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Entries in abortion (20)


Bay Area Doula Project Salon Series Presents: Counseling, Compassion, and Support

Join us for another amazing Bay Area Doula Project Salon Series event!

Bay Area Doula Project Salon Series Presents: A discussion at the Salon Series
Counseling, Compassion, and Support

 Experiences and Lessons from Abortion Counseling

Date: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 
Time: 7:00 - 8:30pm 
Location: Million Fishes Art Collective
2501 Bryant Street, San Francisco
Bryant Street at 23rd Street
Cost: Free, $5-$15 Suggested Donation for Bay Area Doula Project, no one will be turned away for lack of funds

Check out the Facebook Event!

Guest speakers include Alissa Perrucci, Reagan Parker, Sabrina Andrus, and Steph Herold.  


Sabrina Andrus is a board member at Backline, a counseling talk line providing unconditional support for decisions, feelings, and experiences with pregnancy, parenting, abortion, and adoption.  


Alissa Perrucci is the Counseling & Administrative Manager at the Women's Options Center at San Francisco General Hospital. She has worked in abortion counseling for many years and has also conducted research on access to abortion, abortion stigma, and the impact of parental involvement laws on access to family planning and abortion care. Her book Decision Assessment and Counseling in Abortion Care: Philosophy and Practice was published by Rowman & Littlefield in March. Previously, she worked at the California Family Health Council where she evaluated Title X family planning programs throughout California and the OPA HIV Integration Grant for Region IX. Alissa has a PhD in clinical psychology and a Master of Public Health with an emphasis on maternal and child health. 


Reagan Parker applied her degree in Anthropology from U.C. Berkeley to a career in the adventure travel industry.  After spending the last decade traveling the globe, the exposure to the lives of women worldwide made her more appreciative of American women's reproductive freedom. She volunteers on ACCESS's Healthline in order to ensure that women have the resources and support they need to obtain vital reproductive health services.   


Steph Herold is a reproductive justice activist who has worked in direct service abortion care and reproductive health advocacy. She is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Public Health at Columbia University, and is interning at ANSIRH this summer, researching abortion stigma.  Steph founded the website to honor the stories of abortion providers and to celebrate the legacy of Dr. George Tiller. She also founded the blog as a space for young people in the reproductive justice movement. She is a current board member of New York Abortion Access Fund and lives in Brooklyn, NY.


The evening will be filled with great conversation and great people! Light refreshments will be served. We hope to see you and your friends there!

Tuesday Guest Post: "Coming Out of My Closet"

Every Tuesday we will be featuring a guest post related to abortion support, reproductive justice, and other topics relevant to our mission as an organization dedicated to providing nonjudgmental, compassionate and empowering full-spectrum doula services. If you are interested in writing a post for our Tuesday series, email Kelly N. 

This week's post is another excellent piece by BADP volunteer Renee Bracey Sherman about talking about her abortion, and was originally posted on the blog at Exhale.  Read her bio and previous post here.


Coming Out of My Closet

By Renee Bracey Sherman

Originally posted at Exhale


For six years, I didn’t talk about my abortion. I sat in the closet, alone – very alone. For six years, I only knew three women who had abortions – one being a cousin of mine, yet we still didn’t talk about it. I was afraid of what people would think of me, what they would say if I talked about it, the names they would call me if I came out of the closet. For a long time, I barely admitted to myself that I had an abortion.

The first time I spoke publicly about my abortion was in Fresno, California. Previously, I’d written about my experience in a blog post and spoken about it with Exhale’s talk line counselors in training, but this was different. It was the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training’s academy for nonprofit fundraising staff. I had been attending for a few days and getting to know my peers, but not on a personal level. It wasn’t designed as a safe space for abortion stories, I was on a panel about fundraising and I was there to talk about why I am a donor to Exhale and the pro-voice movement. Fresno is a conservative agricultural city in California and I was scared. Why I give to Exhale has everything to do with my abortion experience and I couldn’t explain one without the other. I was so nervous I couldn’t breathe. I was afraid to out myself in a room of people I barely knew.

Click to read more ...


Tuesday Guest Post: "The Art of Loss Through the Lens of Labor, Epidurals and Abortions"

Every Tuesday we will be featuring a guest post related to abortion support, reproductive justice, and other topics relevant to our mission as an organization dedicated to providing nonjudgmental, compassionate and empowering full-spectrum doula services. If you are interested in writing a post for our Tuesday series, email Kelly N. 

This week's post comes from BADP volunteer Kelly Gray. Kelly is a mother, full spectrum doula, childbirth educator and one of the founders of the Bay Area Doula Project. She grew up as a union organizer for public sector healthcare workers and has a passion for redefining healthcare access, models and justice. When she's not helping women take charge of their reproductive lives, she's guiding her fiery daughter to harness her innate powers.  You can read more about her childbirth education classes or doula work at



As a doula, I am sensitive to patterns. The quick inhale of breath of a woman whose body is losing its definition within her contraction. Shoulders easing as I whisper in her ear, and then picking back up again as the contraction rolls through her. I don’t need to watch the clock; the sixty-minute contraction is something that is now as evident to me as morning sunlight. And then contractions double, as her baby starts to slide past her cervix, she speaks of rectal pressure and doubt. Or she is quiet, trance-like, but I see the bloody show on her warm thighs, dribbling down to her cool ankles. The blood is leaving her limbs, rushing towards her belly. A red line forms at her bottom’s part, rising up like a flag planted on a new land, motherhood claimed by body. A contraction, a climax of emotions and physical intensity, a micro-reflection of the larger play at hand; labor.

When a woman opts for an epidural, a reasonable request in the hospital where a woman is expected to labor with constant interruptions and lack of trust (which all raises her adrenaline and depletes her production of endorphins and oxytocin) I see the pattern of labor halted by medication. Or so it seems, superficially. Often, after the epidural has taken effect, the woman is restless, and her eyes dart around the room as she is encouraged to sleep. A rush of emotion slides beneath the surface of her skin. Meanwhile, her baby continues on his or her path and her body continues to part. She quivers and is told by the nurse that this is a side effect of the drug. Perhaps. I find this moment in the birth one of the most interesting emotional bridges that a woman must cross, and often there is no map, guide or intended destination. When a woman is committed to natural birth, or has no intention other than having her baby with the intention of collaborating with her medical team, often the sudden turn of events that lead to an epidural can leave women with the intense need to grieve what was not meant to be. Often, they do not know what it is they have lost. For some, like me, I have dedicated my life to finding out and helping woman define this moment for herself.

Click to read more ...


Tuesday Guest Post: "Similar Experiences, but Never the Same"

Every Tuesday we will be featuring a guest post related to abortion support, reproductive justice, and other topics relevant to our mission as an organization dedicated to providing nonjudgmental, compassionate and empowering full-spectrum doula services. If you are interested in writing a post for our Tuesday series, email Kelly N. 

This week's post, which was originally posted on the blog at Exhale (an organization committed to "addressing the emotional health and wellbeing of women and men after abortion"), comes from a new Bay Area Doula Project volunteer, Renee Bracey Sherman. Renee is from Chicago, Illinois where she graduated from Northeastern Illinois University, studying economics and sociology. Renee found a passion in working to break down barriers of multiple oppressions that women/people of color/LGBT/low income/immigrant folks face each day by sharing stories. Renee hopes that by sharing her personal abortion experience, she can help move the conversation past partisan lines and to a compassionate level.

Similar Experiences, but Never the Same

by Renee Bracey Sherman
Originally posted at Exhale 

Indifferent. As I rode home from the abortion clinic and the days after the procedure, I felt indifferent. I had been told to expect overwhelming feelings of sadness and physical pain, yet I felt none. I felt fine. Not better than normal, but also not worse than normal. Indifferent. It was not at all what I was told to expect, by the doctors, the nurses, or what I had heard from friends.

I grew up in what many would call a ‘liberal’ family. We were middle class; my parents are both nurses, college educated, we lived in the suburbs of a major city, and we were a very open family. My parents are both ‘pro-choice’ and would have supported my decision when I was 19 years old to have an abortion, yet, why did it take me six years to tell them about it?

My experience wasn’t unlike other women's; I had a steady boyfriend, I was on birth control, but I missed a few weeks of pills and became pregnant. At sixteen, when I told my mom about a friend’s abortion decision, she told me that it was a personal choice and one she supported. So, I should have been able to go to my parents when I needed support, right?

It just wasn’t that easy for me. Many of my cousins had children in their teens and were unable to finish high school and college, yet I was on track to do both. I didn’t want to disappoint my mother, I felt that if I told her that I was pregnant, I would let her down, make her mad. I felt that she and my father would be disappointed, even though they would have supported my decision.

Even until recently, I was afraid to tell anyone, for fear of the reaction that I would get, or the way they would view me. I felt that if I told my story, I would be wearing the scarlet ‘A’ forever. I felt that I would be one of the vicious women that senators and representatives talk about who ‘abort their babies to fit into a prom dress’. That kind of rhetoric hurts me because that wasn’t what happened. How could I make others understand without having to share the whole story of the abuse I had endured during that relationship, how to say that it was my choice and it was a way to get out of a really bad situation. It’s hard to justify your actions without giving away a huge part of yourself every time.

Even though some people may see me differently after knowing I had an abortion,  I’ve chosen to share my story to let others in the community know that abortion shouldn’t be a taboo subject. We can comfort one another and change the conversation. We can shape what people hear about our lives and our stories.

After talking to many of my friends, family members and co-workers, I found out that almost everyone has an experience with abortion; whether they themselves had one, a partner, a parent or a sibling, it is not uncommon. It is an experience that crosses all racial lines, the gender spectrum, class backgrounds and sexual orientations; yet, we don’t talk about it. I understand that there are many reasons some folks won’t want to share about their experience. Even if I don’t hear their story, I want them to know they are not alone. We’ve been through a similar experience and there is love and support available to you.

I recently told my mother about my abortion experience and she cried, not because she was mad, but because she was proud of me for having the strength to make a tough decision on my own. She wished she could have been there to support me. When I asked her if she was disappointed in me, she said, “No honey, I am proud of who you have become. You made a decision for you.”

Abortion is different for everyone. Each abortion is like stripes on a zebra; while on the surface they may seem similar, no two experiences are exactly the same. I hope that in the future, the abortion debate moves from above the heads of the people it affects, down to a conversational level, where women and family members who have experienced abortion can talk about how to best support each other. Our voices matter. Let’s listen.

Thanks to Renee for allowing us to repost her awesome piece! Check out Exhale's site at


Notes From The Salon: What is a Full-Spectrum Doula Anyway?

- Sarah W., BADP Doula and Blogger

The third BADP salon focused on what full-spectrum doulas do and why they do it.  The presenters were full-spectrum doulas Poonam Pai and Signy Toquinto as well as Ziska West who is working to complete a dissertation on the integration of mental health services in gynecological and women's primary care.

Photo by Mary Franck, Million Fishes Art Collective

Ziska opened the night’s presentations by discussing her own background, including working as the only onsite mental health provider at the Women’s Community Clinic.  She also shared some distressing statistics on the state of women’s health in both the U.S. generally and San Francisco specifically:

  • In 2010 the National Women’s Law Center report, Making the Grade on Women’s Health: A National and State-by-State Report Card, concluded that women’s healthcare needs are inadequately addressed in the United States in general, and in every state. 
  • According to 2010 US Census data, women in the US, and specifically those in San Francisco, were more likely than men to be below the poverty line.
  • In San Francisco, women head 92% of low income single parent households, which make up 48% of all low-income households in the city (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, & Smith, 2011). 
  • In California, 45% of nonelderly adult women are uninsured (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2009). 
  • On an annual basis, women pay more than men for overall healthcare, including primary care, specialty care, emergency services, and diagnostic screenings (Bertakis, Azari, Helms, Callahan, & Robbins, 1999).


Next, Signy talked about her experience as a birth doula, focusing on issues of access to the proven value of doula support.  Birth doulas provide various non-medical types of continuous support for someone giving birth.   As she described it, “As a birth doula you are there to support this individual no matter what.”  That means even if the birth doula doesn’t personally like choices the birthing mom is making, or would have made different choices herself, she continues to offer unconditional support.

The importance of this kinds of support can be measured in several different ways.  Signy shared statistics published by DONA indicating that doula support decreases likelihood of cesarean section, use of vacuum extractor or forceps, use of analgesia or anesthesia, and dissatisfaction with a birth experience.

Signy argued that access to this kind of support should be available to all birthing women.  The volunteer doula program at San Francisco General Hospital is an example of one way that doulas are working to bring their services to underserved populations. 


Poonam then talked about her work with the Doula Project in New York, a group which started in 2007 with just two doulas in one hospital and has grown to now encompass 40 doulas working in four abortion clinics, as well as providing support for other pregnancy outcomes. 

The group in New York chose to call themselves “abortion doulas” deliberately in order to begin to bridge the gap between the birth community and the reproductive justice community.

Because women seeking abortions are often not permitted to bring a partner or loved one with them into the procedure room, abortion doulas can fill an especially critical support role when they are given access to those spaces.  Poonam described how her work involved everything from holding hands, wiping tears, and offering calming breathing techniques, to telling jokes, fetching hot pads, and making distracting small talk.

According to Poonam, full-spectrum doula work is about providing support for all pregnancy outcomes.


Ziska wrapped up the formal presentations by pointing out some ways in which different kinds of reproductive health workers can collaborate to provide increasingly better support for people seeking reproductive health care.  As a mental health worker she is aware of mental health issues that commonly present during unplanned or difficult pregnancy experiences, and she wants to work together with doulas and others to share knowledge. Ziska is available for consultation with doulas and other women's health providers. Email her at

In light of this call for collaboration, it was therefore fitting that this salon featured a lengthy audience participation period, during which questions were raised and discussed about supporting people throughout the gender spectrum, the availability of doulas nationally, support for making the decision whether to choose an abortion, support for medical abortions at home, working with communities of color, and more.

It’s clear that all of us interested in women's reproductive health – full-spectrum doulas, mental health workers, clinicians, patients… - have a lot to teach each other.  There was some mention of the possibility of the BADP salon series continuing beyond its initial four weeks.  Do you have knowledge to share at a future salon?  Or questions you want answered at one?  The BADP wants to know. 

And do be as generous as you can when we pass the hat.  Donations go directly to a tiny budget which enables the organization to maintain this website, print flyers, run the salons, and offer training for doulas who can’t afford it themselves. 

For now, there’s one more Salon planned.  Please join us:


All about the Placenta: The Science, Art, and Eating of the Placenta.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The title says it all! Come learn and play with us as we discover the beauty and science of the amazing placenta and the role it plays in women’s heath pre- and post- natal.

Barby Zeldovich has a PhD in Cell & Molecular Biology from UCSF where she researched placental infection in preterm labor. She will talk about the science of how the placenta is formed by the developing fetus, how it functions, and the role it plays in pregnancy complications.

Amber Dawn Hallet of Moon Belly Doula will present on the process of raw placental encapsulation. Amber is a birth doula and who studied Traditional Chinese Medicine in graduate school who offers placental encapsulation services to women in the Bay Area.

Kelly Gray of Nine Moons Doula will show a short film about the birth of a placenta and the creation of placenta prints. She will also display her own recent exploration of the creative process of placenta printing and will have reproductions of placenta prints for sale.

Million Fishes Art Gallery

2501 Bryant Street, San Francisco, CA

$10-20 suggested donation. No one turned away for lack of funds.  All proceeds go to the Bay Area Doula Project

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