carafem ad

The Feministing Five: Christopher Purdy

For this week’s Feministing Five we spoke with Christopher Purdy, president of carafem, an abortion clinic that recently opened in the Washington DC area. With his team, he’s envisioning a new way to provide abortions in the United States, one that is bold, unapologetic, supportive, and affordable.

Christopher Purdy Carafem is incredibly intentional about elevating the standard of care for those seeking the abortion pill. By keeping their clients’ well being and comfort at the center of all that they do, carafem has focused their mission on making patients feel comfortable at every point — from their advertising to online scheduling through the follow-up appointment.

And now without further ado, the Feministing Five with Christopher Purdy!

Suzanna Bobadilla: Thank you so much for speaking with us today. To get us started, what is carafem and how did it come to be? 

Christopher Purdy: We are based in Washington DC, with our first clinic serving the greater DC area. The idea for carafem really came to me after spending 20 years overseas and seeing how much easier it was to access safe abortion care than the US. When I came back, I felt that there were some advances in technology and there were innovations that we could bring to the market here and serve women better. That was the inspiration.

SB: There has been much discussion of the environment that carafem provides. Some media coverage has even described it as “spa-like.” Could you explain more about the importance of bringing this level of care to your patients? Do you see this as a political act? 

CP: I think people have really gotten hung up on the word “spa” in a way that they shouldn’t have. The idea was simply to make these services comfortable, caring, and appealing to women in a time that can be traumatic and difficult. This type of care is happening across the board with all kinds of medical services in America — it’s just that abortion care hasn’t caught up with it. We wanted to respond to the needs of women, and we have heard how women want to be treated. It isn’t really that they are going to a spa — it doesn’t look that way. Our decision was to bring a new standard of care to these services and to call it as it is: health care.

As to whether it’s political or not, we have taken the position that we are really focused on providing the best quality professional health care we can. We want to leave politics to others to debate — we are really focused on the woman. Internally when we talk about the patient, we refer to her as “Cara.” She is our prototype and we always want to keep Cara in the front of our minds. We try to put politics to the side. We understand that it’s a conversation people want to have, and we understand why people want to have it, but we focus on health care.

Additionally, I think that the image people have in their heads about this abortion procedure is that it’s a shadowy thing that happens in a dark, dingy corner office. That’s so 1970’s. We are trying to bring a new way of thinking about things and making it fresh, modern, and something that will appeal to Cara.

SB: Carafem has released ads with the tag line, “Abortion. Yeah, we do that,” which not only inform the public of your services but also help destigmatize public conversations about abortion. What was the process in creating the ads? 

CP: I should say first of all that we work with some excellent partners who did a lot of research and thoughtful analysis about the best way to introduce this service and to create a brand that would appeal to Cara. It was always with Cara in mind. We wanted to be unapologetic, we wanted to be modern, we wanted to call it for what it is was. Take that ad and put any other word in there: “Breast cancer. Yeah, we do that.” Nobody would blink an eye. Or: “Dental implants.” No one would think twice. The fact that we are talking about it in that way forces people to come face-to-face with the fact that we still have a stigma attached to abortion.

SB: Where do you see carafem in five years? 

CP: We obviously have some hopes that this way of providing the service will have an appeal to a broader audience. The idea is to learn what we are doing in this launch period. We know that there are things that we could do better and we want to improve. We want to offer more services in more places. Carafem also provides family planning services, not just abortion. So women who come in for an abortion will also be offered the opportunity to have an implant, an injectable, pills, or eventually an IUD.

SB: What has been the reaction so far? 

CP: From Cara, the client, it has been very, very good. There has obviously been a lot of chatter on the Internet that what we are trying to do is a little too aggressive or that it is over-the-top. Carafem is certainly cutting edge, but we also sparked a conversation which is what we wanted to do. We’ve had lots of champions, and we’ve had lots of criticism, which is what we expected.

San Francisco, CA

Suzanna Bobadilla is a writer, activist, and digital strategist. According to legend, she first publicly proclaimed that she was a feminist at the age of nine in her basketball teammate's mini-van. Things have obviously since escalated. After graduating from Harvard in 2013, she became a founding member of Know Your IX's ED ACT NOW. She is curious about the ways feminists continue to use technology to create social change and now lives in San Francisco. She believes that she has the sweetest gig around – asking bad-ass feminists thoughtful questions for the publication that has taught her so much. Her views, bad jokes and all, are her own. For those wondering, if she was stranded on a desert island and had to bring one food, one drink, and one feminist, she would bring chicken mole, a margarita, and her momma.

Suzanna Bobadilla is a writer, activist, and digital strategist.

Read more about Suzanna

Join the Conversation