The Doula Project, cofounded in 2007 as The Abortion Doula Project by Mary Mahoney, Lauren Mitchell, and Miriam Zoila Perez, is a nonprofit organization of full-spectrum doulas based in New York City, New York, and is one of the first organizations to provide free full-spectrum doula care to pregnant people. Full-spectrum doulas provide non-medical physical, emotional, and informational support to pregnant people through a wide range of pregnancy experiences, including birth, miscarriage, stillbirth, fetal anomalies, and abortion. Since 2007, The Doula Project has trained doulas to provide emotional and informational comfort to those experiencing fetal loss in support of its goal to create a society in which all pregnant people have access to care and support for both their emotional and physical, regardless of their pregnancy outcome.
In Stuart v. Camnitz, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision of a North Carolina District Court that declared a controversial ultrasound mandate for abortions unconstitutional in 2014. The ultrasound mandate was a part of the Woman’s Right to Know Act introduced in North Carolina in 2011, which placed several restrictions on abortion care providers in the state. If enforced, the ultrasound mandate would have required physicians to perform an ultrasound on every patient before an abortion and simultaneously describe the resulting image of the fetus regardless of whether the woman wanted to hear the description. The District Court ruled the mandate an unconstitutional violation of physicians’ free speech rights. The Fourth Circuit Court’s decision to affirm the District Court’s ruling established that the state could not compel healthcare providers to recite what the court called state ideology to patients against their medical judgment, which broke with precedent set by prior rulings by the Fifth and Eighth Circuit Courts in similar cases.
The North Carolina state legislature passed The Woman’s Right to Know Act in 2011, which places several restrictions on abortion care in the state. The Woman’s Right to Know Act, or the Act, imposes informed consent requirements that physicians must fulfill before performing an abortion as well as a twenty-four hour waiting period between counseling and the procedure for people seeking abortion, with exceptions for cases of medical emergency. Then-governor of North Carolina Beverly Perdue initially vetoed House Bill 854, which contained the Act, but the state legislature overrode her veto to pass the bill. In response to a lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, and other organizations filed in 2011, a US district court judge blocked the law’s ultrasound mandate from going into effect and a later court case determined that the mandate was illegal. With the passage of the Act in North Carolina, the state passed several abortion regulations and mandated that abortion providers must inform women of specific details about their pregnancy before performing the abortion procedure.
In 2003, the Texas state legislature passed the Woman’s Right to Know Act, hereafter the Act, as Chapter 171 of the state’s Health and Safety Code. The Act sets requirements that physicians must follow during the informed consent process for abortion, or a medical procedure to terminate pregnancy, in Texas. Lawmakers amended the Act and added several additional regulations that restrict access to abortion in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017. For instance, the Act requires that physicians perform abortions after sixteen weeks of pregnancy in ambulatory surgical centers or hospitals and states that physicians must perform an ultrasound to view images, called sonograms, of a developing fetus inside a woman’s uterus before a woman may receive an abortion. The Act further requires practitioners and clinics to offer state-developed informational materials to women who seek an abortion. The Act placed several restrictions on abortion care in Texas, making it more difficult for women to access safe and legal abortion care, which opponents have challenged in courts.
Self-proclaimed female physician Ann Trow was a women’s reproductive health specialist as well as an abortion provider in New York City, New York during the mid 1800s. Though she had no formal medical training or background, Trow provided women with healthcare and abortions under the alias Madame Restell. Restell gained attention across the United States for her career as a professional abortionist during a time when abortions were highly regulated and punishable with imprisonment. Restell was tried numerous times for carrying out abortions. She never confessed to any crimes, but she was convicted on several occasions. Her services as a business woman, medicine producer, abortion provider, boarding house maintainer, and adoption facilitator provided women with solutions to unwanted pregnancies throughout her forty years of healthcare service and made her a subject of widespread controversy in the United States.
Betty Friedan advocated for the advancement of women's rights in the twentieth century in the United States. In 1963, Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique, which historians consider a major contribution to the feminist movement. Friedan also helped establish two organizations that advocated for women's right, the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1963 and, in 1969 the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NAARL). Friedan argued for legalizing access to abortion and contraception, and her advocacy helped advance women's reproductive rights.
Milan Vuitch was an abortion provider in the twentieth century, who performed thousands of abortions in Washington, DC, at a time when abortions were legal only if they preserved the life or health of the pregnant woman. Vuitch was a frequent critic of Washington DC’s anti-abortion law and was arrested multiple times for providing abortions that were not considered necessary to preserve the pregnant woman’s life. After several arrests, Vuitch challenged the law under which he had been arrested, and his case made its way to the Supreme Court in Vuitch v. United States. Although Vuitch technically lost in his Supreme Court case, the Court’s ruling expanded the meaning of health and Vuitch was able to continue providing abortions. Vuitch provided abortions to women who sought them but were not able to legally justify them, and his Supreme Court case was one of the earliest challenges to the abortion law.