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Planned Parenthood, NARAL employees allege racism, pay inequity

Planned Parenthood, NARAL employees allege racism, pay inequity

A sign hangs above a Planned Parenthood clinic on May 18, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Current and former employees of high-profile pro-abortion advocacy groups in the United States have stepped forward to discuss the toxic work environments they have found themselves subjected to, with “racism” and “pay inequity” among the most common complaints.

BuzzFeed News spoke with “26 employees at Planned Parenthood affiliates and the national office of NARAL, as well as 16 employees of other reproductive rights organizations.” Reporter Ema O’Connor’s interviews with those current and former employees was compiled into a lengthy article, published on Friday.

“At the start of summer, I started seeing people…tweeting some hints about experiencing racism at major reproductive rights organizations,” O’Connor explained in a tweet. “Three months and 42 interviews later, I’ve published this.”

The article comes just two months after more than 300 current and former employees of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York wrote an open letter calling for the “immediate removal” of CEO Laura McQuade.

“After years of complaints from staff about issues of systemic racism, pay inequity, and lack of upward mobility for Black staff, highly-paid consultants were brought in three separate times to assess the situation,” the letter read.

“Each time, employees of color were brutally honest about their experiences, but nothing changed,” the letter added. Ultimately, the Planned Parenthood of Greater New York Board of Directors terminated McQuade, whose detractors described her as “a toxic leader and autocrat.”

In the BuzzFeed article, current and former employees of multiple Planned Parenthood affiliates leveled similar allegations against the abortion giant.

One anonymous woman, who served in an administrative role at the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Washington, D.C., shared her resignation letter with BuzzFeed News. “Despite her high-ranking role, she said she was constantly told to serve board members food, clean up after meetings, organize people’s parking permits, and other assistant-level work,” the article read.

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“I’ve worked at plenty of nonprofits, and I have never been treated so horribly in my life as I was at Planned Parenthood, to the point where I grew very depressed, had a lot of anxiety, and cried in the bathroom almost every day,” she said.

Three other racial minorities who once worked at the same Planned Parenthood affiliate backed up the woman’s claims of a toxic work environment. “All four Planned Parenthood DC employees told BuzzFeed News that the office was segregated, with the few women of color all sitting at the same row of desks.”

The women also claimed that their white colleagues would refer to them as the “barrio” or the “ghetto girls.”

Planned Parenthood is a major political interest group in the United States. Earlier this year, the abortion provider endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and announced that it would spend $45 million, a three-fold increase from the 2016 election, to elect Democrats up and down the ballot in the 2020 election.

In response to the BuzzFeed article, Planned Parenthood’s national office issued a statement: “It is among leadership’s top priorities to ensure our commitments are intentional, actionable, and public so that we, alongside our supporters, patients, and staff, can hold ourselves accountable and more truly fulfill our mission of reproductive freedom for all.”

Former employees of the National Abortion Rights Action League have also gone public with their allegations of a toxic work environment. Former NARAL employee Hayley Fairless tweeted about how she faced retaliation for speaking out about the hostile workplace culture.

“After repeatedly calling the org in for racism/classism/transphobia, NARAL leadership began extensively surveilling my social media and community activism,” she said. "I won’t give any specifics because I was forced to sign an NDA to even interview for the job. I have no doubt it would be weaponized. The work culture and execution of its alleged mission was deeply, traumatically toxic, and I regret ever contributing my time to the organization."

Renee Bracey Sherman, who formerly served on the NARAL board, saw tweets from Fairless and others, which motivated her to come forward and explain her reasoning for departing the organization.

“Anti-Blackness and refusal to address racism is why I quit the board,” she said.

“We have definitely failed in places and certainly fallen short of our goals at times,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue told BuzzFeed News. “I take responsibility for each instance where a person on our staff or board, a member, or an ally felt the impact of that failure.”

Like Planned Parenthood, NARAL has endorsed Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Hogue praised the candidate’s “deeply compassionate” evolution on the issue of abortion.

Biden, a Catholic, changed his position on the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of taxpayer funding for abortions. He had previously supported the amendment but switched to oppose it after receiving pushback from pro-abortion activists.

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