The Dawn Of A New Abortion Clinic

by Lauren Barbato

Given the current climate of abortion access in the United States, we're used to hearing about abortion clinics in negative tones. They're being shuttered. They're being targeted by anti-abortion sidewalk counselors. They're "unsafe," "dangerous," or "shameful." But the team behind Maryland's newest abortion clinic, Carafem, is determined to scrub away the unwanted stigma and replace it with a more comforting image.

Carafem is slated to open this week in Montgomery County's Friendship Heights neighborhood, and The Washington Post reports that the clinic is certainly not like what most abortion patients expect. Sandhya Somashekhar writes:

With its natural wood floors and plush upholstery, Carafem aims to feel more like a spa than a medical clinic. But the slick ads set to go up in Metro stations across the Washington region leave nothing to doubt: “Abortion. Yeah, we do that.”

"The clinic will have wood floors and a natural wood tone on the walls that recalls high-end salons such as Aveda," Somashekhar continues. Clinic staff will also greet patients with robes and warm tea, providing a supremely laid-back and personal experience for a procedure that has been publicly maligned and politicized over the last 40 years.

“We don’t want to talk in hushed tones," Carafem President Christopher Purdy told the Post. “We use the A-word."

Purdy founded Carafem following more than 10 years in the nonprofit sector. Also helping him with the Maryland clinic is Melissa S. Grant, who serves as the clinic's vice president of health services.

Carafem will only specialize in the abortion pill, which patients can take up to the 10th week of pregnancy. According to the clinic's website, the pill and a 60-minute appointment costs $400.

"This covers your pregnancy test, ultrasound, blood work, mifepristone and misoprostol (the abortion pill: first and second dose), and follow up," the clinic states on its website. "If you do not have medical insurance, you will be offered the opportunity to apply for discounts on the cost of service."

The Carafem website even includes an "are you eligible?" page complete with a diagram explaining: "If the first day of your period was around or after the date below, the abortion pill is still an option." Considering many women who seek abortion are still in the dark about not only the procedure, but eligibility, health insurance, and legality, the easy-to-navigate website acts as a handy guide for future patients.

Appointments can also be scheduled online or via a 24-hour hotline, and the clinic will be opened on evenings and weekends, ensuring that patients can have access no matter what. But of course, the clinic's biggest draw may still be its ambiance. “It was important for us to try to present an upgraded, almost spa-like feel," Grant told the Post. Purdy adds in a recent clinic blog post:

Carafem’s goal is to change the way abortion care is provided in the United States. ... Our strategies are simple but effective. Carafem will operate with great mutual respect for our clients, as well as our employees and partners. With that element firmly entrenched in everything we do, we will be able to serve, educate, and provide non-judgmental, welcoming, and unapologetic care to our community.
We have developed a platform that offers uncompromising quality service combined with the greatest convenience and affordability for women.

Eradicating stigma around abortion clinics won't be easy, but at least Purdy and Grant aren't doing it alone. In February 2014, Dr. Katharine Morrison opened America's first abortion clinic-birth center hybrid — that's right, a medical facility that specializes in abortion, delivery, and general gynecological procedures and treatment. (The birthing center is in a freestanding clinic next to the main facility.)

A long-time abortion doctor, Morrison explained her reasoning for opening a birth center at her facility to last year:

I have patients who have had an abortion with me, had a baby, and had an abortion, or had a baby, had an abortion, or had a couple of abortions and had a baby, then had a couple of abortions. There are so many doctors out there in Buffalo who think their patients don't get abortions. I can't violate patient confidentiality, but I think, Well, I do them all day long on your patients. These doctors think they have the "good patients" who get pregnant and have the baby and I've got all the "lousy patients" who get pregnant and have abortions. But it's the same patient.

Morrison added that her facility could be "a model" for the state of New York. Or maybe the rest of the nation?Images: screenshots/