A ViewPoint by Janene Cates Putman
As I walked out of that women’s clinic and back to my car, I took a deep breath and processed the life-changing news; I was pregnant. The timing was all wrong. I was only 19 years old and on Christmas break from college. I felt shame and embarrassment, as I knew this was the result of a drunken one-night stand. My parents were in the ministry at our local church, and my sister was still in high school and looked up to her big sister who was planning to become a “hot shot attorney,” as I called it. All this weighed on me as I drove home, knowing I could easily turn the car around and arrange an abortion. But during that drive, I decided to continue the pregnancy. And because I had the choice, that decision meant more to me at that moment.
One in four American women will access abortion in her lifetime. And my own abortion story is why I am ardently pro-abortion. I believe, as humans created in God’s image, one of our greatest gifts is agency. That includes agency over our bodies. I also believe God loves me no matter what my choices were as a teenager (or now, for that matter). It is for these reasons – and more – that I am now a certified Abortion Doula.
Until last year, I had never heard of an Abortion Doula. I kept seeing the term while researching for an article, and I began to dig deeper. An Abortion Doula offers physical, emotional, and spiritual support to the pregnant person. This support can occur before, during, and/or after the abortion procedure. I look at my role as that of a chaplain: to offer God’s love and mine to people who may be making one of the most difficult decisions of their lives. This is the sacred work I believe Jesus would be doing in today’s world. It is because of my faith, and not in spite of it, that I am an Abortion Doula.
Being an Abortion Doula is part of my faith journey as well as my path to ordination. I want to be there to support women who may be making the most excruciating decision of their lives. I will say:
You are so loved.
God loves you.
You have agency to make this decision as a person created in the image of God.
I love you.
I am here.
My training is through an international organization called Dopo (Abortion Doula Training — Dopo | Abortion Support for Her/ Him/ Them (wearedopo.com), which uses a framework of reproductive justice rather than the trite terms of “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” According to Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice by Rebecca Todd Peters, reproductive justice (RJ) “has three primary principles: the right not to have a child, the right to have a child, and the right to parent in safe & healthy environments.” The intersectional approach “recognizes the moral complexity of individual women’s life situations” and “grew out of the lives & experiences of women of color.” In short, reproductive justice is concerned with the totality of a person’s reproductive life – access to safe and legal abortion is included, but is not the only concern. Other concerns include public policy around families, affordable healthcare, and childcare access, among others. This approach centers the lived experiences of women and trusts women to make moral decisions about their bodies, families, and lives. The focus is off pro-choice or pro-life and is on “building a world of justice & peace where women are trusted to make the moral decisions that shape their lives.”
As an Abortion Doula, my calling is to provide compassionate care. Author Jasleen Kaur Gumber reminds us that, at times, all of us experience our broken and imperfect pieces of ourselves. What helps us feel whole are the words and the companionship of others. This is compassionate care. This is spiritual care.*
Having moral agency is the direct opposite of women’s bodies being controlled by the government or a faith institution. Throughout scripture, we see God asking the question, “What will you choose?” And I ask you today, “What will YOU choose? Will you choose to support and love women throughout our lives? Will you choose to stand up for women? Will you choose to stand up for yourself?” As Christian feminists, this is our call.
*Taken from Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice’s Religion & Repro Learning Center course, “Spiritual Care in Different Contexts.”
More articles on the subject of Abortion:
“When Evangelicals Were Open to Differing Views on Abortion” by Letha Dawson Scanzoni, Kendra Weddle, PhD, and Melanie Springer Mock, PhD
“Confessions of a Recovering ‘Pro-Lifer’” by Dr. Jamie Marich
“Beyond Black and White: One Pastor’s Response to the Abortion War” by Rev. Ruth Everhart
“Want to Reduce Abortion? Fund Planned Parenthood” by Julia Stronks, JD, PhD