NRL News

Looking behind the justifications used by the first student-run abortion doula project

by | Apr 15, 2015

By Dave Andrusko

Alex Ronan

Alex Ronan

You have to swallow hard when you read statements like this from a student at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

Julie Vermeulen is a member of the “Wesleyan Doula Project,” which she fancies as a kind of bridge between the abortion clinic staff and the pregnant woman.

“I think that everyone deserves compassionate care, basically,” Vermeulen told the Wesleyan Argus, the student newspaper. “And this is obviously a political issue, but I really see it as a humanitarian issue. So whatever your politics are, I think that good, compassionate care is a human right. I think as doulas, we help make that happen.”

The project members stress that every case is different. Some women are nervous, some wonder if God will “hate” them after they abort their child, others cry, still others are guilty.

“I remind them, ‘This is a choice that you’re making,’” Camille Casareno told assistant features editor Max Lee. “It’s a good choice, if that’s what she had thought before. And it’s the right choice for her family, if it’s the right choice for her.” (Doublespeak anyone?) Lee informs us

But the role of the doula is not constrained to talking. Much of the job is about physical comfort and helping the patient through the procedure with as little pain as possible. …

As with all of the members of the Wesleyan Doula Project, she also helps patients breathe, as failing to breathe properly increases muscle tension in the patients and ultimately makes the procedure more painful.

“Some people forget to breathe, especially if they’re stressed,” Casareno said.

After they finish with the procedure, which takes between 5 and 10 minutes, the patients go into a recovery room, where they are met by a second doula (students in the Wesleyan Doula Project work in pairs). This doula talks to the patients, making sure they feel comfortable, and provides them with ginger ale.

This particular band of abortion doulas is worth mentioning because, according to Lee, they are only one run by students. They take their inspiration (so to speak) from the Doula Project in New York City, “which was founded in 2007 as one of the first volunteer abortion doula programs.”

The story does not suggest that the students are as closely involved as other abortion doulas are. What do we learn from, say, Alex Ronan who wrote a graphic, gripping piece for New York magazine titled, “My Year as an Abortion Doula?”

A full-service abortion doula doesn’t just rub shoulders and hand out ginger ale after the baby’s remains are dumped in a disposal. They are actually in the room where the abortion takes place where they learn first-hand what takes place, beginning with the lies everyone tells themselves.


Then there is the pain—the incredible pain—and the screaming and the crying and the shaking. And then there is the sound. Ronan wrote

But I can’t take away the sound. Most first-trimester abortions are vacuum aspiration. The machine sounds like a sucking through a straw when you’re at the bottom of the glass. The vacuuming is sometimes painful, but I think patients find the sound harder to bear. LiteFM stations play in the background. Most first-trimester abortions take fewer than four songs. Sitting in bars with my friends on summer nights, I hear the same songs and wonder after the women.

I agree with one of the pro-abortion reviewers: “My Year as an Abortion Doula” absolutely is “must reading,” but for different reasons.

Back to the Wesleyan Doula Project where you sense that the young women see themselves as a kind of midwife to life (the woman’s) out of death (the baby’s). You can only hope that at some point a hole will puncture the emotional gear they dress themselves in, allowing the brutality of what they are a party to make its way in.

Categories: Abortion