Some have contributed to local abortion funds. Others have taken to the streets in protest. And a number of people in South Florida and beyond have opted to help by training to become "abortion doulas," nonmedical professionals who provide emotional and physical support to people before, during, and after their abortions.
The Southern Birth Justice Network (SBJN), a Black- and queer-led organization that trains birthing and abortion doulas who independently offer their services in the community, has seen an uptick in inquiries about abortion doula training and services. Executive director Jamarah Amani says the group will ramp up its doula training sessions in the coming weeks and months.
"Our doula training has always been full-spectrum, and there's more of a demand for that now," Amani, a Miami-based midwife who trains abortion doulas, tells New Times. "But it's definitely something we've been doing: uplifting and upholding this model of care, because that's what people need."
Florida isn't one of the 13 U.S. states with so-called trigger laws that immediately banned abortions when Roe v. Wade fell on June 24, but many expect the state will ban the procedure if the 2022 midterm elections solidify Republican control in the legislature and the governor's mansion. Healthcare providers are already in court fighting to block Florida's 15-week abortion ban from going into effect on July 1, arguing that the law, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed earlier this year, violates individual privacy rights enshrined in the state's constitution.
For the past decade, Amani has worked with SBJN to train doulas, provide midwifery care, and advocate for better health services for women and families. The organization, which supports roughly 100 families each year, has a mutual aid program to provide free and low-cost doula services to those who can't afford their services, and its doulas often work on a sliding fee scale.
Although SBJN provides midwifery care to the community at large, its doulas focus on Black, brown, youth, immigrant, indigenous, LGBTQ+, and low-income clients and they work to mitigate racial disparities in maternal- and infant-mortality rates. (Experts have emphasized that people of color and other marginalized communities will bear the brunt of Roe's demise.) The work of abortion doulas — which, notably, does not entail providing abortions — can be as basic as providing a hand to hold during the procedure and/or a ride to and from the clinic.
SBJN's next doula training cohort is set to launch in the spring of 2023. Amani says there's already a waiting list.
"I mean, we had medical students, nurses, everyday young mamas," she says of the increased interest. "Just regular people, you know.
"We'll continue to offer workshops throughout the year and show up in various spaces to just try to get the word out in the community about the full-spectrum care and birth-justice model that we think is so vital to the survival of our communities," she adds.