Planned Parenthood’s dedication to treating pregnant people with dignity allegedly doesn’t extend to its own staff.
The New York Times reports that several current and former Planned Parenthood employees allege the reproductive health provider discriminates against its pregnant employees. The allegations range from ignoring doctor’s notes, to pressuring new mothers to cut their maternity leave short and encouraging a culture that discouraged employees from being pregnant at all. Via the Times:
In Miami, one current and two former employees said that women at a Planned Parenthood office were scared to tell managers they were pregnant. One of them said that, in conversations with supervisors, colleagues would often volunteer that they were not planning on having children or were gay or single.
“It was looked down upon for you to get pregnant,” said Carolina Delgado, who worked in the Miami office until 2012. “I don’t think that any supervisor had to literally say it for us to feel it.”
A former hiring manager at a Planned Parenthood in California said that when internal promotions came up, supervisors openly debated whether candidates were likely to get pregnant in the near future and preferred those who were not. They declined to hire one pregnant woman and to promote one new mother, the employee said. (Under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, it is illegal to consider whether a job candidate is or will become pregnant.)
It’s a charge so darkly ironic that it’s almost laughable, absolving the organization of its sainthood and demoting it to the status of the countless other American employers who mistreat and discriminate against their pregnant workers.
The Times told the story of Ta’Lisa Hairston, a former medical assistant at Planned Parenthood who figured there was no better place to be employed while pregnant because they worked with pregnant patients constantly. But as her pregnancy progressed, Planned Parenthood’s hostility toward her amplified.
Last winter, Ms. Hairston told the human-resources department for Planned Parenthood’s clinic in White Plains, N.Y., that her high blood pressure was threatening her pregnancy. She sent the department multiple notes from her nurse recommending that she take frequent breaks.
Managers ignored the notes. They rarely gave her time to rest or to take a lunch break, Ms. Hairston said.
“I had to hold back tears talking to pregnant women, telling them to take care of their pregnancies when I couldn’t take care of mine,” she said. “It made me jealous.”
Hairston swelled so severely that plastic gloves wouldn’t fit on her hands, and her high blood pressure became so dangerous that she was put on bed rest when she was seven months pregnant. She returned, but after a particularly long shift, she became so ill that she was put on bed rest again. A few days later, Hairston had an emergency C-section, eight and a half months into her pregnancy. On maternity leave, Planned Parenthood’s human resources department reportedly pressured her eight weeks into her 12 weeks of maternity leave allotted by the Family and Medical Leave Act. She resigned a few weeks later.
The regional chief executive overseeing the Westchester County, New York Planned Parenthood clinic that Hariston worked for denied her allegations, but they square up with several other accounts brought to the attention of the Times:
And at Planned Parenthood, the country’s leading provider of reproductive services, managers in some locations declined to hire pregnant job candidates, refused requests by expecting mothers to take breaks and in some cases pushed them out of their jobs after they gave birth, according to current and former employees in California, Texas, North Carolina and New York.
And most Planned Parenthood employees aren’t receiving maternity leave at all, preferring new mothers to take partially paid disability leave instead. But that provides little help to their most vulnerable employees:
In August, Marissa Hamilton, an employee at Planned Parenthood in Colorado, gave birth to a baby boy. He was eight weeks premature, weighed less than four pounds and spent weeks in neonatal intensive care. The office doesn’t provide paid maternity leave.
In September, she started a fund-raiser on GoFundMe. On the appeals page, Ms. Hamilton wrote that she was under financial strain because “On top of medical bills I cannot work.” She set the goal at $15,000. So far she has raised $1,995.
As of 2016, only 19 percent of government workers and 13 percent of private had access to paid family leave. In a statement, Leana Wen, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said, “I believe we must do better than we are now. It’s our obligation to do better, for our staff, for their families and for our patients.”
And with regards to the lack of maternity leave, Planned Parenthood lays some of the blame on cuts in government funding and vindictive conservatives.
Christine Charbonneau, a manager at a Planned Parenthood regional office in Seattle, told the Times that it would cost $2 million to provide maternity leave for the region’s employees.
“It is easy to accuse someone of hypocrisy if you’re not the one trying to find $2 million out of thin air,” said Charbonneau.
But it’s one thing for Planned Parenthood to have dropped the ball on providing better coverage for its pregnant employees due to financial constraints and fear of closures, and another to be openly antagonistic against them for having the audacity to become pregnant. According to the aforementioned accounts, Planned Parenthood is dabbling heavily into the latter.