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Planned Parenthood president says group faces 'reckoning' on racism

Planned Parenthood president says group faces 'reckoning' on racism
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An internal probe by Planned Parenthood found that its Black employees feel they are treated differently than their white counterparts and have experienced instances of racism and discrimination, according to materials obtained by BuzzFeed News

The news outlet reported Friday that the assessment was presented at a video meeting of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s employee resource group Network of Black Associates on Wednesday. 

Planned Parenthood commissioned the group Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance (AORTA) to conduct a series of interviews with 64 current and 12 former Black employees. 

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According to the presentation obtained by BuzzFeed, Black employees at Planned Parenthood reported continuous racist encounters with their white colleagues, adding that when these instances were reported to the organization’s human resources department, there was “no meaningful consequence or accountability for racial harm.” 

As Wednesday’s meeting began, Alexis McGill Johnson, who is Black and has served as president of Planned Parenthood for just more than four months, called on all employees to recognize the importance of these claims. 

“The urgency of this moment, the urgency of the reckoning that we’ve all known was coming ... the deep urgency of what we need to do inside of [Planned Parenthood], stepping into leadership in this moment, I have never felt more urgent, and I’ve never actually felt more free,” Johnson said, according to BuzzFeed. “And I want that feeling of freedom to give us all the covers to do the work that we need to do.”

The internal probe follows investigative reporting published by BuzzFeed in August that revealed that 26 sources at both Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America said they regularly experienced racism at work and were harassed by their bosses, adding that non-Black employees did not receive such treatment. 

The sources also noted that white employees were more likely to receive promotions. 

According to BuzzFeed, only eight CEOs of Planned Parenthood’s 49 state-level affiliates identify as people of color or as multiracial.

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In response to a request for comment from BuzzFeed on Friday, Melanie Newman, Planned Parenthood’s head of communications and culture, wrote in an email that the leak of the findings presented at the organization’s internal meeting was “a breach of trust and of the intended safe space for Black colleagues to be seen, heard, and understood.” 

“Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s leadership is committed to confronting the organization’s legacy of white supremacy head on, and the cultural assessment conducted by AORTA is an important component of the comprehensive and meaningful work we are undertaking to create belonging and equity,” Newman said in her statement. 

“Holding leadership accountable publicly is welcome; but abusing the trust of colleagues is harmful to the culture change work that is underway,” she added. 

While BuzzFeed said some Planned Parenthood employees have indicated that they are happy about the organization’s recent efforts to bring instances of racism and discrimination to light, they are hesitant to believe that the workplace culture will change anytime soon. 

In July, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York announced it would remove the name Margaret Sanger from its health center building due to the former nurse’s racist legacy and connection to the eugenics movement. 

Eugenics is a discredited theory that states the human race can be "improved" through selective breeding of those with "desirable" traits. The theory often disproportionately targeted poor people, people of color, those with disabilities and other marginalized groups. 

The organization said in a statement that the renaming of the building was an "overdue step" to acknowledge the legacy of Planned Parenthood's harm to communities of color. 

"Margaret Sanger's concerns and advocacy for reproductive health have been clearly documented, but so too has her racist legacy," Karen Seltzer, chairwoman of the PPGNY board, said at the time.