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Metro says it will run ads from abortion-provider Carafem

A copy of the ad that Carafem Health Clinic hopes to run in the Metro system. (courtesy of Carafem Health Clinics)

In the end, it was all a misunderstanding, Metro officials say.

When Carafem Health Center opened its doors in Chevy Chase this year, it did what many new businesses do: it paid for a series of ads to run in the Metro system.

But earlier this month, when the company decided to launch a second ad campaign, Carafem officials said they were turned down.

Melissa Grant, Carafem’s vice president of health services, said the company that handles Metro’s advertising told Carafem that the transit agency would no longer accept their ads because of a new Metro policy that bans issue-oriented advertising in the system. Grant said the ads aren’t meant to be political; they simply advertise some of the services offered at the health center.

New Chevy Chase clinic aims to de-stigmatize abortion

Carafem is a health center that provides abortions and the bright pink ad it wanted to run explained that.

“Abortions. Yeah we do that” read the ad. “Birth Control. Yeah we do that too” it continued.

Grant said the company’s previous campaign, which ran in April and cost just over $11,000, included an ad with similar text “Abortion. Yeah we do that.”

She said Metro officials never voiced any objections.

But when reached on Tuesday, Metro said the whole episode was all a miscommunication.

“Metro did not receive, has not reviewed and has not declined this submission,” wrote Metro spokeswoman Morgan Dye in an e-mail. “There was an apparent miscommunication between our third-party ad vendor and the advertiser. The ad will be reviewed as soon as the creative is received by us, as is our standard process.”

Two hours later, Dye sent a second e-mail.

“UPDATE: Metro’s Office of General Counsel has received, reviewed and approved Carafem’s ad.”

Grant was surprised, but pleased. She said Carafem hopes to run the ads starting next month and again in January in six Metro stations: Foggy Bottom, Eastern Market, Dupont Circle, Shaw/Howard, U Street and Woodley Park. It expects to spend roughly $20,000 on the campaign. The center also  had hoped to place the ads on Metrobuses, but all available space had been purchased.

Advertising, while lucrative, has been a tricky proposition for Metro and other transit agencies across the country. Metro has been sued at least two times by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a group known for its provocative anti-Muslim ads.

AFDI sues Metro over advertising ban

In May, Metro received a request from AFDI to run the winning entry from a Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in five of subway stations and on 20 Metrobuses. Rather than prohibit those ads specifically — a move that federal courts have forbidden — Metro’s board of directors opted to ban all new advocacy ads for the rest of the year.

Metro board votes to ban issues ads

At the time of the board’s vote, Lynn Bowersox, head of Metro marketing, said advocacy ads accounted for roughly $2.5 million or 20 percent of the estimated $12.5 million in ad revenue Metro receives.