Shannon Hardy is a Halifax social worker who volunteers as an abortion doula. She runs Abortion Support Services Atlantic (formerly Maritime Abortion Support Services or MASS), which offers information, transportation and support for people seeking abortions in Atlantic Canada. The following interview has been edited and condensed.
How did you become an abortion doula in the first place?
It was by accident. I didn’t seek it out. I was the workshop co-ordinator at [Halifax sex shop and bookstore] Venus Envy, so political and reproductive stuff would come across my desk a lot. P.E.I. at that time did not have abortion access. How was that a thing? So I looked it up, and sure enough, there was nothing on the Island.
I like to do really pragmatic and useful things, so I wasn’t going to petition the government to change its mind. I just set up MASS, because I had this amazing group of radical feminist and queer friends. I was like, “This is what we are doing. We’re going to offer rides [for women travelling from P.E.I. to Halifax for abortions].”
How did you know there was a need for transportation?
I totally didn’t. I was reading the stories and I thought, “How are people affording to get here? How are people figuring out babysitting? How are people getting time off work?” All of these intersectional things, which as a feminist have always been important to me, and so the one piece I could help with was the transportation.
How does this work relate to being a doula?
I’ve been a birth doula since 2006. Reproductive freedoms and sexual rights are just really, really important to me. So abortion was kind of a continuation of my work.
Being with people who are giving birth is sacred. But to think somebody would be [giving birth] who didn’t want to be — it was just heartbreaking. I couldn’t even wrap my head around it.
What part of the definition of “doula” applies in this case?
“Doula” means a servant. It’s a Greek word. It just means someone to be with you through the process. And it can be any process. There are death doulas. You are there as a support person. It’s unconditional positive regard, where it doesn’t matter to me who you are outside of this situation. It doesn’t matter what you’re here for or why you are seeking to have an abortion. None of that matters to me. My only goal as an abortion doula is to create a space for you to just be.
This story originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of The Observer with the title “Atlantic Canada’s abortion doula.”