Abortion Doulas: How They Work, Costs & FAQs

Updated

Abortion can be a touchy subject, yet it is incredibly common. In the United States, nearly one in four women will undergo an abortion by the age of 45. Despite how common they are, most people go through the experience with little to no support. 

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Everyone has their reasons for having an abortion, but no matter what they are, everyone deserves to have support throughout the process. Still, many people don’t have friends, family, or partners who are equipped to give them the help they need. 

That’s where abortion doulas come in. An abortion doula has the skillset, expertise, and passion for supporting people through this particular type of pregnancy loss. Let’s take a look at what exactly an abortion doula is, what they do, how to find one, and how to become one yourself.

What Is an Abortion Doula?

You may have heard the term “doula” before. Most people associate doulas with pregnancy and birth. This is what you’d call a “birth doula.” Generally speaking, a doula is someone who holds space and provides educational, emotional, and physical support for people through life’s biggest transitions. 

Doulas are not medical professionals. They are not midwives or OB/GYNS, although some may have separate certifications or licenses in the medical field. In addition to birth doulas, there are doulas for all of life’s most intense and intimate moments. This includes miscarriage doulas, death doulas, and abortion doulas. 

While some doulas specialize specifically in abortion, more often than not, it’s “full-spectrum doulas” that provide abortion support and other kinds of perinatal bereavement care. A full spectrum doula is someone who supports people no matter the outcome of their pregnancy, which includes prenatal care, birth, pregnancy loss like miscarriage or stillbirth, abortion, and sometimes postpartum care. 

The term abortion doula was first coined by the New York City-based organization The Doula Project to “provide free compassionate care and emotional, physical, and informational support to people across the spectrum of pregnancy.” They started the trend of having in-house doulas in abortion clinics and normalizing the idea of people seeking out their own abortion doulas. 

Anyone who has ever had an abortion understands just how necessary this role is. But what exactly does an abortion doula do?

What Is an Abortion Doula Responsible For?

Overall, an abortion doula is responsible for making sure that their client’s abortion and aftercare goes as smoothly as possible, and that they feel cared for during the process. The exact role of an abortion doula varies depending on their client’s needs, but their main focus is support, educationally, emotionally, and physically.

Education

Medical knowledge isn’t usually clear and relatable to the average person, especially when there are emotions involved. The educational component of an abortion doula’s role means being able to describe to their clients what is going on with their body, what their options are, and clear up any other questions or confusions they may have. 

People have abortions for different reasons. Some choose to end their pregnancy due to medical issues, while others don’t feel like it’s the right time to have a baby. No matter why someone has an abortion, they probably have some difficult emotions to navigate through before, during, or after the procedure. An abortion doula is there to help them do that. 

Emotional support

Emotional support involves listening to clients talk about what they’re going through, giving them hugs or gentle reassurance, or just sitting with them while they cry. It’s important to point out that abortion doulas are not mental health professionals. 

The body goes through hormonal changes after an abortion. Sometimes these changes can trigger anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. If they feel like their client’s needs are outside of their scope of practice, the doula will refer them to a licensed provider who is better skilled at handling the client’s particular needs.

Physical support

There are different types of abortions, but most people have some discomfort. An abortion doula can help minimize this discomfort with tools and tricks. It’s not uncommon for people to experience cramping, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and sometimes vomiting. It makes it easier to deal with this discomfort when you have someone there who knows what to do. 

There are two main kinds of abortions: medical and surgical. Medical abortions are when the person receives a series of medications that they can take and go through the abortion at home. Different surgical abortions are available depending on the person’s needs and pregnancy, but they all occur in clinics or hospitals. 

Some clinics allow abortion doulas to be with their clients or have programs in place to have doulas available to people who would like one. Doulas are also incredibly helpful at home.

These are some of the ways an abortion doula supports their client physically:

  • Make sure they’re hydrated and have snacks available
  • Ease discomfort through gentle massage, acupressure, and heat packs
  • Keep their client as warm and comfortable as possible
  • Create a calming environment through lighting candles, playing music, essential oils, and other tricks they may have up their sleeve
  • Help clients with any discomfort or side effects they have after the abortion 

Holding space

The last and most subtle responsibility of an abortion doula is holding space. This term can be difficult to describe but is clearly felt when it’s happening. When a doula holds space, they are creating a container for their client to move through whatever discomfort, pain, or grief at their own pace. 

When you hold space, you’re not trying to fix the situation or make it anything other than what it is; you’re simply trying to make it as easy and comfortable as possible. You can compare it to a parent being with their toddler during a tantrum. There might be little they can do to end or fix the tantrum. They just need to be there as their child processes their emotions. 

Who Typically Uses a Doula for an Abortion?

Abortion doulas are for anyone who has had or can have an abortion. We typically only think of pregnancy loss and abortions as something that women go through, but anyone capable of becoming pregnant may also have an abortion. That includes non-binary folx, trans-men, and other gender non-conforming people. 

It’s crucial for marginalized communities and people who may have trouble accessing safe, competent care to get extra support from abortion doulas. This is because they’re more likely to face medical discrimination or providers who don’t use their correct pronouns or name. 

Despite how necessary they are, many people don’t use abortion doulas. They’re more common in large metropolitan areas where clinics already have abortion doula programs in place. Because the legality and accessibility of abortion is tricky in many states, it can be more challenging to find an abortion doula, but that much more critical. 

What Are the Benefits of Using a Doula?

Think of your most difficult or uncomfortable moments in life. Was someone there to support you through it? How did they make it easier by being there for you? Or how much easier would it have been if you did have someone there for you?

That’s the most significant benefit of having an abortion doula: not being alone through an uncomfortable experience. Having an abortion doula allows you access to knowledge about your body, the abortion, and what your options are. They can help minimize any physical discomfort you may experience. They can also help you watch for any physical or mental health symptoms that you should watch out for. 

How Much Does a Doula Cost?

The cost of an abortion doula varies between different practitioners and often reflects the living costs of their area. The price range of an abortion doula varies from free to around $800, with the average price being around $400.

An abortion doula’s fee reflects their training, experience, the costs associated with owning and operating a business, the intensity of their work, and the fact that they can only take on a few clients at a time.

If you need an abortion doula but don’t think it’s within your budget, there are still options out there. Let’s look at how to find an abortion doula. 

How to Find a Doula That Helps With Abortion

One benefit of the pandemic is that it made it apparent how necessary accessibility is, especially when it comes to medical care. Even if you can’t find an abortion doula in your area, there are plenty of practitioners who provide virtual doula support. 

One of the first places you can check is your local reproductive health clinic. They may already have a doula program in place or be able to refer you to someone. You can also check social media in different groups or search for hashtags like #abortiondoula.

Here are some other directories you can check to find an abortion doula who fits your needs:

How Do You Become a Doula That Helps With Abortion?

If you’re someone who loves to nurture, support, and be there for people through life’s most intense and intimate moments, you might be considering a job that deals with death. This includes becoming a doula who helps with abortion.

While training isn’t necessary, it certainly is valuable. Here are a few resources you can check out:

You’ll notice that most of these courses say “full-spectrum doula.” Many trainings are geared towards preparing doulas for supporting their clients through birth and any outcome of pregnancy, including abortion.

Everyone Deserves a Doula

Abortion doulas help normalize a very real and common part of life: pregnancy loss and abortions. If you’re going to have an abortion and are looking for doula support, you deserve to find someone who makes you feel safe and comfortable. 

If you’re looking to become an abortion doula, that’s amazing! The world needs what you have to offer. You never know how much of a difference even a half-hour of support can make in someone's life. 


Source:
  1. “Abortion Is a Common Experience for U.S. Women, Despite Dramatic Declines in Rates”.  News Release, Guttmacher Institute, 19 October 2017. Guttmacher.org

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