Introducing a new monthly segment on our blog called “Backline Love,” in which we post Q&As with some of the people in the movement we love most. Kicking things off is Poonam Dreyfus-Pai, who is a full-spectrum doula, researcher, and co-director of the Bay Area Doula Project – and also Backline’s very first MSW intern!
Can you describe your work (paid, volunteer, life) for us? Give us the what, where, why, and how.
I’m currently in the concurrent Masters in Public Health and Masters in Social Welfare program at UC Berkeley, with concentrations in Maternal and Child Health and Management and Planning, respectively. I’ll be starting my third and final year in August. I came to graduate school because I care deeply about how reproductive health programs are designed and evaluated, and I wanted the skills to build strong programs that improve the physical and emotional health of their clients. I also wanted to find ways to apply research to programmatic work, such that programs can use informed, evidence-based interventions. One of the ways I get to do this is in my practicum work, where I get to test out and apply the skills/tools I learn in the classroom in actual organizational settings; this year, I get to work with Backline! I am really excited about it.
When I’m not in class or in practicum, I work on the coordination and development of the Bay Area Doula Project, of which I am co-director. Bay Area Doula Project (BADP) is an organization that provides free emotional, physical, and informational doula support to people before, during, and after their abortions. We are a full-spectrum organization, which means that we believe that every pregnant person is deserving of continuous, holistic support, regardless of the pregnancy outcome and their ability to pay for services. Right now, our primary work is in abortion support, so all of our volunteers are abortion doulas, though many are birth and postpartum doulas, as well. We recognize that abortion is particularly stigmatized, and in placing it along the spectrum of experiences for which people receive doula support — alongside miscarriage/fetal loss and childbirth — we hope to build a world that recognizes all choices and outcomes as valid, and treats all pregnant people with compassion and care.
Bay Area Doula Project trains people to become abortion doulas, provides support to people having abortions throughout the greater Bay Area, and offers a space for community education and dialogue through our monthly Salon Series events. Come check us out!
What four words would you use to describe your role in the movement?
collaborative doula, advocate, researcher
Backline’s mission is to promote unconditional and judgment-free support for the full spectrum of decisions, feelings, and experiences with pregnancy, parenting, adoption, and abortion. How does our work resonate with you and relate to the work that you do?
Backline is extremely close to the heart of BADP volunteers, particularly because it provides listening, support, and resources to people across the spectrum of pregnancy decisions and experiences. To me, and to BADP, Backline is a full-spectrum ally, offering a unique kind of compassion and nonjudgmental support that is very much in line with our vision and our mission. We are so grateful that Backline exists!
How do you see Backline as a contributor to your work and the work of the movement as a whole?
At the risk of repeating myself, Backline provides continuous care, regardless of pregnancy outcome or decision, such that people can call and receive support at numerous junctures in their reproductive lives. BADP volunteers can be with a person before, during, and immediately after an abortion, but people need resources that can provide emotional and informational support before and after an abortion decision is made. I truly believe that our movement is only as strong as the collaborations and relationships we forge, and we need to rely on each other to provide the highest quality of care and resources to pregnant folks. Knowing that we can refer our clients to Backline, and having had Backline provide mentorship around this work, has been an incredible gift.
What are your top three must-read blogs/sites/publications?
My most-read blogs: Colorlines, Strong Families, Jezebel (the last is almost a guilty pleasure, mostly for the snark). And I have to make a plug for the BADP blog, as well!
You are now a superhero! What is your name, power, and outfit?
Superhero and superpower…that’s a tough one! I’ve always wished that it was possible to have several versions of yourself, to live out all the possible lives you’ve ever dreamed up, and to be able to explore all those different lives and timelines. I would send my selves out into the world, and I hope that they would be forces of good, but in different ways: one self who would create and support art, one self who would become an abortion provider, one self who would be a chef and also work on food sustainability issues, multiple selves who would travel and learn about the world. I guess my Superhero self is more Dr. Who/wizard/magician than anything else. I think I’d still keep my name, though — keep my superhero identity a secret and all that (also, I like my name!). But I would use my time-traveling/cloning powers to keep the universe safe, whatever that looks like in where I am! And my outfit would include an awesome pair of heels and a bowtie!