Two of the most prominent women’s rights groups are now at odds — and in full crisis mode — over whether to continue supporting the Women’s March following two major exposés accusing March leadership of embracing racism and anti-Semitism.
The National Organization of Women, one of the nation’s oldest feminist organizations, announced Monday that while they will assist the Women’s March with organization and will participate tangentially in the March itself in January, they will no longer be providing any kind of financial support to the Women’s March until key Women’s March leaders — including Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez, and Tamika Mallory — answer accusations raised by Tablet Magazine and The New York Times.
“NOW will continue to support the Women’s March Unity Principles, and we will participate and organize members to attend the March,” NOW president Toni Van Pelt said in a statement, according to The Washington Times. “However, we will withhold direct financial support until the current questions regarding leadership are resolved.”
The statement echoes the sentiments of some of NOW’s state- and city-level chapters, including NOW Baton Rouge, which announced on Monday that it was canceling a Women’s March sister march in New Orleans, Louisiana, over accusations that Mallory, Sarsour, and Perez expressed anti-Semitic views during March organization meetings and helped push Jewish women out of leadership roles within the March organization.
But not all feminist organizations are jumping off the bandwagon. Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest pro-abortion group, told Refinery29 this week that they intend on sticking by the March, come what may, because the March itself is so important that it doesn’t matter if the March’s core leadership has issues with intersectionality.
“Over the last two years, we’ve seen unprecedented attacks on our health and rights from the Trump-Pence administration,” a senior communications official from Planned Parenthood told Refinery29 in a statement. “The Women’s March has become a symbol of our collective resistance to these damaging and discriminatory policies and Planned Parenthood is proud to once again, join our progressive partners for the #WomensWave mobilization to protect and advance the progress we’ve made as a movement dedicated to equity and justice for all people.”
Notice, though, that the statement makes only a tangential reference to the March itself, and focuses largely on the Trump administration and a larger feminist movement unaffiliated with Sarsour, Mallory, and Perez (as well as Women’s March leader Bob Bland). That’s because Planned Parenthood has been struggling with the issue in the background for some time, and their support for the Women’s March may be less stable than it appears.
Just days before issuing this statement, Planned Parenthood’s president, Leana Wen, hedged on her own support for the Women’s March, telling the same outlet, Refinery29, that she was “consulting” with PP’s leadership on the issue: “We are working on it with all of our partners and we will have more information for you as our as our collaboration and our work goes on.”
Refinery29 reported on their own dealings with Planned Parenthood over the issue, revealing an organization in crisis.
The announcement appears to follow weeks of internal discussion at Planned Parenthood about the organization’s future involvement with the Women’s March. When Refinery29 first asked Wen about the controversies and whether it would remain a partner and sponsor of the Women’s March during a Nov. 30 interview, a spokeswoman interjected and said she would need to follow up with additional information to avoid speaking out of turn. After that interview, that spokeswoman said she was not able to provide an update on the record. On Dec. 12, ahead of publishing the full interview with Wen, Refinery29 contacted the spokeswoman to ask if a decision had been made. That spokeswoman called and asked to speak off-the-record about the organization’s plan. Less than an hour later, after learning in a subsequent call that Refinery29 intended to write a separate piece on any updates regarding Planned Parenthood’s future involvement in the Women’s March, the spokeswoman declined to provide an on-the-record comment.
That’s quite a mess of crisis communications.