On April 13, the women and gender studies department collaborated with the Chicano/a and Latino/a department to host Serpentina, an abortion doula.
Serpentina, who uses they/them pronouns, is a queer Peruvian migrant, herbalist, farmer, full spectrum doula and presenter under the project Flora Pacha. They’ve been an abortion doula for 12 years and are currently facilitating abortion workshops across the United States. Their workshops are designed to bring abortion doulas together and raise public awareness on reproductive issues.
An abortion doula is a person who supports and helps someone choosing to have an abortion. Given the stigma and shame surrounding abortions, oftentimes an abortion doula is the only other person who knows someone is having an abortion. Abortion doulas are in especially high demand throughout areas where abortion is criminalized.
“All abortions are lifesaving, even if the person could easily carry the pregnancy to term – it’s basic health care,” they said.
Abortions are the most strictly regulated medical procedure in the country. The restrictions on abortions demanded by many states, including abortion bans, are not medically indicated. These bans often delay or disqualify the patient from having an abortion. These non-medically induced limitations on abortions include waiting periods, gestational age limits, parental notification and consent requirement and ultrasound requirements.
Research conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) found that abortions are safer when the procedure is performed earlier in the pregnancy. However, state level restrictions such as waiting periods, ultrasound requirements, and gestational limits that delay abortions make them less safe. Studies on procedural abortions, which include aspiration and D&E, have found that they are incredibly safe. Aspiration abortions are minor surgical procedures that use gentle suction to remove the pregnancy. Dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions are usually done after the first trimester of pregnancy, in which the doctor will open the cervix and surgically remove the fetus, placenta and other tissue.
In the U.S., abortions are safer than giving birth in a hospital setting, as we have the highest maternal death rate among developed nations. Research on the most common procedural method, vacuum aspiration abortions, found the rate of major complications to be less than 1%.
Since Roe v Wade was overturned in 2022, several states have banned abortions. Just this month, Texas federal judge ruled to suspend the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, one of the two drugs used for medically induced abortions.
The risk of making abortion drugs Misoprostol and Mifepristone illegal, according to Serpentina, is that people in the black market will label a product “Mifepristone” but it will be some other substance. Misoprostol and Mifepristone function together, therefore abortion is less effective, more painful, and takes longer without Mifepristone.
“It’s so complex when we criminalize abortion – we end up with all these issues of people taking advantage of that need,” Serpentina said.
Not a single man attended the event. An audience member raised the question, “what is the role of cis males on this issue?” and Serpentina responded that from her experience, transgender men are the only group of men that care about other people’s bodily autonomy. Cis white men in general do not concern themselves with abortions or accept much responsibility on the issue.
“My chihuahua is more attentive than talking to men about abortions,” they said.
They talked about how men rarely do their part to help women, whom they impregnate, have an abortion.
“[Asking men] are you going to give money? Are you training yourself as a doula? It’s so telling, we are told we have to take care of ourselves, that we can’t get pregnant,” they said.
The widespread lack of male turnout in fighting for reproductive rights is endemic. Oftentimes men take no responsibility in accidental pregnancies and women are forced to deal with the burden and responsibilities of having a child.
“As the speaker mentioned cis men’s role [in the pro-choice movement] needs to be in leadership because without it you’re not only missing 50% of the population but also, they are the people who are technically in power now and have more sway,” Sophia Burrow, senior communications major and women and gender studies minor, said.
“Also [men’s role] should be taking responsibility. They are really just stifling that for women or people who can get pregnant and not taking any of that responsibility themselves. And they [men] are not thinking about how the pro-choice movement affects people. That was something the speaker said, ‘take responsibility for your fertility,'” said Margrete Molbak, senior economics major and women and gender studies minor.
The last time men on campus showed interest in talking about abortion was in 2021. That was when mostly male LMU students protested a Planned Parenthood fundraiser sponsored by a registered student organization, Women in Politics. Students stood on the corner of LMU Drive and Lincoln Boulevard holding signs in support of Planned Parenthood and women’s bodily autonomy in response to a pro-life rally that broke out on campus two weeks prior. Pro-life men counterprotested, holding offensive, anti-women’s rights signs with writing such as “abortion is murder,” among other factually incorrect pro-life statements.
“Abortions are sacred, they are a way someone can claim sovereignty over their body and their lives,” Serpentina said. “The perfect world would be abortion clinics at every corner.”