One of the more talked-about articles in the New York Times last week was a piece about how Planned Parenthood can be very anti-woman; or at least anti-pregnant women. In “Planned Parenthood Accused of Mistreating Pregnant Employees,” we hear a lot of damning anecdotes about this supposedly pro-woman group.
What’s missing is any assessment of this rather ironic situation by leaders of the many religious and faith watchdogs that put in a lot of time following Planned Parenthood’s funding and practices.
Let’s do a mirror image twist on this. Imagine if, say, the Times had investigated the Family Research Council and found some serious ethical issues. Would the editors have avoided comments from liberal critics, both secular and religious? Just try to imagine that.
The article starts with an anecdote of one wronged mother, then explains why they’re reporting on this.
Discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers remains widespread in the American workplace. It is so pervasive that even organizations that define themselves as champions of women are struggling with the problem.
That includes Planned Parenthood, which has been accused of sidelining, ousting or otherwise handicapping pregnant employees, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees.
The Times treats Planned Parenthood like any other employer. Yet, it’s not. How many employers get massive federal funding and have a $1.5 billion budget while claiming they’re short on funds?
And at Planned Parenthood, the country’s leading provider of reproductive services, managers in some locations declined to hire pregnant job candidates, refused requests by expecting mothers to take breaks and in some cases pushed them out of their jobs after they gave birth, according to current and former employees in California, Texas, North Carolina and New York.
Most Planned Parenthood offices do not provide paid maternity leave, though many let new mothers take partially paid disability leave.
“I believe we must do better than we are now,” Dr. Leana Wen, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “It’s our obligation to do better, for our staff, for their families and for our patients.”
Dr. Wen said the organization was investigating the allegations of pregnancy discrimination reported by The New York Times. The organization also is conducting a review to determine the cost of providing paid maternity leave to nearly 12,000 employees nationwide.
While Planned Parenthood’s clinics and regional offices brought in about $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2016 — half from private donations and half from the government, to reimburse treatment provided to Medicaid patients — conservative lawmakers routinely threaten to kill its taxpayer funding. With their finances precarious, the clinics pay modest salaries to the employees who provide health care — abortions, cancer screenings, prenatal care, disease testing — to 2.4 million mostly low-income patients every year.
If employees are being paid badly, what are their execs making?
At this point, the Times editors should have inserted that information in. But they did not.
So why did I have to read the Washington Examiner to find out that PP’s CEO Cecile Richards takes in $957,952 a year? And that the typical state chief executive averages $237,999 a year? I don’t call that “precarious” funding.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America has its headquarters in Manhattan. The clinics that serve women are run by 55 regional affiliates with their own chief executives and human resources policies. They receive some money and support from headquarters.
Tight budgets sometimes created punishing workplace conditions, employees said. A dozen lawsuits filed against Planned Parenthood clinics in federal and state courts since 2013 accused managers of denying workers rest periods, lunch breaks or overtime pay, or retaliating against them for taking medical leave.
According to PP’s 2016-2017 annual report, the organization gained 700,000 new donors that year, probably in reaction to the election of Donald Trump. They have more than 10 million supporters. And they are short of money?
The annual report lists a daunting number of tech leaders and executives, musicians, actors, comedians and “thought leaders” (folks in the media); not to mention fashion designers and even “people of faith.”
Companies fingered in this article include Natera, Avon and Mehri & Skalet a liberal law firm. But PP got the most attention.
Managers have discriminated against pregnant women and new mothers, according to interviews with the current and former Planned Parenthood employees and with organizers from the Office and Professional Employees International Union, which represents some Planned Parenthood workers.
The article lists several instances where pregnant women were discriminated against or women who were planning to get pregnant weren’t hired or promoted.
Financial pressures also explain why 49 of Planned Parenthood’s 55 regional offices — which each manage a set of local clinics — do not provide paid maternity leave. Employees in about 20 of those regions can use short-term disability to earn a portion of their salaries while on leave. The New York headquarters provides six weeks of paid parental leave.
Last year, Christine Charbonneau, who runs the regional office in Seattle, asked her human resources department to find out how much it would cost to cover maternity leave for the region. The estimate: $2 million a year. That is the entire annual budget of some clinics.
I am puzzled why maternity leave would add up to so much. We’re talking four to six weeks’ worth of pay. Since these folks are getting paid peanuts anyway, that can’t add up to a whole lot, right?
Ms. Charbonneau’s office, which oversees 27 clinics in the Northwest, generates $77 million a year in revenue. But states like Washington and Idaho have cut government funding in recent years. Paying for maternity leave, Ms. Charbonneau said, could force her to close clinics.
“It is easy to accuse someone of hypocrisy if you’re not the one trying to find $2 million out of thin air,” she said. “You try to be the Planned Parenthood that donors expect, and yet it is unattainable.”
Living in Washington state as I do, I’m curious how the reporter assumes that cuts in government funding mean less money for Planned Parenthood. Last I looked, this deep blue state is in no danger of doing that. Notice (in the link) how our governor, Jay Inslee, pledges that PP definitely won’t get cuts. In Idaho last month, voters passed a Medicaid expansion measure that the right-to-life groups say will cause more abortions.
So the reporter is either sloppy or dishonest in citing these two states as evidence at PP is in any danger of losing funding. Planned Parenthood needs to find better excuses as to why it is not funding maternity leave. Lack of money is not one of them.
As one of the many commentators said either on the Times’ website or on Twitter, pregnancy is a bit off-brand for Planned Parenthood. PP conducted 321,384 abortions in the 2016-2017 fiscal year and is the country’s biggest source of abortions.
Let’s also point out that most American businesses don’t offer paid maternity leave including my former employer, the Washington Times. When I adopted my daughter, I had 11 weeks of sick leave saved up plus vacation time, which is how I was able to afford a six-week overseas stay plus another six weeks off at home.
While I am obviously sympathetic toward new mothers, I also feel for the employees back at the office who have to work overtime to take up the slack for the absent person. Remember, however, the typical employer is saving money when employees take maternity leave.
Why? Well, that is one salary they’re not having to pay, which is why I’m always suspicious when employers make out like they’re so under budget and poor. Believe me, they are not.
And Planned Parenthood is not low on money by any means. So the point of this story was that supposedly feminist organizations are just as awful toward pregnant women and new mothers as is everyone else in the American work force. What’s surprising is the level of hypocrisy here in that PP has advocated for paid medical pregnancy leave on its Twitter account.
So I’m glad the Times took on Planned Parenthood for not walking the talk in terms of supporting women. Maybe some day they’ll take unborn women seriously, too.