Supporting a culture of self-help at the community level: the Knoxville Abortion Doula Collective


Individuals do not exist in isolation from communities. Supporting a culture of self-help at the community level emphasizes this connections and builds collective power, while simultaneously giving individuals immediate relief and support. When people are supported and empowered in their choices and are linked to support in their own communities, the stigma and silence surrounding abortion are challenged. ”

Marlene G Fried and Susan Yanow

This month’s story series is about inroads members accompanying people’s abortions across the world. While there is a growing need for self-managed abortions to bust stigma that exists in different legal contexts or medical establishments, there is also a need to understand what building a community of companionship for abortions looks like. The members who we speak to work as doulas, companions and even comadres, roughly translating as godmothers. We have blogposts from Ecuador, Peru, Poland and USA! 

In this first blogpost, The Knoxville Abortion Doula Collective (KADC), an all-volunteer grassroots abortion advocacy and support group based in East Tennessee and Appalachia in USA, dedicated to increasing abortion access and decreasing stigma through technology and outreach shares with us.

Holding hands and accompanying people through abortions!

The motivation of KADC doulas

“We prioritize validation, education, support, and affirmation to empower people’s autonomy and decision-making in our region, serving as Tennessee’s only abortion fund, and offering the world’s first encrypted communications platform dedicated to ensuring secure and confidential abortion access.

The desire to offer these services roots from many different experiences, but the common denominator for our volunteers is an awareness of the hostile environment for reproductive rights in the American Southeast. The South is a region where people are faced with violent attack; lack of clinics, deep rooted stigma and an overwhelming predominance of pro-lifers. All this means that showing up for reproductive autonomy is absolutely necessary in the fight for collective liberation. For many, KADC shows folks how to cultivate deeply interconnected networks across state lines. We recognize this work as vital and know it is made more possible by working with an organized body of people who share a vision.  

Our work also inspires the attention in volunteers to nourish the soil of self-care. When we see cultivating wellness as a community endeavor, then we also know that supporting one another to get basic and extended needs met is the first step. When people reach out beyond what is immediately available and receive what they need, their isolation is broken to some degree and for many folks it completely changes their perspective from fear to courage. When we are well, we can help others be well and thus strengthen our self-determination. Prioritizing self-care as a collective task is a powerful component towards a movement of reproductive freedom and especially towards safely accessing self-managed abortion. It creates the norm to listen to our bodies, listen to our desires, and trust ourselves. When this is practiced, we can better believe in the possibility of being our own providers.

We understand this process starts with encouraging people in their decisions each step of the way and simply letting them know what their options are. Being a doula means trusting the client’s inclinations and not trying to steer them in a predetermined direction. Community or collectivity can offer a landing pad and a guiding hand, and also the intuitive process of the individual is of central focus.

Our interconnectedness is undeniable and we need one another to build a new future. If we are guided by the power of liberation and love, it will bring us to ourselves and then to our people and this combination will help us to foster the care that is appropriate – including how to get well in the process of seeking an abortion. “