Blog Post

Internal Unrest at Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood, St. Paul, MN (Image courtesy of Wikicommons images, Fibonacci Blue CC BY 2.0)

More than a year after the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, the rank and file inside Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) have been left worried and uncertain after the company laid off workers and is talking about restructuring “to better serve” those most in need in post-Roe America.

The Boston Globe is reporting on the tension inside Planned Parenthood headquarters after the company laid off 100 employees and those who remain say it seems to be operating “without a clear vision” for the future. The layoffs, which came in June, accounted for 10 to 20 percent of the national staff, and shocked many PPFA employees, especially after a year of increased donations in the wake of the Dobbs decision.

“The reason for the cuts, leadership explained, was to funnel more ‘direct investment’ to its 49 affiliates, the constellation of Planned Parenthood-accredited clinics that do on-the-ground work, including providing abortions,” the Globe reports. “They assured them it wasn’t financial issues, but a focus shift to better serve those on the front lines in the fight for abortion access.”

The problem is that some of the cuts were made to programs that would seem to be more critical than ever, such as the Emergency Access Funds, a program designed to help patients in need to access abortion.

As one former employee, who chose to remain anonymous, told the Globe, “I think there has never been a worse time to obliterate a portion of your staff than a year after Roe [falling]. . . . They could not have picked a worse moment in our movement.”

While Planned Parenthood’s board of directors claims they are rethinking their approach, employees are feeling “aimless and frustrated,” the Globe reports, with a general slow-down in the work environment due to projects being put on hold and appearances at external events being “reconsidered.”

“It’s hard to know what to make of it,” said Mary Ziegler, a law professor at the University of California Davis who expressed surprise with news of PPFA’s restructure. “There’s a lot of uncertainty about the structure of the movement going forward. Dobbs was incredibly disruptive in that way,” she told the Globe. “There are more questions in the movement about what strategies should be pursued. And so when something like this happens to PPFA, it’s sort of not as clear what it’s going to mean across the movement because I think the movement is in flux.”

Unions representing PPFA employees in New York, San Francisco, and Washington DC were critical of the layoffs and claimed that the organization is “pushing out some of our movement’s brightest minds.”

“This comes at a time where reproductive freedom is in jeopardy and when our members are struggling under difficult economic conditions,” said one union statement sent to the Daily Beast. “We have served PPFA during the toughest times for abortion access. We deserve more than empty claims of equity and of supporting our futures.”

Abortion activists such as Renee Bracey Sherman, were also unimpressed with PPFA’s layoffs.

“I think it’s ridiculous that organizations with budgets as big as they do can’t figure out how to keep all of their employees,” Sherman told the Globe. “Laying off staff has a ripple effect within our entire movement. . . . It destroys our own organizing pipeline because staff who are dedicated to this work . . . they’re getting laid off, and then there’s nowhere for them to go.”

Whether they admit it publicly or not, the abortion industry suffered a major blow when Roe fell last year, and it appears as though America’s largest abortion provider finally got the memo.

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