead of forming an organization that focuses on a single issue? I see three major reasons: the people we serve, the volunteer energy we draw upon, and the issues involved. Let me explain.
1. Clients. The population we aim to serve doesn't necessarily keep their reproductive experiences distinct. A person giving birth is often a person who's had a miscarriage. A person seeking an abortion is often a parent who's experienced one or more births. According to the Guttmacher Institute 60% of people seeking abortions are already mothers. To a large extent, then, the abortion-seeking population is the birthing population. A full-spectrum organization can help to normalize that reality and to re-integrate a fragmented system.
2. Doulas. There are already so many great people who are bringing a practice of compassion and a knowledge of healthcare environments to their birth and postpartum doula work. It makes sense to tap that pool of experienced doulas and support them in bringing their resources to other areas where support is needed, like abortion, miscarriage, and adoption. Since there's already growing structural and cultural support in place for birth and postpartum doula training and work, we can build from that rather than reinventing the wheel. Many of the people who come to the BADP for abortion doula training already have vast experience as birth and/or postpartum doulas.
3. Interlocking issues. Reproductive concerns which may at first blush appear to be separate are actually interlinked. When we take issues of reproductive justice in isolation, we can miss the bigger picture. Here's an example: in certain cases a previous cesarean section can increase the risks of abortion, but nobody mentions that when a cesarean birth is being proposed. In the U.S. we have "a current national cesarean section rate of over 30%, despite evidence that a rate of 5% to 10% would be optimal." There's a movement to increase access to abortion and a movement to decease the cesarean rate, but the two movements rarely deliberately come together and see their common cause. A full-spectrum doula movement can help to connect issues like this.
Of course doulas and activists can do a lot of good by focusing on a single issue, and everybody has to start somewhere. The BADP started with a focus on abortion support. However, as an organization it's always been situated within the full-spectrum framework, and that gives us a special kind of power to create larger change in reproductive health.