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The Intimate Side of Abortion: A Lesson on Humanistic Reporting

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer, there has been an influx of abortion news coverage nationwide, as there should be. After all, the decision affects the

majority of Americans, and I am not referring to just women. Still, I have some concerns.

While the “Roe v. Wade” headline is prevalent across many news agencies, the information is basically congruous, disseminating how the overturn relates to political parties and agendas, or about the abortion rallies happening throughout America. Yes, these two things are newsworthy, but they do not convey the intimate, personal, complex situations that are abortion care and how the lack of access will affect people, nor does it explain in depth what abortions truly are, which is healthcare.

This is why reading the article “In a job centered on emotional support, abortion doula prepares for post-Roe health impact” from The Ithaca Journal this morning made me so emotional.

The article begins with an anecdote about a passionate Ithaca abortion doula – a person who supports patients and their families before, during, and after their abortion – and the moment she discovered that Roe v. Wade was overturned.

As readers, we are taken through the details of Rachael Behling’s role as a doula, and then

follow her out of the procedural room into the hallway where a colleague delivers to her the

news. Behling takes a second to herself by stepping out of the clinic to shed a few tears in the parking lot, but then returns to the care of her patient. The story progresses with quotes from Behling about why abortion care is important and even goes into why Behling chose to become an abortion doula.

Abortion doula Rachael Behling teaching how surgical abortions are done to Ithaca's Planned Parenthood Teen Council Program in 2020. | Source: Lucy Calderon

Until now, I had not read a news article about Roe v. Wade from the perspective of an abortion doula. I am proud to see that a news publication in my college town is doing what it can to humanize abortion access. The Ithaca Journal took a nuanced approach to Roe v. Wade coverage by elevating the voice of Behling, a doula personally impacted by the Supreme Court decision.

Abortion care is not just a hot-button political topic with a clear division between pro-life and

pro-choice. It is a critical health service for people and reporting that lacks the context of

abortion as a humanistic health issue does the public a disservice.

In order to progress this discussion, Ithaca College Professor Allison Frisch and I are conducting research on reproductive health framing in the media and how it impacts policy and public opinion.

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