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    The Butchertown Social on Story Avenue is in full swing as women wearing headbands with cat ears, pom-poms and LEDs mingle. It’s three days until Christmas, and a Yule log blazes merrily on a flat-screen TV. Lights twinkle around the long windows and down the building’s massive, hewn-timber spine. Pub-goers gather around the silent-auction display of local art and fashion. A parody of the Gadsden flag — emblazoned with a uterus, with a snake for fallopian tubes declaring “Don’t Tread on Me” — hangs proudly. The Louisville Doula Project’s fundraiser is off to a flying start.

    Doulas are traditionally non-medical birth attendants and companions, though in recent years their purview has expanded to include all outcomes of pregnancy, such as abortion, miscarriage and IUD implantation. They don’t perform medical procedures; instead, their main job is to listen and respond to their clients’ individualized needs, to make them feel safe and at ease. A doula might squeeze a patient’s hand, help with patterned breathing during labor, explain a procedure as it happens and even just chat or sit quietly.

    At the bar, Louisville Doula Project founder Liz Trantanella greets people by the entrance wearing a leopard-print top and cat ears (the night’s theme: “Catsmas”). Trantanella was inspired to enter the world of birth activism when her friends began having children, and after the birth of her own son in 2010. Reading the book Radical Doula and working in the community made her see the doula trade, abortion activism and reproductive rights as components of a larger social-justice issue. She became a certified doula in 2016, and after hearing about isolation from people whose pregnancies had not ended with live birth, she decided to help provide care to them as well.

    The Doula Project, a volunteer organization, began in New York in 2008. Since then, numerous offshoots have sprouted across the country. Louisville’s iteration is the newest; although the city is home to several doula agencies, the Louisville Doula Project is the first to focus on outcomes besides birth. Having completed an application for nonprofit status in late January, the project is now developing a program that will work at hospitals to offer support for those who have miscarried, and another that will train abortion doulas to volunteer at the EMW Women’s Surgical Center downtown, the only facility in Kentucky where doctors perform abortions. “Some patients are forced to drive five hours to get there because it’s the only place they can go,” Trantanella says. “It needs our support.”

    Inside Butchertown Social, a four-piece jazz band kicks up around 10 p.m., filling the crowded room with simmering rhythms as patrons tap their toes on a wood floor marred by a century of foot traffic. Folks get their pictures taken in a photo booth and have their fortunes read with Tarot cards for a small donation. The event even has its own drink special, the Kitty Fizz, available for $7. The group raises $475.

    As the night wears on, Trantanella begins distributing auction items to the winning bidders. Among them is Julia Purcell, now the proud owner of a locally made rolling pin. “I want people to know about this resource so they can take advantage of it or refer someone in need,” Purcell says, barely audible above the band’s syncopated rendition of “White Christmas.” “It seems like abortion is a taboo subject, and I think it’s good to have an organization talk about it more respectfully.”

    Learn more about the Louisville Doula Project on their Facebook page.

    This originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Cover Photo: Louisville Doula Project // Facebook

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