Planned Parenthood CEO Ousted over Allegations of Using ‘Racist’ Term

Activists participate in a rally to support Planned Parenthood March 1, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Planned Parenthood held a ÒWe Are Planned Parenthood Capitol Takeover DayÓ to lobby legislators not to defund the organization. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty

A longstanding Planned Parenthood official who expanded the Seattle affiliate of the abortion provider to include six states was ousted from her position as the organization’s CEO last week over alleged use of a “racist” term.

Chris Charbonneau, an employee of Planned Parenthood for about 40 years, was removed after a donor allegedly used a “racist” term during a meeting in reference to black individuals, and Charbonneau reportedly repeated the term in a discussion about the meeting with another staff member, the Seattle Times said.

According to the report, however, Charbonneau and the board of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky are disagreeing about the former CEO’s reaction to the donor’s initial use of the term.

Charbonneau, who is white, said the donor used the term in reference to “comparing the treatment of women impacted by abortion restrictions to the mistreatment of Black people,” the Times observed, adding:

Board members Jeff Sprung and Colleen Foster, in an email noting they were limited in what they could say because of potential litigation but wanted to correct Charbonneau’s “more egregious misstatements,” said an investigation that [sic] found Charbonneau did not admonish the donor in any way.

The former CEO, however, reportedly told the donor, who is also white, she should not have used the term.

The Times reported Charbonneau said in interviews she could not believe she was labeled racist for quoting another person’s words, including with use of the words, “quote unquote.”

“If I had to do it over again, I would not have used that actual term,” she reportedly said, adding, “I was astonished at the sort of cavalier disregard with which my 40-year commitment was being treated … It was step by step, the dismantling of my credibility.”

The former CEO described the incident as one in which she and a “major gifts officer” were thanking the donor for gifts over dinner, when the issue of Texas’ abortion law arose.

“They’re trying to make women the new N-word,” the donor said, according to Charbonneau, but used the actual term.

Charbonneau added the donor, whose gifts have already been returned, said she made the comparison after reading a book about racial justice.

When the gift officer’s superior called Charbonneau about the dinner meeting, the former CEO stated she quoted the donor verbatim on two occasions, adding she was not aware it is never appropriate to say the N-word in any context.

The veteran Planned Parenthood employee noted the timing of her ouster causes her pain, when the abortion industry is needing “all-hands-on-deck” to deal with the outcome of the Supreme Court’s anticipated decision about a Mississippi abortion law as well as the Texas Heartbeat Act.

The Planned Parenthood affiliate’s board said in a statement:

This is a critical moment for the pursuit and provision of sexual and reproductive health access and care, including abortion. That is our work and our mission, and it calls us to center equity in all that we do. We are more committed than ever to providing excellent and equitable care, education, and advocacy for our patients and communities, now and into the future, no matter what.

Charbonneau’s removal has apparently bubbled over throughout the affiliate and its 700 employees, with open complaints about the organization’s failure to hire people of color for prominent leadership roles and to address issues of racial equity within the organization.

In November 2020, employees of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates wrote an open letter that called for the resignation of Emily Callen, the group’s executive director, amid allegations she used “racist, transphobic, classist language, and language which perpetuates stigma against abortion.”

The organization’s employees said Callen has “de-prioritized abortion in public facing work;” allowed contractors to engage in “misgendering trans and non-binary staff;” referred to “undocumented immigrants” as “illegals;” and did not immediately put out a statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter after George Floyd’s death.

In June 2020, Laura McQuade, former CEO of Planned Parenthood Greater New York, was ousted after employees of the abortion provider accused her of “systemic racism” and “abuse.”

Former and current Planned Parenthood employees accused McQuade of “financial mismanagement,” and “racism and weaponizing of the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion against staff,” as Breitbart News reported.

“Planned Parenthood was founded by a racist, white woman,” the workers noted as well. “That is a part of history that cannot be changed.”

Additionally, 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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