Planned Parenthood employees accuse organization of mistreating pregnant workers

Former and current Planned Parenthood employees accuse the women's health organization of mistreating its pregnant workers in a New York Times investigation published Thursday. 

The Times interviewed more than a dozen current and former employees who said Planned Parenthood discriminated against workers when they became pregnant and that some offices fostered a culture that discouraged workers from becoming pregnant. 

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Some women who worked at the reproductive health nonprofit told the Times that they were denied breaks while they were pregnant or saw managers declining to hire women who were pregnant, both in violation of labor laws.

“I believe we must do better than we are now,” Leana Wen, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement released to The Hill. “It’s our obligation to do better, for our staff, for their families and for our patients.”

Wen added that the organization has launched an internal investigation in light of the Times report.

Planned Parenthood is the country's largest provider of reproductive services, operating around 600 health clinics in the U.S. 

Current and former employees of regional offices in California, Texas, North Carolina and New York told the Times that they witnessed allegations of pregnancy discrimination. 

"It was looked down upon for you to get pregnant,” Carolina Delgado, who worked in the Planned Parenthood Miami office until 2012, told the newspaper. “I don’t think that any supervisor had to literally say it for us to feel it.”

One former Planned Parenthood hiring manager who worked in California told the Times that she witnessed supervisors declining to promote certain employees depending on whether they were likely to get pregnant. 

The Times said that 49 of the organization's 55 regional offices do not offer paid maternity leave. 

Wen said that Planned Parenthood is investigating how much it would cost to create an official paid maternity leave policy for employees.

Marissa Hamilton, a Planned Parenthood employee in Colorado, in September started a GoFundMe to raise money after she gave birth to a premature child.

“On top of medical bills, I cannot work," Hamilton wrote on the crowdfunding page.

A former director of clinical services in White Plains, N.Y., Tracy Webber, sued Planned Parenthood for pregnancy discrimination in 2009, the Times reported. She said she was unfairly terminated four weeks after she gave birth. 

Another woman who spoke with the Times said she faced pregnancy discrimination at a New York Planned Parenthood clinic in New Rochelle. She said her managers ignored a doctor's note that said she should take breaks frequently, and pressed her to return early after giving birth.

Vincent Russell, the head of Planned Parenthood’s Hawthorne, N.Y., office. told the Times, "All the individuals identified in the article were treated fairly and equitably, free of any discrimination." 

Ta'Lisa Hairston told the Times that, when she was a medical assistant at Planned Parenthood, her managers ignored doctor's notes that indicated her blood pressure was dangerously high during her pregnancy. She said her hands and feet swelled and eventually her doctor put her on bed rest on her seventh month.

“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,” Hairston said. “It made me jealous.”

—Updated at 4:41 p.m.