Notes from the salon: Counseling, Compassion, and Support

By Sarah Whedon

I am still feeling echoes of the great compassion, wisdom, and eagerness to learn from each other that filled the room at this Wednesday’s salon. These events are such a great way for us to all continue our education on reproductive health (there’s always more to learn!) as well as to meet friends and allies.

The amazing abortion counseling panel, assembled by hard-working volunteers Stef, Barby, Liz, and Renee, addressed a packed room at Million Fishes art gallery.


Moderator Steph Herold, a reproductive justice activist who has worked in direct service abortion care and reproductive health advocacy, and who founded the websites and, gave the panelists ample opportunity to speak from their own experiences.


We heard from Alissa Perrucci, the Counseling & Administrative Manager at the Women’s Options Center at San Francisco General Hospital and author of Decision Assessment and Counseling in Abortion Care: Philosophy and PracticeReagan Parker who volunteers on ACCESS‘s Healthline in order to ensure that women have the resources and support they need to obtain vital reproductive health services; and Sabrina Andrus, a board member at Backline, a counseling talk line providing unconditional support for decisions, feelings, and experiences with pregnancy, parenting, abortion, and adoption.  


Although each of the organizations the panelists work with has a different focus, they all returned repeatedly to the common themes of listening to individual women and making space for those women to be self-empowered. Some choice nuggets of truth:
  •  “I always remember that the patient has the answer for her situation or dilemma. Everyone has their own answer.” — Alissa Perrucci
  • No matter the situation “there’s always a kernel of self-determination with the women I talk to. I try to encourage that.” — Reagan Parker
  • “For our callers [abortion] is not a political decision. It’s their life and a necessity.” — Sabrina Andrus


I had to leave early because my baby (who had tons of cooing fans amongst the full-spectrum doulas who were meeting her for the first time since she was born in May) got too tired, but I expect to attend the next Salon. If you were there will you help fill in the details – what were the night’s highlights for you?

PS. Check out previous Notes From the Salon on orgasms, hormones, placentas, and full-spectrum doulas.

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Serious question, how many times have you seen anatomy photos with Black women and Black babies in the womb? At the doctors office, medical books, anywhere?

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This is one reason that keeping abortion legal is not enough. It's already extremely difficult for many people -- even in CA -- to arrange funding, travel, childcare, etc. It's also why we do what we do. When things are already that hard, it's vital to have a support system.

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