In 2007, the initial aim of The Doula Project (formerly the Abortion Doula Project) was to provide people choosing to terminate their pregnancies with all of the benefits of what is typically known to be the territory of birth doulas: pain management and relaxation techniques, information and education about pregnancy, and above all, emotional support and empathy. The founders of the project, all reproductive justice activists and birth doulas, came to this work to fill a very distinct gap that pushed into both sides of the reproductive justice framework in the context of abortion and in the context of birth. While recently there have been forums in which birth activists and abortion activists have commingled, a divide still exists. The Doula Project works to connect the choices, needs, and experiences of people across the spectrum of pregnancy and to provide support for these people no matter what their choice may be.
The Doula Project was initially coordinated by two founding members, who worked with several volunteer trained abortion and birth doulas. Within its first year and a half, The Doula Project served over 1,000 people choosing abortion or experiencing fetal loss in the NYC area. While the Project originally intended to center on abortion, the presence of those who came to abortion clinics because of miscarriage and lethal fetal anomaly began a shift in the way we approached the project. Likewise, as our trained birth doulas began to work with birth mothers through our partnership with the pro-choice adoption agency Spence-Chapin (and later, directly through our website), it became less and less appropriate to consider ourselves exclusively “abortion doulas.”
In early 2009, we changed our name to The Doula Project and adjusted our mission, vision, values, and constituent base. We've expanded our leadership to a collective Leadership Circle, and over 20 active full-spectrum doulas work with the Project. We've developed a unique, proprietary training specific to the work we do: doulas who go through our training come away with a thorough understanding of abortion procedures and learn a broad palette of support skills.
Our ongoing partnerships with clinics and hospitals allow us to provide an wholly innovative service model. Traditional doula services are often inaccessible to the people who need them most: low-income people and people without existing support structures. By partnering directly with healthcare providers, we become part of the clinic structure for both clients and healthcare service providers, seamlessly integrating support into our clients' experiences regardless of the outcome of their pregnancy.
In 2010, we expanded our services to other NYC clinics and public hospitals and launched our Training and Networking Circle for doulas working across the spectrum of pregnancy around the country. In 2012, we supported approximately 3,500 people choosing abortion or experiencing fetal loss and 60 birth clients. We've worked with dozens of other full-spectrum projects, presenting our comprehensive trainings, supporting organizational development, and building a larger community of full-spectrum service providers. We're continuing to grow by partnering with new locations in the New York City area, expanding our birth doula services, and developing our own birth doula training tailored specifically to the clients we serve. We're proud of what we've accomplished in the last seven years, and we look forward to what the future brings!