by Teagan Hughes
[originally published May 20, 2022]
On May 2nd, POLITICO published a leaked draft of the majority opinion in Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. If the draft opinion were issued as is, it would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark SCOTUS decision that has ensured abortion access in the United States for forty-nine years. In response to this leaked draft, a number of student organizations on Oberlin’s campus have begun mobilizing for reproductive rights.
One of the student groups organizing in response to the leaked opinion draft is the Oberlin Doula Collective, an Oberlin-based organization of abortion doulas. A doula is defined by ODC’s website as “a non-medical reproductive support companion who provides emotional, physical, and informational support to people who are experiencing pregnancy or an outcome of pregnancy.” There are different kinds of doulas that assist in all aspects of reproductive health; ODC is specifically made up of abortion doulas. According to their website, an abortion doula “keeps people company before, during, and after their abortion procedures, and helps improve patient comfort and self-advocacy by providing basic pain-management techniques, breathing techniques, imagery, and/or comforting conversation.” The Oberlin Doula Collective underscores the importance of non-medical emotional support for pregnant people. “I feel like in our American medical system, sometimes the emotional aspect of things can be…fallen by the wayside by medical professionals,” said Bella, a member of ODC’s leadership circle. “The work that medical professionals provide is essential, especially in this realm of things, but there’s obviously so much stigma attached to receiving an abortion…and the stigma attached to it causes not everyone to have a proper support system, and so as people, we can’t separate the medical from the personal.”
Currently, ODC offers virtual support in the form of a hotline that operates via phone call and text. ODC also offers educational workshops on reproductive justice, as well as trainings in which the participants can become abortion doulas themselves.
Bella indicated that, although ODC has long been anticipating this outcome, the recently leaked opinion draft increases the urgency of their work. “I mean, we have a clinic partner in Cleveland [Preterm Clinic], and they have planned for this for some time now,” said Bella. “It’s tragically not unexpected, and so they’re expecting an influx of patients coming in in these next few months.” This urgency compounds the already existing difficulty of mobilizing for reproductive rights in the current political climate. “We are a community organization and not a school club,” Bella said, “and so we definitely want to and seek to do outreach in the local community, but it is difficult around an act that is so politicized, and stigmatized, and weaponized against people.”
In planning their upcoming events, including several trainings and a fundraiser, Bella emphasized that ODC seeks to center the voices of people of color and working-class people, “especially as reproductive justice was founded by Black women in the late 1990s.” For more information on the reproductive justice framework, Bella recommended the activist collective SisterSong, found online at www.sistersong.net. “As is the case, people of color and poor people are going to be the people that are going to be the most affected by a ban like this,” Bella said, “so we seek to have our services benefit all people, and not just people who have privilege.”
Bella noted that, while threats to reproductive access often spur discussion of voting and political advocacy, grassroots community support is another crucial piece of the puzzle. “I think that it is important for those groups to work hand-in-hand, and I also think that the support that we provide is unique, and it is not what people most think of, and it is not the most widespread,” Bella said. “Even if it’s going to be, ‘abortion’s illegal in Ohio,’ like I said before, it’s legal other places and it’s gonna still happen, and so I think people who have the training and ability and knowledge to support people in abortions is so, so important. But I also obviously wish that it wasn’t—that that support work could be more readily available to people regardless of legality.”
The Oberlin Doula Collective has planned a number of immediate next steps in the form of several trainings and a fundraiser. On May 21st and 22nd, ODC will offer abortion doula trainings in Wilder 101 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additionally, there will be a fundraiser on Tuesday, May 24th featuring performances by a number of local musicians as well as an art raffle to raise money for abortion funds. For those interested in participating in doula training or donating artwork or performances to the fundraiser, ODC can be reached via phone at (440) 253-9477, via email at email@example.com, or via Instagram @oberlindoulacollective.