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November Salon Series: The Pill and Patriarchy 

By: Lauren MacDonald 

Our November Salon Series was inspired and guided by Kristen Portney, a doula and student of psychotherapy. She offered to share her curiosity, personal experience, and research about hormonal birth control with the BADP community. She led us in a discussion about how the ancient wisdom of self-care, fertility tracking and health care has been threatened by capitalism and patriarchal dominance for hundreds of years.

The conversation was powerful, positive and passionate. However there were experiences shared that carried the all too common themes of shame, guilt, fear, manipulation, and repression of sexuality. Many of us shared our personal experiences, positive and negative, about using conventional pharmaceuticals and birth control methods. We talked about how different hormones and procedures affected us mentally, physically, and emotionally. We talked about methods of fertility tracking, herbal alternatives for birth control and abortion, and the benefits of emotional support through transformative times like pregnancy and puberty. We imagined the ideal doctor’s office visit to include education about all birth control methods including fertility awareness. We asked questions, of each other, of our ancestors, of the world.

An image came to mind to me as were sharing, our experiences and wisdom were flames flickering on candles; we were passing a candle flame, one by one, until the whole room was lit by candle light, the light that will burn the veil that is cast over us all by patriarchal oppression. 

The what-ifs, whys, and how's were inspiring and lead me to ask you to light another candle! Below are some resources to some topics discussed. Please feel free to comment on blog with articles, books, events, workshops, safe space resources to continue conversations and share our ancient wisdom! 

Thank you to everyone for coming on a chilly November night to shine brighter together!





Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation by Silvia Federici

Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom (Revised Edition): Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing by Christiane Northrup M.D. 


September Salon Series Summary: An Evening with Abortion Care Provider Dr. Shelley Sella

By: Lauren MacDonald

The snapshot of our last Salon Series: a living room full of learners looking up to and engaged with Dr. Shelley Sella’s humble and thorough accounts of her journey working with people in need of reproductive health services, specifically abortion.

Dr. Sella is an honored, awaited guest speaker to the Salon Series. She is one of the four late term abortion care providers working today in the United States.  She works at Southwestern Women’s Options Clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, offering first, second and third trimester abortions.

Dr. Sella reports she has been interested in abortion work since even before her medical school journey began. After school and several years of practice as an OBGYN she went to work alongside Dr. Tiller in 2009. She was featured in, After Tiller, a documentary that follows the four remaining late term abortion providers in the United States.

The first question that she offered to explore with us was “Why does someone wait so long to have an abortion?” When answering that question, she differentiated between patients with fetal indications, those who are ending the pregnancy because there is something very wrong with their baby, and patients with maternal indications, those ending the pregnancy to preserve their own life and health.

Dr. Sella painted a realistic view of a clinic day in which three third trimester abortion patients were laboring.  One was an 18 year old victim of date rape, another, a 23 year old mother of three in an abusive relationship who left after being hit in the abdomen, and finally, a 12 year old victim of incest.

The outpatient center where Dr. Sella works serves an international cohort of people seeking reproductive health services including first, second and third trimester abortions. The stand out description of the services provided was the incorporation of counseling and supportive services with medical services.

Dr. Sella briefly described what an abortion looks like clinically, for each trimester. She emphasized the well roundedness of their program. She explained that counseling happens with a person during their first intake. The first visit with the doctor is always with the patient clothed. There is low lighting, calm music, continuity of care with counselor from intake to post procedure, a small staff and quiet interactions between staff, pain management support, and peer support groups.

With the hard and complex work that she does we inquired how Dr. Sella takes care of herself. She reports that the clinic staff is so supportive and they incorporate processing of cases into their weekly meetings. She also gave gratitude to her international abortion care community and providers as well as her home and personal friends and family including her wife, Julie who joined us at the salon.

Thank you Dr. Sella for the information you shared with us and the wisdom you imparted about your journey and the work you are doing.


My experience with a BADP doula

This blog post is written by a guest author, Teresa. 

Hi! My name's Teresa, I had an at-home (or in my case, in-hotel room) medical abortion in July with the help of BADP doula Christine. My experience was wonderful and I've been meaning to send in a testimonial of sorts since then. I've been kinda furiously memoing to myself since then about the emotions that came up for me, plus all the surrounding political influences around abortion. All my thoughts go back to feeling uber grateful I had the opportunity to meet Christine and share such an intimate experience with her.

My thoughts:
I found out I was pregnant when I was in Austria, daunted by the glaring "schwanger" confirmation on the two German-language pregnancy tests I took. I felt unnerved, though still in control of my experience. I had comprehensive medical insurance to cover costs and I calculated that I was at about 5 weeks, thus would have adequate time to procure a medical abortion upon my arrival home in the States. I knew immediately that I would request a doula from BADP, and I began picturing what I thought was the ideal abortion environment and experience. I wanted to be outside in nature as I began bleeding, and feel one with all womb-carrying people that had procured abortions before me! Although I had lofty goals of having the most idyllic and spiritually attuned abortion experience possible, I knew the most important element would be my accompaniment.

When I finally procured the Mifepristone and Misoprostol prescriptions, I wasn't apprehensive about my abortion, merely looking forward to no longer being pregnant. Even so, I had begun feeling the hormonal rumblings of my changing, 7-week pregnant body, and I felt as if I was at a crossroads. I ended up having my abortion experience in a hotel room, as my living situation would not have been a hospitable environment. Christine was an angelic presence. She brought snacks, which immediately endeared her to my heart. I was overwhelmed by a great deal of pain for the hours preceding the placental expulsion, and Christine always knew exactly what to say and do to comfort me. She massaged my arms and lower back, reminded me to vocalize and take deep, regular breaths, helped me move around, and engaged in pleasant conversation in between the cramp surges. I had wanted to journal and hold some kind of ceremonial space during my abortion, but it turned out that I was too focused on the physical sensations to think about anything else. And it was Christine who held space for me and encouraged me to step into my strength. My medical provider had given me prescription pain medication but had offered nothing in the way of emotional support. Having a professional, supportive presence to accompany me was infinitely more useful than hydrocodone.

Christine both supported my choice and understood the physical aspects of having an abortion; this intimate support was an incredible blessing. I believe all pregnant people should have access to doulas, regardless of what the outcome of their pregnancy is. My experience with Christine only corroborated this belief, and I extend the deepest, most heartfelt gratitude to both Christine and all of BADP.



By Vanessa Norton

Recently, I was having dinner with a friend I've known since we were eight. Her name is Jenn. She brought up an interesting question: does the coat hanger still hold power as a chilling symbol of pre-Roe v. Wade? Now that there are other methods of "back alley" abortions, what symbolic power do these hold? 

Jenn and I are 40. Our mothers' generation, and the feminists who influenced us as girls, lived their most fertile years pre-Roe. As teenagers in the early 1990s, Jenn and I felt very close to that history.     

During our senior year of high school, the anti-abortion terrorist organization, Operation Rescue, invaded our home city of Buffalo, NY with the intenion of closing down our clinics. Jenn and I drove her parents' car every morning at 4am to defend the clinics (a couple of which were conveniently located just blocks from our downtown high school!) The coat hanger was ubiquitous as an image on placards or struck high in the air. I remember feeling something deep and fearful whenever I saw one. 

The OR people used their typically grusome posters of fetal body parts. So, Jenn made a sign of a woman who bled to death in a motel room, an image she copied from a black and white photo in Our Bodies, Ourselves. 

Today, if a person wants to terminate a pregnancy and can not access abortion, she may try some of the same methods women utilized pre-Roe: herbs, vitamin C, parseley, and the like. But if her pregnancy is later than 6 weeks, those are not likely to work. She may be able to access Misoprostol and Mifepritone online (, or in some countries, at a pharmacy. These non-descript white little pills work the majority of the time if a pregnancy is 9 weeks or less. But that still leaves later-term pregnancies, which get more expensive and dangerous to abort.  

What symbolic power could packets of pills carry, especially compared with coat hangers?

Does the movement to defend and expand access to legal abortion need symbols?  


Supporting an Adoption Birth

By Vanessa Norton

In October, I had the opportunity to support a woman planning to adopted her baby out. This was the first and only time I'd doulaed an adoption birth. I knew there was a basic contradiction in what I felt should happen with Mama and Baby the first days after birth, and adoption. I would have to handle my feelings right. This was part of what appealed to me.  

The birth mother is an extraordinary person. As she told me the story of her pregnancy, including her own birth family preassuring her to move back "home" and raise her baby in their community, I thought she was going to tell me she'd changed her mind. Instead, she told me that she'd come over 1000 miles to San Francisco with dreams of a different life. She didn't do this so she could end up with the exact life she had worked so hard to leave. I admired her intelligence and will immensely.

We spoke so frankly about our intimate lives, I felt that we were meant to come together like this. I told her this at the meeting.

The adoption was open, meaning that Mama's information would be shared with Baby, Mama chose the couple herself, they had met many times, gone out to dinner, and Mama would see Baby at least a few times a year. These are the basics, I'm sure there is a lot more to it.

The adoptive Dads attended the second prenatal meeting. They wanted to be involved in the birth as much as possible. I had my hesitations about so many people attending the birth, because I didn't want Mama's experience and feelings to be overwhelmed by the setting. It would be: me, Mama's boyfriend, plus the two adoptive dads. I felt I stated this, but it was the Mama's birth, and so everyone would be there. 

The day of the birth, I arrived at Mama's apartment and rubbed her back and gave her counter sacral pressure through some of her labor. Later, the Dads drove Mama and her boyfriend to the hospital (as they'd really wanted to) and the next day, baby was born. I felt very aware of the way the Dads would tell Baby his birth story, later in life. I imagined them telling him, "then we drove your Mom to the hospital..."

During the pushing stage, the Dads supported Mama's legs and I stayed by her face, giving her sniffs of orange oil and spoonfuls of honey and the usual water. 

Mama had told me initially that they were not avoiding bonding. She planned to pump breastmilk for three months, if all went well. I so admired her strength in doing this. She held Baby and nursed him at the hospital. After she returned home without him, things were tough. The little I heard from her and her boyfriend was excrutiating. Yet, if it weren't excrutiating, there might be something worse happening. Extreme sadness was a healthy response (albeit there are many "healthy" responses) to such profound loss.

Part of me is not crazy about adoption, about taking a baby who is biologically connected to his mother and interrupting that early bonding, especially under the cluelessly bright lights of a hospital setting. But I know in some situations it is probably the right thing, and as always, it is Mama's choice. It can and did also show human beings at their most loving and supportive, too. Everyone was trying their best to make Mama and Baby feel supported and loved through this experience.

I know women who adopted out their babies in the 1960s and their stories are a stark contrast to this one.

But I was only a supportive witness. I really don't know how any of this feels to her.