Carafem Uses Telehealth to Make Abortion Care Accessible

The D.C.-based nonprofit offers comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including at-home telehealth abortion care.
Charli Renken
News Reporter
May 11, 2022
Updated: May 17, 2022
Charli Renken
News Reporter
May 11, 2022
Updated: May 17, 2022
carafem founders
Carafem co-founders Melissa Grant and Chris Purdy. | Photo: Carafem

Sure, the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the big guns aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.

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Earlier this month news broke that a leaked draft opinion showed the Supreme Court plans to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that asserts abortion care is a protected right under the Constitution. While the court has not yet officially voted to overturn the case, reproductive rights activists took to the streets to protest. For millions of people, the possibility of abortion rights being left up to state regulation is a terrifying one. This is especially true for those living in rural communities and states with restrictive abortion laws, where access to reproductive healthcare is already difficult to access. 

In the case that Roe v. Wade is overturned, there are many organizations dedicated to continuing to make abortion care accessible. Carafem is one such organization. The D.C.-based nonprofit offers comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including at-home telehealth abortion care.

The nonprofit was founded by parent organization DKT International, which seeks to increase accessibility to family planning and HIV care in geographic locations most in need of such services. In 2013, the organization realized that the U.S. was experiencing similar gaps in reproductive and abortion care as developing countries, due in large part to the shrinking availability of abortion providers. Chris Purdy, DKT’s president and CEO, thought some of the strategies learned internationally could be used to provide these services in the U.S., Melissa Grant, carafem COO, told Build In in an interview.

With that in mind, carafem was founded and opened its first clinic in Chevy Chase, Maryland, in 2015. Since then, the organization has opened additional centers in Atlanta, Chicago and Nashville. Carafem also offers telehealthcare options to patients in 14 states and D.C. and has done so since before the pandemic. 

“[Carafem] remains steadfast in continuing to provide abortion care and sexual and reproductive health care services to people who need them.”

While the organization provides a number of reproductive healthcare options including birth control, family planning and STI and STD testing, carafem is best known for its medically supported at-home abortion options, something the organization doesn’t shy away from mentioning. Carafem’s marketing proudly proclaims, “Abortion. Yeah, we do that,” representing the organization’s unflinching dedication to making abortion care accessible and easier to talk about.

One of the reasons carafem offers medically supported abortion care at home is due to the number of restrictive laws around abortion as well as the lack of healthcare access in rural areas. Americans in need of abortion care travel an average of 11 miles to receive care and 20 percent travel more than 43 miles. Travel is enough of a barrier that there are multiple grants and funds Americans in need can apply for just to cover travel costs.

Carafem is dedicated to filling those gaps by offering abortion pills delivered directly to patients’ doors in states where it’s legal to do so. Patients simply schedule a telehealth appointment with a carafem physician and meet with them over video. Afterward, carafem mails the patient abortion pills that are discreetly delivered in one to three business days. 

Once the pills arrive, patients simply follow the instructions from their physician. Patients can also opt-in to an AI-enabled text-based “health bot” named Cara which will guide them through taking both pills, remind them when they need to take the second dose and answer any questions they may have. If Cara can’t answer someone’s question, it immediately connects them with a carafem physician. 

carafem consult room
A carafem consult room where patients can recieve either in-person or virtual care. | Photo: Carafem

Grant said Cara makes it easier for patients to bring up any worries or questions that they might not otherwise feel comfortable mentioning to a doctor. 

“Having that reassuring presence to say, ‘There are no dumb questions; you can absolutely ask’ [is really helpful],” Grant said. “What this has done is decrease the amount of time when a client might sit at home, thinking ‘I’m not sure what to do,’ which is just emotionally excruciating for people. ... [With Cara] the questions are being answered much, much more quickly.” 

When it comes to carafem’s future, Grant told Built In the nonprofit “remains steadfast in continuing to provide abortion care and sexual and reproductive health care services to people who need them.” She went on to say in an email that abortion currently remains legal in all 50 states and therefore carafem’s health centers and telehealth abortion care services remain open.

“We are deeply concerned about the continued rollback of abortion access as extremists try to undermine our basic human rights. We take hope from the movement across the country to support our work and we will keep fighting until all people have the freedom to make their own decisions about their lives and their reproductive health,” Grant said. 

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