With Tech-Focused Campaign, Carafem Navigates Shifting Abortion Landscape

Carafem has been providing convenient and compassionate abortions since 2015, but since the 2022 fall of Roe v. Wade, it’s been constantly reinventing itself. Stacey Kawakami, vice president of marketing and communications, tells D2C Insider about Carafem's new ad campaign, created with Dilate, the digital strategy agency. She explains how the roiling abortion landscape has impacted its marketing strategies and reaffirmed the nonprofit’s loud-and-proud approach to abortion care.

D2C Insider: First, give us an overview of Carafem.  

Stacey Kawakami: Carafem opened its first location in Chevy Chase, Maryland, in 2015. It was a completely different world. Abortion rights were federally protected, and every state had legal access to abortion care. But there was a dwindling number of providers and obvious threats. We wanted to provide abortion care in a centrally run way, with possible national breadth and the ability to be nimble and innovative. We saw we could create a more efficient, caring, client-centered abortion care model.

And we’ve always focused on a better experience for patients. We’re tucked discreetly in medical office buildings, so people don’t have to walk through a sea of protestors. And we've done a lot of work based on the Mayo Clinic's best practices.

Read our reviews. Clients like the experience. By 2017, we’d begun doing telehealth abortion, and by 2019, we’d joined an FDA-approved study.

D2C Insider: Even before the 2022 Dobbs decision changed everything, medication abortion was becoming more popular. They’re now preferred over in-clinic procedures by about 54% of people, right?

Kawakami: Yes. And in other countries, as many as 80% prefer medication abortions. We do in-office procedures, too. We try to make sure that people can choose whatever they prefer, and we now offer telehealth abortions in 16 states.

D2C Insider: What’s driving this changing preference?

Kawakami: Many clients prefer not having to go to a center. They don’t want to take much time off work or find childcare. And there’s still plenty of stigma. It’s similar to something like erectile dysfunction medication, with Roman as the first telehealth provider to offer discreet, easy-to-access ED meds. And it makes sense when people prefer a more private interaction, especially if they don't want to speak to anyone, even over the phone or video. Some just choose not to talk with anyone at all.

D2C Insider: That’s a good segue to the ad campaign, which explains how Cara, the virtual assistant, works.

Kawakami: Our tagline is "Abortion. Yeah, we do that." We want to be very clear about what we do, not just because we’re battling stigma but also because of the crisis pregnancy centers that outnumber abortion providers. We’re very proud of what we do.

We launched Cara, the virtual assistant, in 2019. We realized people had so many questions. If you go on to the abortion subreddit, for example, you can read story after story about people who are scared, don't know where to go, or have questions about how to take the medication, even if they receive it through the mail. Medication abortion is very safe, but there's still the potential for confusion.

At first, we used Cara with staff and clients in our Chevy Chase center. We realized people have many questions, usually not between 9 and 5. So Cara was a way to answer all those “Is this normal?” questions. It was clear that people overwhelmingly preferred text. They wanted the conversations to be a little bit more anonymous.

D2C Insider: That’s true in many categories. Gen Z, especially, doesn’t like to talk on the phone.

Kawakami: Yep. Since we started Cara, we’ve exchanged 1.3 million messages, programmed tens of thousands of answers, and provided about 100,000 abortions. Clients love this tool. In our client satisfaction surveys, they often say, "I was worried I'd be alone, and I wasn't because Cara was there with me." So we launched this ad campaign to help people understand what that level of support is like.

D2C Insider: Tell us more about the campaign.

Kawakami: We wanted to let people know we provide abortion and that we’ll be here with you throughout the process. We’re using this video online, where our clients are, like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. Some platforms have policies that don't allow us to do paid advertising. So we're also reliant on earned media.

D2C Insider: What would have to happen for you to be able to provide services in all 50 states?

Kawakami: First off, for abortion to be legal in all 50 states. About 14 states have restrictions on any type of abortion care. Each state also has restrictions on what kinds of medication you can mail. Even when we had Roe v. Wade in place, that was a little complicated. So, there are both federal and state regulations that we need to overcome. We're hopeful that we're able to do that in the future.

D2C Insider: You’re hopeful? Many would say this is a bleak time. States are constantly passing more restrictions.

Kawakami: Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of abortion. Whenever it is on the ballot, we’re winning. About 85% of America believe that abortion should be legal in certain or any circumstance. That means abortion is more popular than McDonald’s, Taylor Swift or Beyonce. It’s more popular than apple pie or “The Office.”

People want abortion access. We like to believe there’s a future where everyone in the U.S., no matter where they live, their income, color of their skin, disability or housing situation, can access primary healthcare, like abortion.

Next story loading loading..