1. Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi! My name is Felicia Love. I am a mother of two, artist, crafter, creator, birth and postpartum doula, and recently trained as a lactation counselor. I was born in Providence and I’m a lifelong Rhode Islander. I like to think of myself as a multi-faceted individual with varied life experiences, all of them shaping the woman I am today, but none of them as profoundly as my birth and parenting experiences.
I struggled as a single teen mom with my son and sixteen years later in 2013 I was blessed again with my little girl. My daughter was a “Bucket Baby”, born in Pawtucket at Memorial Hospital’s famed birth center and had my first taste of activism during the protests to keep it open.
My doula supported birth prompted me to become trained as a doula myself and also start nursing school. I am now honored to be able to support other families along their parenting journey. My mission as a doula is to offer families nonjudgmental, compassionate birth support by honoring the families’ choices and providing evidence-based resources and education.
I’m also a proud member of the nonprofit organization Doulas of Rhode Island and I’m currently in the process of stepping up to serve as co-president. Our mission as an organization is to is to educate the local community about doulas and to provide easy access to doula services for Rhode Island and nearby area families. Studies have been shown that professional doula support helps improve birth outcomes, decreasing risk for complications and increasing the mother’s feelings of satisfaction surrounding her birth.
My passion for my work is fueled by the disparities that exist in maternal health outcomes throughout our country for women of color as well as the inequities and injustices that exist throughout all aspects maternal and child health care.
- TWP has been working to pass a bill that codifies Roe V Wade into RI state law. We are interested in the ways that Reproductive Freedom impacts your life and the work that you do?
2a. What about the lives of the people who you affect with your work?
The families I work with have generally chosen to become parents, but if they were to lose the right to choose, and were forced to parent children they didn’t make the choice to have, they might not be in a position to parent this new life or be able to parent the children they already had in the way the need to. These rights protect all of our freedom; not just our rights to be able to choose, but our rights to parent, live, and thrive.2b. The lives of the women in your personal life?
In my personal life, many moons before I was trained professionally as a doula, I was often a support person for people close to me as they went through an abortion. It was not a choice that any of them wanted to be facing, or one that was ever taken lightly. The choice whether or not to have an abortion or become a parent is a deeply personal decision and should only be made by the person who’s body it affects.
- When you think about your community (or communities) what is something you would like them to know about Reproductive Freedom in RI? Why?
I would like my community to start thinking of reproductive freedom as freedom, period–full stop. It is not something that can be written off as just a women’s issue because the right to body autonomy and when and if an individual is to reproduce doesn’t just affect women, it affects all of us as a community—as an entire human race. Freedom of choosing how to live and what happens to one’s body should be a fundamental human right, regardless of gender, race, class, age, sexual expression or orientation.
- What are the best ways in your opinion to educate people about this issue?
I think the best way to educate people is to meet them where they are at. Connecting with individuals and groups can be done in so many ways, but you have to connect with people in a way they can relate. Art and music is a great way to connect and educate, it’s also one that Divine Providence, aka The Creative Capital is great at.
I also believe in having an open, lifelong dialogue with your children regarding sex and reproduction. Age appropriate discussions about body autonomy, anatomy, sexuality, and reproduction can be had from an early age. These topics shouldn’t be taboo. In my opinion, becoming comfortable and familiar with your own body is the first step in understanding your freedom.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
Reproductive freedom is only one of many freedoms in jeopardy. The exception clause in the 13th amendment still allows for slavery as punishment for a crime and those criminalized are disproportionately people of color. We need to consider how all of the issues facing marginalized people intersect and affect communities as a whole for our work to be truly impactful.
It’s always our most vulnerable communities that are the hardest hit by inequities. So many women and families in marginalized communities all throughout our country and right here in Rhode Island could benefit so greatly from doula support, but those are the people with the least access. Currently, Medicaid in Rhode Island does not reimburse for doula support, but there are two states–Oregon and Minnesota—that do allow for Medicaid reimbursement for doulas. I like to think of my home state of Rhode Island as a fairly progressive state and would like to see our state follow suit and put maternal and child health at the forefront of our state’s issues.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to thank TWP for all of the work you do in advancing legislation and community building, and especially for bringing SisterSong to Providence. I had the opportunity to attend their Reproductive Justice 101 training and it was totally eye opening and empowering. As a queer woman of color, working in the maternal health field, their message resonated so deeply with me and has affected my practice as a doula and how I will work with other organizations in the future.
I learned to understand that reproductive justice isn’t just about having the choice of being able to get an abortion or not, but about deciding when, how and if you want to be a parent, as well as having access to care and resources and centering the needs of those most marginalized like women of color, indigenous and trans people. The intersectional framework of reproductive justice requires all of us to work together as individuals, communities, and organizations on all issues that affect the marginalized and oppressed to obtain the ultimate goal of true freedom.