A doula, traditionally, was trained to support a pregnant woman through her delivery, explained a facilitator from a group called D.C. Doulas for Choice. Traditional doulas weren’t medical professionals, but they could hold hands, offer distraction, supply heating pads. In a roomful of doctors and nurses focusing on the delivery of a healthy baby, a doula was focused solely on the emotional well-being of the mother.

D.C. Doulas for Choice, a volunteer-based collective, believed pregnant women needed equal support if they decided not to become mothers at all, the facilitator explained. And so, if the aspiring doulas in this room made it through training, and apprenticed through a series of shadow shifts, then this is what they were signing up for: To be in a surgical room with a woman through one of the most intimate emotional experiences of her life; to hold her hand while she has an abortion.