Planned Parenthood Workers Accuse NY CEO of ‘Systemic Racism,’ ‘Abuse’

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: Executive VP and COO Center For Reproductive Rights Laura McQuade speaks at the Center For Reproductive Rights: Unite Tonight Los Angeles event at a private residence on September 25, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Center for Reproductive Rights)
Charley Gallay/Getty

Former and current Planned Parenthood employees have accused Laura McQuade, CEO of Planned Parenthood Greater New York (PPGNY), of “systemic racism” and “abuse,” and have called for her removal from her current post.

McQuade (pictured) headed Planned Parenthood of the Great Plains (PPGP), the organization’s affiliate in Overland Park, Kansas, from 2014 until 2017, when she assumed the head post at PPGNY.

More than 300 current and former staff from PPGNY have signed an open letter, posted Thursday, that calls for McQuade to be terminated as CEO in the New York affiliate.

The letter also calls for an independent investigation into the employees’ allegations and salary cuts for top PPGNY officials earning more than $100,000.

“The CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York (PPGNY), Laura McQuade, has proven to be a toxic leader and autocrat, and we, the current and former staff of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, write this letter to demand her immediate removal,” the letter reads, and continues:

We are expressing our profound lack of confidence in Laura McQuade, our Chief Officers, and our Board of Directors. In her two-and-a-half year tenure, McQuade has created a culture of fear and intimidation; we have witnessed her cull dissenters and surround herself with enablers. Through abusive behavior and financial malfeasance, we have watched her fundamentally threaten the fiscal and operational viability of Planned Parenthood’s largest affiliate and its 900 employees.

The employees explain they are “deeply committed to maintaining access to abortion and sexual and reproductive health care,” but assert the recent “public scrutiny” of Planned Parenthood has enabled its leaders to intimidate employees who have wanted to speak out about what they call a “toxic” environment.

The letter goes on to describe McQuade’s alleged behavior:

Dozens of staff members have witnessed McQuade yell, berate, slam her fists, verbally abuse, humiliate, and bully employees, often brutally shaming staff members in internal meetings in front of their colleagues. This behavior is out of line for anyone, let alone the CEO of a “progressive” organization. After countless complaints, a law firm was hired by the board to investigate these allegations. The firm interviewed staff members at all levels, including senior leaders, many providing documented evidence of this pattern of behavior. The cost of this, and other investigations into her behavior, was likely significant and has led to no positive organizational change.

The former and current Planned Parenthood employees accuse McQuade of “financial mismanagement,” and “racism and weaponizing of the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion against staff.”

The workers refer to Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger:

Planned Parenthood was founded by a racist, white woman. That is a part of history that cannot be changed. While efforts have been made to undo some of the harm from institutional racism, many of these issues have worsened under McQuade’s tenure. 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. Each time, employees of color were brutally honest about their experiences, but nothing changed.

According to the letter, since McQuade arrived at PPGNY in 2017, staff turnover has been significant:

While upper management has been plagued with a steady rotation of new staff, we’ve seen a high level of turnover at every level as long-time employees have left in despair or been eliminated or outsourced. Early on, McQuade outsourced PPNYC’s internal call center, eliminating an entire department of primarily Black and Latina women, to an external company run by her close friend.

The workers accuse McQuade as well of protecting “herself and her Chief Officers” during PPGNY’s COVID-19 “financial reality.”

A letter written by “concerned staff at PPGP” to Planned Parenthood Federation of America also calls for the national organization to “please hold the Planned Parenthood of New York City Board accountable.”

“Do not let Laura McQuade dismantle, divide and destroy another affiliate as she did what is now Planned Parenthood Great Plains,” the employees wrote. “We know several letters have been written to their board and nothing has happened. We know that there has not been any safe space to actually talk with middle or senior management staff about their experiences.”

The Kansas City Star reported:

In a June 15 tweet, [McQuade] said that “we must eviscerate systemic racism and injustice in order to achieve true freedom.” And on June 1, she tweeted: “It’s time to address white supremacy in our own institutions. PP pledges to reckon with our own racist history, acknowledging and correcting implicit bias in our organization, and creating space for Black organizations and leaders.”

On Friday, Alexis McGill Johnson, acting CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), said in a statement the employees’ accusations of “misconduct, abuse, racism and more, do not align with Planned Parenthood’s standards or our values.”

Johnson continued the allegations are “serious,” and said “we are taking steps internally to address” them.

She added, “[O]ur country is in the middle of a racial justice reckoning – one that includes Planned Parenthood.”

Planned Parenthood and its allies in the abortion industry have aligned themselves with groups like Black Lives Matter, ensuring the alliance allows a narrative that supports abortion, i.e., “reproductive justice.”

The board of directors of PPGP released a statement Tuesday in support of Black Lives Matter, stating its members “do not tolerate racism.”

“We reject the patterns of power that legitimize and perpetuate the destruction and degradation of Black lives, and we are reinvigorated in our commitment to understand our role, both historically and currently, in a fractured and unjust society,” the statement read.

The reality of racism in abortion clinics made headlines during the murder trial of West Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell.

The Atlantic reported in 2013 on the testimony of a former Gosnell employee:

A former employee testified “that white patients often did not have to wait in the same dirty rooms as black and Asian clients. Instead, Gosnell would escort them up the back steps to the only clean office — O’Neill’s — and he would turn on the TV for them. Mrs. Mongar, she said, would have been treated ‘no different from the rest of the Africans and Asians.'”

Said the employee:

Like if a girl — the black population was — African population was big here. So he didn’t mind you medicating your African American girls, your Indian girl, but if you had a white girl from the suburbs, oh, you better not medicate her. You better wait until he go in and talk to her first. And one day I said something to him and he was like, that’s the way of the world. Huh?

And he brushed it off and that was it.

Planned Parenthood has also been accused of discrimination against pregnant women in its workplaces.

In December 2018, the New York Times reported current and former Planned Parenthood employees said the abortion business had mistreated and discriminated against pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace.

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