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Abortion doulas to provide support to women in western Newfoundland

Paula Sheppard Thibeau of the Corner Brook Women’s Centre also participated in the discussion.
Paula Sheppard Thibeau of the Corner Brook Women’s Centre also participated in the discussion. - Diane Crocker

Womens centres on the west coast often hear from women who have had to travel to St. John’s to avail of abortion services.

It’s a trip that Paula Sheppard Thibeau, executive director of the Corner Brook Status of Women Council, said many have to make alone.

In describing their experiences, she said, the women talk about how they would have loved to have somebody that they could have turned to or who could have been a support to them.

Thanks to an initiative that the Corner Brook centre is partnering on with the Bay St. George Status of Women Council in Stephenville and the Gateway Status of Women Council in Port aux Basques, women in the region will soon have an opportunity to have that support.

Eleven women in the region have been trained as abortion doulas.

Doulas are normally known with as birthing coaches, assisting a woman before, during and after childbirth.

Sheppard Thibeau said there is already a movement to get training for birthing doulas happening throughout the province, so when she saw a report about abortion doulas she felt it was something new and unique.

She floated the idea to the other centres and they were interested in getting involved.

“With the advancement of Mifegymiso (the abortion pill) we thought that this may be something that may be required on an increased scale.”

Shannon Hardy of the Nova Scotia-based Abortion Support Services Atlantic trained the 11 abortion doulas this past fall.

Sheppard Thibeau said the training is specific to abortion support.

While they can’t travel out of the region, she said they can be there for women when they return to the community. And they can also be there for women who are prescribed Mifegymiso during a visit to their doctor.

The support goes from providing them with a ride and staying with them for a short while, to providing comfort items, like tea and a heating pad.

“But really it’s about simply being a presence,” said Sheppard Thibeau. Someone who will sit with them and if they feel like talking, who will listen.

Sheppart Thibeau said the three centres will discuss how to roll out the service early next month and for now are connecting with physicians and looking at how to promote it.

“We want people to know this service is available should people require it.”

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