Part 2: Conversations with Fargo Area Pro-Choice Doulas

Doula and Writer, Janelle Brandon, with her daughter.

Part 1: Exploring the Concept of Full-Spectrum Doula Support Around North Dakota’s Only Abortion Clinic

By Vanessa Norton, BADP Volunteer

To me, the keystone of being a full-spectrum doula is giving non-judgmental support across the spectrum of reproductive choice. It’s not about a polemic; it’s about care and it innately recognizes the complexity of these choices. Although the term “full-spectrum doula” did not seem to be used in Fargo, it resonated with many of (birth and) reproductive workers we spoke with.*

In response to the term “full-spectrum doula,” Janelle Brandon, a writer and doula living in Moorhead, MN, told us, “when I heard the word “full-spectrum,” it was like ‘flash of light.’ This is the perfect term, something I’ve been talking about with trusted friends…it’s an open term that makes you really consider…but it doesn’t exist here.”

Although Janelle clearly felt in sync with supporting women’s choices across the spectrum, and is “out” as pro-choice on Facebook, there are enough Christian Conservatives within the birth community that Janelle feels she is in the minority. “I want to be careful about ruffling feathers. It’s something I’m a little sad about, often times I feel bullied, but while I would love to serve women no matter what, I don’t want to engage in the argument [with anti-abortion people].”

In response to what she would do to support choice if RRWC were to close, she hoped RRWC would move across the river to MN, then stated, “but I don’t want to live in that world.”

Crystal Wolf, another doula living in Moorhead, who runs Motherwise, an evidence-based parenting Facebook page, felt that the Fargo-Moorhead doula community was strong and developed compared with much larger population centers in the Midwest. “Maybe it has to do with the fact that it is so Christian and family-based here, and also the lack of rules around homebirth.” [Homebirth is a-legal in North Dakota.] In terms of supporting RRWC, Crystal stated, “if they’re having a rally, I go to that, but I don’t have the time to do much beyond that.” Crystal is mother to a 3-year-old daughter and was 37 weeks pregnant at the time of the interview. Still, she spoke of helping two friends miscarry unwanted pregnancies by suggesting herbs and acupressure points.

Heather Jackson, a doula and abortion rights activist living in Grand Forks, ND (90 miles north of Fargo) organized a rally attended by 150 people (“huge for Grand Forks”) when the Governor signed the anti-abortion bills last March. She is “out” on her online doula profile as pro-choice and queer friendly. Even as a time-strapped single mom and full-time graduate student, Heather not only organized the rally, but started making maps to clinics in Minnesota and was preparing to help women access those clinics.

Lysa Ringquist, a former patient educator and “hand-holder” at RRWC has a room named after her at the clinic. She spoke of breathing techniques, looking into patients’ eyes, and helping to “keep the patient in her own calm, in her own strength.” “I felt I was doing doula work,” she said. When asked about what she’d do if RRWC were to be shut down, she responded, “I know how to do the procedure. We talked about performing abortions ourselves.”

It seemed that even if these doulas had not heard of the term “full-spectrum doula care,” they were each, in some capacity, thinking and operating within it. Not only was there a sense of identification with the idea, but it was clear that the actions of full-spectrum doula care were happening in Fargo too, despite the lack of a cohesive full-spectrum doula organization.  

*We also spoke with some doulas who identified as pro-life. More on this in another post.    

(more to come next week!)

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