Categories: Issue 36 - Summer 2017.
author: jennifergillean.

Full Spectrum Doulas:

Offering Care and Support Throughout the Pregnancy Spectrum

A Full Spectrum Doula is someone committed to supporting the whole spectrum of reproductive experiences and outcomes. They strive to bring the doula model of care to trans people, girls and women who are experiencing abortion, adoption, surrogacy, miscarriage or stillbirth.

Why would someone need support for an abortion?

In 2015, there were over 100,000 abortions performed in hospitals or clinics across Canada (http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/backrounders/statistics-abortion-in-canada.pdf), and undoubtedly many more in other settings. Even though abortion had been re-legalized in Canada in 1969, access has remained an ongoing issue. For example, there are no hospitals or clinics in Prince Edward Island that currently perform abortions. As well, there isn’t all that much support before, throughout and after an abortion. So abortion doulas exist to:

  • fill in the gaps of care,
  • accompany people to and from appointments and
  • to provide support in integrating the experience into one’s life.

What is Reproductive Justice and what does it have to do with being a doula?

Think reproductive rights meet social justice. And although indigenous women, women of colour and trans people have been working towards Reproductive Justice for a very long time, the term Reproductive Justice was created in 1994, at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, where the individual right to plan your own family was agreed to be central to global development. As defined by SisterSong, Reproductive Justice is “the human right to maintain bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities (http://sistersong.net/reproductive-justice/). Some areas included in Reproductive Justice are:

  • freedom from violence,
  • environmental preservation,
  • trans liberation,
  • political representation,
  • decolonization,
  • the prison system,
  • parental leave and child support,
  • immigration justice,
  • food security & (dis)ability justice,
  • access to contraception,
  • abortion and
  • prenatal care.

Since we live in a society where discrimination of marginalized groups is still very much part of daily life for many Canadians, pregnancy, birthing and parenting are too all affected by these systems of oppression. So if a person intends to support others from a space of inclusiveness, ongoing learning and support is essential to their personal and professional development.

There is a group of full spectrum doulas and reproductive justice advocates in the Ottawa area, who are beginning to connect, collaborate and share in the learning process. If you are interested in taking part of this initiative or would like to stay informed on what is happening, please contact Mary Kuzniuk or Jennifer Gillean at wholehearteddoulas@gmail.com for more details or visit fullspectrumdoulas.ca.

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