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Pre- and Post-Roe, Abortion Doulas Fill Abortion Care Gaps

An image of two Black people holding hands.
Anita Rao meets two abortion doulas who share the practical and philosophical components of their job. They reflect on what has changed for them since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, and what's stayed the same for their alternative and community-based networks of care.

With more restrictive laws on abortion going into effect across the country, uncertainty about the future of reproductive health care is growing. But there is one group of people who are prepared to do what they’ve always done to provide access for those who don’t have it: abortion doulas.

Host Anita Rao talks with abortion doula KáLyn Banks Coghill about how they help people with the practical and emotional parts of the abortion process and how their services have been affected by the overturn of Roe v. Wade. KáLyn works with the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project and is a writer, organizer and doctoral student at Virginia Commonwealth University. KáLyn also teaches in the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies department.

Anita also discusses reproductive health and justice with Raven Freeborn, a healing justice practitioner, full spectrum doula and community educator who has provided trainings for folks interested in becoming abortion doulas.

Thanks to Amanda, Lynn, Deonna and Linden for contributing their thoughts and stories to this episode.

If you’re interested in finding an abortion fund or practical support organization in your area and learning more about what they do, these sites may be helpful:

Three Steps in Abortion Care Outside the Clinic

1. Determination of Need

When an abortion fund or other reproductive justice organization receives a call for help, they determine the funds available for the client’s medical care and other needs.

“We have intake coordinators … and twice a week they open up the phone lines for people to be able to call, and then they assign volunteers to call the people back to see how much that the organization will need to pledge in order to help them pay for their abortion.” - KáLyn Banks Coghill

2. Coordination of Practical Support

An abortion doula is assigned to a client to help with their transportation, childcare, lodging and food.

“We will cook food for people and deliver it to their hotels for them. I’ve sat inside of a Planned Parenthood while someone was getting their abortion to watch their child for them.” - KáLyn Banks Coghill

3. Emotional Support 

Abortion doulas answer questions and make abortion seekers feel comfortable before and after their procedures.

“Clients I've had in the past … sometimes they do want to talk about abortion, sometimes they don't. And then there's also times where they just want to be silent — you have to respect that as well.” - KáLyn Banks Coghill

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Kaia Findlay is the lead producer of Embodied, WUNC's weekly podcast and radio show about sex, relationships and health. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.