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BADP Co-Director, Poonam Dreyfus-Pai, Speaks at the 28th Annual Reproductive Justice Conference 

Poonam traveled to Amherst, MA this past April to speak on the opening plenary at the 28th Annual Reproductive Justice Conference, hosted by Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) program at Hampshire College. CLPP aims to "inspire, educate, train and support new activists and leadership to secure reproductive freedom, justice and sexual rights for everyone."

Poonam's plenary speech touches on her work in reducing abortion stigma, in building and nurturing BADP, and how the full-spectrum doula movement is spreading to cities around the US. To boot, it is damn inspiring. 

If you need a little pep in your workday as a full-spectrum doula, (and, yes, it's a workday even when it doesn't look like it to most people), do yourself a favor and watch this. And if you don't need the encouargement, watch it anyway. It'll reaffirm that you are doing exactly what you should be. 

Way to represent, Poonam! 

Click here to watch the video (transcript below).  



Hi everyone, my name is Poonam Dreyfus-Pai, and I am co-director of the Bay Area Doula Project, and I’m here from Oakland, CA. I am so excited to be here among all of you amazing activists, organizers, and scholars, talking about work that is very near and dear to my heart. Thank you for having me here.


Bay Area Doula Project is committed to increasing access to compassionate support for folks having abortions or experiencing pregnancy loss in the Bay Area. Though our focus is limited to abortion and pregnancy loss at the moment, we are full-spectrum doulas: we believe that all pregnant people deserve respect and support, regardless of the outcome of their pregnancy, and we work to make that possible.


I was asked to share some of my work on abortion stigma and full-spectrum doulas, so I will give you some more background about me. I’m about to graduate from a dual masters program, where I've spent the better part of 3 years researching abortion stigma. The idea that people who are associated with abortions -- either because they’ve had abortions, they provide abortions, or they are connected to folks who have abortions -- this idea that they are tainted by that experience and deserve discrimination? It’s not new. But it’s been getting a lot of attention recently. What we know about abortion stigma is simple: that people who worry about judgment and condemnation for their abortion experiences, and who are treated poorly because of them, often retreat into isolation, secrecy, shame, and guilt. No one should have to experience that.


One of the things that we know can help to reduce abortion stigma is positive disclosure, or being able to tell someone about the experience and have that story met with compassion and understanding. But this puts a lot of burden on people who’ve had abortions -- we ask them to talk about their experiences publicly, but we don’t always make spaces that feel safe for them to do so. And we risk creating spaces where people feel defined solely by their abortion experiences, separating that identity from the rest of their multifaceted and complex lives.


As a public health researcher, I’ve been trained to think of things in terms of root causes, in terms of the “problem.” And I’m here to say that abortion stigma isn’t a root cause. It isn’t the main problem. We all know this. It is all reproductive oppression, of which abortion stigma is one specific symptom.


The root cause here is that we are not a society that values all bodies, all experiences.


We are a society rooted in shame.


So when we silo different sexual and reproductive experiences from each other, and we focus on one type of stigma, we forget that people encounter discrimination and judgment as a result of the intersection of sex or pregnancy with their other identities. And these experiences of stigma are linked, creating a complex web of people who are shamed, policed, and silenced. For some folks, it’s their abortion experience. For others, it’s their decision to become pregnant, or to parent. For others, it’s their decision to have sex or not to have sex. For a lot of folks, it’s all of these things, just at different points in their lives.


My other professional identity, that of a social worker, helps me balance this emphasis on “the problem.” Social workers care about connection, about support. And I came to these two fields -- public health and social work -- because of my work as a full-spectrum doula.


Because that is what I think the true value of full-spectrum work is: the ability to understand that all experiences are valid and are connected. To recognize that they are shaped by systemic, institutionalized racism, classism, ableism, xenophobia, cissexism and heteronormativity. True full-spectrum work recognizes the problem at a macro-level, but also works to provide individualized care. The folks that we support identify their own needs, and we honor their inherent resilience. We offer to hold people’s hands and to breathe with them. We offer information if it’s wanted. We provide a listening ear. We offer a ride to a clinic, or a place to stay.We create and hold space for them to share their stories if they want to, and continue to hold that space if they decide not to. We work to build more bridges across these silo-ed spheres. We work to see people in all of their nuance, and provide nonjudgmental, unconditional support.


To me, that’s what stigma reduction is all about: creating more opportunities and spaces for all people to feel safe, heard, and supported. This is what full-spectrum work has the potential to do. It has the potential not only to reduce stigma, but to increase support and compassion across all experiences and identities.


And as I’m sure you might know, the full-spectrum movement is growing, y’all! So much so that 9 groups in 8 states are now in the process of building a national network, the Full-Spectrum Reproductive Support Network.


Many groups represented in the network are here today, so thank you for acknowledging them. And we are so excited for it to keep growing.


Creating a national network is our way of reaching more people, while also supporting each other in doing this work. Because it is only by creating a culture of support that we can really start to dismantle the systems that enable abortion stigma and reproductive oppression to thrive. It is only by working together across silos that we can shift the way we talk about and create love, sex, family, and community.

Thank you.



















Sharing is Empowering: The Abortion Diaries Podcast

By: Vanessa Norton, BADP Volunteer

Melissa Madera, Founder and Director of the Abortion Diaries Podcast, has travelled the country recording people's abortion stories. As she states on the podcast's website (, “people share stories they haven't been able to share and listen to stories they haven't been able to hear. We are interrupting the narrative of abortion storytelling by moving the conversation out of the political realm and into the personal realm in order to decrease isolation and build community for people who have had abortion experiences.”

I think that creating a space to talk about the personal experience of abortion is a revolutionary act. It creates ownership of that experience for the people who experience it. Not the federal government's or your family's, or church's, or either “side” of the movement's. Melissa travelled to the Bay Area in April to listen to several people talk about having an abortion. I was one of those shared my story, and I have to say, it was awesome. 

Melissa came to my “warehome” in West Oakland, sat on my couch with a cup of tea and listened to my narrative of living on a former comrade's dirty floor in Detroit in the early 90s, and getting a free abortion from a clinic I'd defended against Operation Rescue. In the beginning, I told my story with a lot of pauses, trying to recall things in a linear fashion. But memory doesn't so easily give itself over to linear narrative; images and feelings and reflections play on each other, and that's where things get interesting—at least for me. Melissa Madera's calm, supportive listening style welcomes this, so I went with it.

I have never been particularly shy about sharing my experience, but I found that talking about it in such an intentional, supported, free-form way allowed me to go beyond the narrative of my experience and get into how I actually think about it. In general, I feel like the public expects a kind of pathology, a need for healing, or that abortion changes peoples' lives in ways in which we might prefer not to be changed. It was wonderful to say on tape that, twenty years later, my abortion experience has only deepened my happiness that I am a woman; to have the weight of life and death so directly connected to my sexuality. This can suck for sure, and has at many points, but it also connects me to other women in a way that is too powerful for words. 

Thank you, Melissa Madera, for providing a supportive, and publicly-accessible space to share this.

I have listened to several of the abortion diaries and the most powerful stories to me are the pre Roe v. Wade stories. The most recent story, told by a woman named Devra Wilson, is one of these. I think everyone in the country needs to hear it.



By Vanessa Norton, BADP Volunteer

Over the past month or so, a new group of SFGH and BADP doulas have come together to focus specifically on supporting women experiencing Induction Terminations at SFGH. The IT Group's mission is to provide trained doula support to these patients that truly honors the often emotionally heavy and complex—for the patient and the doula—experience of induction terminations. As of now, the IT Group consists of about six full-spectrum doulas, and is looking to expand its membership to SFGH/BADP doulas who are interested specifically in this work. 

The group is working on establishing its support protocol, the nuts and bolts of calling in doula support when it's needed (as sometimes the call for support comes in last minute), as well as setting up a support person for the doula. The IT Group will meet quarterly and attendance at meetings will be mandatory. To participate as a doula in the IT Group, your SFGH badge must be, or will have to be made, current.

Induction Terminations are different from other types of abortions because they happen in the late second and third trimester of pregnancy, take place within a similar timeframe as induced birth, and are done inside the Labor and Delivery center of a hospital, which can add to the patient's distress. These are usually wanted pregnancies that are being terminated due to fetal anomalies.

Having supported two women experiencing IT, I would describe the experience as somewhat closer to supporting a birth, but with a palpable sorrow. Of course, the experience varies from person to person. I felt very protective of the patient, her alone-ness, due in part to the taboo "nature" of ITs, was very heavy, which likely made me feel very central as a witness. It is emotionally very intense work that requires a lot of self-care to release some of the experience afterward, but I will never forget what it felt like to witness and support to these two women. I will never forget their emotional bravery. This work has given me more empathy and insight into weight of life and death, and the difficult choices parents have to make.

For those of you interested in joining this amazing group of full-spectrum doulas, come to our first general meeting:



TUESDAY, MAY 13th AT 6:00 PM

Email Vanessa at for meeting location


Notes from Conversations on Reproductive Justice

By Jana Thompson, BADP Volunteer


On the eve of the 20th Anniversary of the coining of the phrase "reproductive justice," the Center for Reproductive Rights and Justice, or CRRJ ("courage") at UC Berkeley presented Conversations on Reproductive Justice. The two-panel sessions comprising the event addressed the history and current challenges in the reproductive justice space. It was both impressive and inspiring to be in a room where people were engaging in the often sticky issues of race, allyship, and representation with such bravery and forthrightness.

Pat Zavella from UC Santa Cruz opened the first panel by discussing several Latina-focused reproductive justice organizations, such as COLOR ( and Young Women United ( In particular, she focused on Young Women United's participation in the community-led defeat of Albuquerque's proposed 20-week abortion ban. By dropping the usual labels of 'pro-life' and 'pro-choice' and focusing on working with the Latino voters who are usually not addressed in the abortion rights movement due to perceived conservatism, Young Women United and their allies managed to win the vote with a significant margin. Professor Zavella hailed this as a model to be used in reproductive justice: organizations built from the ground up within a community are better able to take on issues at the ballot box than larger organizations and political parties with a need for broader appeal and a more narrow-issue focus.

Reverend Darcy Baxter discussed the religious 'technology' of storytelling. As Reverend Baxter points out, 'technology' is a 'tool', and that the primary tool in religion is storytelling. Reverend Baxter shared a story of her father and grandfather smuggling out a pew in which Susan B. Anthony had sat the night before the church was to be demolished. She pointed out that in allyship, one should "dig in one's own garden" first - find one's own stories, one's own hidden damages and strengths, before you can really appreciate the stories of others and participate fully in a movement where intersections of race and gender play such an important and possibly obstacle-building role.

Abbey Marr, Eliana Rubin and Leah Weinstein closed the first panel with a discussion about their new project, the Hyperopia Zine Collective ( All three women joined the working group at CRRJ in the fall of 2013 and discovered a common desire to find a different place for storytelling and navigating the sometimes difficult path activists might find themselves in in working in reproductive justice, such as dealing with law enforcement that some might be uncomfortable with, and/or the bureaucracy of non-profits. They chose the name 'hyperopia' as an alternative to what they view as the often myopic-view in reproductive rights movement on abortion solely.

The second session was a discussion between Sujatha Jesudason of CoreAlign and Loretta Ross of SisterSong and moderated by Samara Azam of ACCESS, on the past, present, and future of reproductive justice. Both Sujatha and Loretta spoke of what brought them to reproductive justice - for Loretta, it was her lived experiences as both a teen mother and the experience of sterilization, and for Sujatha, she spoke of looking for her tribe, which she found at her first Sister Song conference. Loretta spoke at length on what reproductive justice gives our society - a framework for discussing human rights, and in particular, a mature way for American society to discuss human rights with the rest of the world, which, as she notes, the United States lags on. Both Sujatha and Loretta spoke about the importance of community and the centrality of storytelling to the reproductive justice movement, and noted that one of the important and radical things about the movement is its inclusiveness with regards to race and gender and how it facilitates harder discussions about those topics. For Loretta, one of the great challenges for the reproductive justice movement in the future is how to keep its radical edge and inclusiveness while moving it into the mainstream of political discussion and life in the United States and one of the challenges with doing so is to develop the skillset to organize with not only those who agree with one's own viewpoint, but also with those who agree to organize together.

Both noted the importance of self-care and connections outside the movement for keeping one's sanity and strength through time and long years as an activist. As Dani McClain followed up with the article in the Nation (, one of the problems with abortion as a single-focus issue is that trying to draw votes with that alone will not attract women, but if the issues that speak to their lives, especially with regards to the Latinas in Texas, immigration, access to jobs, education, health services, will draw a greater interest and voice because these are the issues that are daily a part of their lives. Abortion is also a focus because it's one aspect of the continuing obsession with population control, so as to get white women to have more babies and women of color to have fewer. Also, it is one of the few ways in which white women feel oppression and thus it draws greater attention and fighting than other issues regarding reproductive health and justice. As Sujatha notes, the best way to reduce unintended pregnancies is to increase income and improve women's education, but our focus and efforts are just not there.

CRRJ's event served to highlight both the strengths and ongoing struggles in reproductive justice work, both within and without the movement. Within the movement, questions of privilege, focus, and our own personal motivations and abilities as activists are always to be examined and re-examined through time, while the fluidity, breadth, and personal engagement that are part and parcel of the reproductive justice framework gives it a strength and depth rarely to be found in other areas of social justice work.  



Meet the Doulas: Jana Thompson

Who are the doulas who volunteer with the Bay Area Doula Project?  They're amazing, diverse people, doing so much great work in the world, it's hard to believe any of them has time to volunteer with us. We've been using this space to introduce you to many of the BADP doulas.  This week, meet Jana Thompson.

After becoming a mother in 2011, Jana trained as a birth and postpartum doula and volunteered with the San Francisco General Volunteer Doula Program and trained as an abortion doula with BADP in the fall of 2012.  As a result of her experiences with abortion, miscarriage, childbirth, and now as a single mother, she feels strongly about her work in the reproductive justice space and providing practical support and care so that everyone is able to "to have children, not have children and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments."

Currently, Jana is studying data science at Zipfian Academy is San Francisco with the goal of further work and research in reproductive health.  She has a BA in anthropology, a BS in mathematics and an MA in Germanic Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.  Her personal forms of self-care involve lots of coffee, walks with her daughter in Golden Gate Park, cooking, and a good book.

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