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carafem looks to change the abortion conversation
By Amanda Eisenberg

As women across the country are leaning in and seeking gender equality in all aspects of their life, it is apt that their health care options are catching up.

carafem is using of-the-moment positive ads at the University of Maryland and the Metro to change the conversation and stigma surrounding abortion and birth control.

The health center, which is based in Chevy Chase, offers various birth control options and the abortion pill. It also advertises those services with bright pink ads and a conversational, “girlfriend” voice.

Rachel Aldridge, a senior marketing and supply chain management major, said she thought the ad in Taliaferro Hall was eye catching.

“It wasn’t going to attract a man’s attention,” she said. “I think it’s really good at attracting their target audience. It was more classy and cute.”

Some of carafem’s ads show a text conversation or incorporate emojis as a way to “normalize” these services, said Carin Postal, a spokeswoman for carafem.

Fifty-eight percent of Americans think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to an AP-GfK survey, yet advertising those services or even contraceptives in public spaces is highly contested.

“There will never be ads for abortion because the conservative right that governs much of our health in our society views it not as a choice,” said Linda Aldoory, a communication professor at this university.

She blames the gender imbalance for the presentation of contraceptive options and subsequent options for abortion in the case of an unwanted pregnancy.

“Birth control is a responsibility of men and women,” Aldoory said. “When you get pregnant, abortion only happens to women. After the fact, what could the man do besides pay for it and go with her?”

That gender imbalance in our society also accounts for the ban on sex-positive ads that carafem uses.

carafem’s ads are placed in six Metro stops in Washington. One sign reads: “Abortion. Yeah, we do that. Birth control? Yeah. We do that, too.”

These same ads have been banned from Washington bars for being “inappropriate.”

Aldoory thinks society makes it OK for men to have sex because it promotes their masculinity, but not OK for women, who are expected to be sexy without having sex.

“Even the ads that the messages you see are seemingly promoting health, there are political or commercial goals behind it that promote a sexist or gendered message,” she said.

Despite carafem’s straight-forward, chatty tone, any ad for women’s health “makes people feel uncomfortable,” Aldridge said.

“But with men’s health advertisements, people have a tendency to think it’s a funny advertisement,” she said. “There’s really nothing out there with men’s health that has that stigma.”

Even with birth control, Aldoory said the gender imbalance is represented on college campuses when it comes to advertising safe sex.

“What option can men use? Condoms,” she said. “What option can women use? Ten different options. But are those options equally available? None of those options are promoted through the health center as much as condoms are.”

Aldoory noted that condoms are more convenient and can be hidden better compared to more “burdensome and expensive” options for women.

carafem offers six birth control options, ranging from $3 condoms to $75 birth control shots. The health center also offers a $400 abortion pill.

“As people come to accept these services more and more, even if they wouldn’t get it done themselves, I feel like people will become desensitized to it and more accepting,” Aldridge said.

Women deserve a dignified way to receive medical services, and carafem is leading the way for how those health services are advertised to its clientele.