In their book The Doulas: Radical Care for Pregnant People, Mary Mahoney and Lauren Mitchell wrote about setting up the Doula Project, an organization that supplies abortion doulas to comfort women as they have abortions. These doulas often try to distract women from the reality of the abortion procedure and make the abortion go more smoothly. According to the book, they often ask women to talk about their born children while the abortionist kills their preborn ones. The doulas’ goal is to make abortion easier for women.
However, when the Doula Project was first established, the founders were criticized by pro-abortion activists and organizations. The doulas had not expected this hostility from their supposed allies.
Mahoney and Mitchell say that abortion supporters were angry because the doulas were tacitly admitting that abortion was traumatic for some women. If abortion was really empowering for women, why would women need emotional support? The doulas were highlighting the fact that abortion could be traumatic and that women might need help to cope. Mahoney and Mitchell write:
There were the more traditional pro-choice groups and activists who would express concern about our acknowledgment of the emotion that accompanies an abortion. We had been fed narratives through our activist work that many people felt “empowered” by their abortions. But our very presence in the procedure room undermined that message by hinting that abortion might be physically painful or people might have complicated feelings about it.
Women, the abortion doulas noted, were not being empowered by their abortions:
Mostly what we saw from people having abortions was a nuanced mix of mourning and relief. We would rarely hear that our clients regretted their procedures, nor would we hear them speak of it in empowering terms. But when we talked about all of this, it often wasn’t received by the pro-choice community the way we expected it to be.
The fact that women have negative feelings about their abortions, that abortions can be painful, and that women do not feel empowered, were messages that abortion supporters wanted to silence. They were even more antagonized by the tendency for doulas to be honest about what abortions look like and what they do to preborn babies, and they feared that what doulas were saying would feed the anti-abortion (or, as they say, the “anti-choice”) movement.
The authors say:
Supporting a client before, during, and after an abortion, being a nonjudgmental presence and having no agenda other than that, was a departure from the standard pro-choice framework. We were coming from advocacy and policy backgrounds, connected to the people creating the abortion rights message in the United States. We knew that acknowledging complicated feelings about abortion was going to be a delicate task and that being real about what an abortion actually looked like would be even more delicate. Asserting that someone might need support during an abortion? Forget it. Those were acknowledgments that many felt could be dangerous to the policies and laws in place that protect the right to choose.
Frequently, there was concern that we could be feeding the antichoice movement with our perspectives.
Pro-abortion groups were afraid to give any credence to the argument that abortion is traumatic for women. And, of course, they sought to hide what abortion does to preborn babies completely. These pro-choice groups published articles attacking the doulas. The authors say:
Each time an article diminishing us was published, we were surprised… How could there be such disconnect between real people’s lived experiences and the pro-choice messages coming from the media and major pro-choice organizations?
The disconnect these doulas speak of is the disconnect between the way pro-choice groups portray abortion and what abortion really is.
The authors also acknowledge that “the media” is spreading the pro-abortion message. For years, pro-lifers have complained about (and often documented) the way news outlets take their talking points from pro-abortion groups and repeat them without ever questioning their veracity. The media also refuses to cover stories that cast abortion or Planned Parenthood in a bad light. If a news story challenges the narrative that abortion helps women, many mainstream news organizations won’t cover it. Some media outlets distort the truth or lie by omission to make a story more favorable to the pro-abortion side. Mitchell and Mahoney seem to know that the media is on the side of the pro-abortion groups and spreads the same narratives they do.
Pro-abortion groups (and their enablers in the media) deliberately sugarcoat abortion procedures. They lie or evade the truth about what abortion does to women and babies. Anything that shines a light on the fact that abortion is a traumatic, invasive procedure has to be suppressed in order to maintain the myth that abortion empowers women.
Source: Mary Mahoney and Lauren Mitchell The Doulas: Radical Care for Pregnant People (New York: Feminist Press, 2016) 18 – 19, 20
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