Overview:

Doulas are trained professionals who provide personalized help during maternity, childbirth and newborn care, and abortion doulas can also be someone that helps you understand abortion restrictions and new rules.

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[By Johanna Ochoa Luna; Photos by Carla Hernández Ramírez]

While abortion in some surrounding states is now illegal or has many restrictions, the support of abortion doulas has become even more significant. 

Maybe you have heard about doulas — trained professionals who provide personalized help during maternity, childbirth and newborn care. But these professionals are also trained as abortion doulas, being a support system and a companion for people that decided to terminate their pregnancy, no matter the situation. 

“They are women who have sometimes gone through the same thing and by their own decision and from the heart they decided to train to be a doula,” said a 28-year-old patient who received abortion care at Doulas Telar,  a group that provides support to Spanish-speaking women in San Francisco and surrounding areas. “They are that support you need, that neutral friend who has the right words for you and the ability and knowledge to support you in this very difficult time.”

Cera Merrick (pronouns they/them) are a professional based in Oakland that offers Abortion Doula services. 

“Providing compassionate care looks like holding space, really being a space for people to speak their story because too often abortion is stigmatized or quiet in people’s family structures, so I just make space to listen, sometimes I’m the only person that people are talking to about their abortions, And just being non-judgmental and open,” said Merrick, who has been providing services for the past five years. “In addition to that, I really help prepare people for what they’re going to experience, whether they’re having a medication abortion, a clinical abortion, or an herbal abortion.” 

Since the US Supreme Court overturned the federal constitutional right to abortion in late June 2022, laws and regulations regarding this matter have been changing quickly across the country.

“I think that one of the worst things, on the long list of bad things that have come since Roe v. Wade has been overturned, is that people don’t know what’s going on,” said Merrick. “People who are in places where abortion is still legal, they don’t know that because they hear a little bit on the news, or they hear a little bit on social media. And the laws are also changing so quickly back and forth, even if it’s a shorter period of blocking abortion, there are still people in that time period who are pregnant, who will be impacted, and children who will be born from that time period who will be affected.” 

Martha Franco, Director of Doulas Telar, said that the country is facing a “very hard time with tremendous misinformation and fear,” but it is there where abortion doulas take action, being that friendly companion that doesn’t judge.

“The decision of the person is respected, what we do is listen to them, guide them so that they get through this situation in the best way,” said Franco. “We fill out a questionnaire because we want to know their story, and little by little we are reaching a trust, any conversation that is held is confidential, it is part of our commitment, and it doesn’t matter if it is a close relative or a friend who is approaching us, no information can be revealed.”

Abortion doulas can also be someone that helps you understand abortion restrictions and new rules.

“All these women and girls need support but what they also need is information, that is why Doulas offer this information based on science and statistics so that person can make a better decision based on their own prejudice,” said Maya Herrera, doula and head of the training committee at Doulas Telar. “We as doulas have an enormous capacity to be compassionate, to listen, to inform, and to fulfill this person with the necessary resources.”

Between all the disinformation and doubt, having a professional connecting you with the right resources can be a big relief.

“I think a big piece for me is connecting people with resources where you can search legitimate abortion clinics, because unfortunately, there’s a lot of fake abortion clinics out there that will actually put themselves like across the street from a legitimate abortion clinic, so people confuse and go to the wrong one,” said Merrick.

Abortion doulas in California, where abortion is still legal, are seeing an increase in their job.

“I think that my work has quadrupled a lot more than it was before. Because not only is abortion restricted now, but also like the emotional distress and shame that was already there before is now magnified because the government is saying that it isn’t ‘Okay,’ and the government’s allowing for people to be forced into giving births,” Merrick said. “And so, I think the emotional piece is amplified, that’s where the role of doulas come in is to provide that emotional support.” 

Martha Franco, Director of Doulas Telar at Casa Doulas, Sept 20, 2022.

Now groups like Doulas Telar are getting ready to train more people as the need for their services increases.

“We are about to inaugurate our new Casa Doulas Training Center,” Franco said. “It took us two years to carry out this project, here we will be able to have a big space for more mothers and women who want to be trained or receive our personalized services.”

This new facility in the Mission District will be the first of its kind in the state, with services for mothers such as nutrition, yoga, meditation, and training for the family before and after birth; same as conferences and certified training for future doulas.

Franco affirms that meetings are being held, where people from the medical group and representatives of important universities in the state are involved, discussing the possibility of taking doulas as a professional career.


Martha Franco, Director of Doulas Telar and Luz Bautista, member of Doulas Telar, preparing the broadcast of the drum class for the members at Casa Doulas, Sept 20, 2022.

“We are looking for the Doula to be a new career in the future, just like the nurse and the midwife,” said Franco. “We have said in those meetings that it isn’t going to be easy, but we believe that this is going to help us to be more recognized.”

Doulas services will be available with Medi-Cal

Starting the first day of the 2023 year, the three-year Medi-Cal pilot program will take action, which will provide doula care as a covered benefit for pregnant and postpartum people in California. 

“We are at the moment when we begin to be recognized by both society and hospitals, thanks to them who are also concerned to see how we are going to join their team,” Franco said.

Members of Doulas Telar celebrate Luz Bautista’s birthday with a cake at Casa Doulas, Sept 20, 2022.

Any person under Medi-Cal will be able to request doula services as part of their insurance, meaning that more mothers can have access to a doula and the doulas will be fully compensated for their job.

This program is expected to be a pilot for other states to take the same actions in favor of doulas and pregnant people.

If you’re interested in getting trained or need doula services, you can contact Doulas Telar at doulastelar.org and Cera Merrick at ceramerrick.com and on Instagram @ceramerrick. 

IMPORTANT RESOURCES 

Courtesy of Cera Merrick

Exhale Pro-voice: https://exhaleprovoice.org/, textline for abortion support (Spanish available)

Members of the collective Doulas Telar attend the virtual drum class at Casa Doulas, Sept 20, 2022.
Members of the collective Doulas Telar attend the virtual drum class at Casa Doulas, Sept 20, 2022.