News and Commentary

Planned Parenthood’s Pennsylvania Chapter Rocked By Racism Allegations, Executive Director Resigns
The logo of Planned Parenthood is seen outside the Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services Center in St. Louis, Missouri, May 30, 2019, the last location in the state performing abortions.
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Another left-leaning organization is at the center of racism allegations.

Planned Parenthood’s Pennsylvania chapter has been accused of numerous racial transgressions, including board members allegedly making racist comments and ignoring staff complaints, The Daily Beast reported. A group of staffers demanded the chapter’s executive director resign, which she did Tuesday evening.

Every staff member of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Pennsylvania signed an open letter demanding the organization’s executive director, Emily Callen, step down over the allegations. The letter also accused her of mismanagement. In addition to staffers, more than 900 others signed onto the letter, including several state legislators.

After Callen resigned, the staff members, calling themselves Save PPPA, released a statement.

“Our biggest demand has been met!” the statement said. “This fight is not over for us. The staff at PPPA is committed to fighting white supremacy in our workplace.”

Some of the allegations centered around a current reorganization of the Pennsylvania chapter, the Beast reported. Several positions were eliminated, “including one held by a Black woman organizer, while making permanent the role held by a white communications director,” the outlet reported.

The chapter’s board Chair Dayle Steinberg said in an email to staff that the changes were due to pandemic budget cuts, and a major grant that had not been renewed the previous year. Staffers, however, told the Beast that the reorganization appeared more to be a way to get rid of those who criticized Callen. Callen, they said, didn’t take a pay cut from her six-figure salary despite the alleged funding issues.

“The history of white supremacy in this organization is scary as s**t enough, but now we’re living in it. And this is exactly what we’re fighting against,” Ky Ciccone, a field organizer with the Pennsylvania chapter, told the Beast. “This organization has a lot of work to do, and we are really, really fighting to do that work.”

Other allegations against Callen included an incident where she didn’t take action when a staff member of Puerto Rican descent took exception to a male board member dismissing a controversial birth-control trial from the 1950s that “tested the then-experimental pill on women in Puerto Rico’s housing projects.” The male board member allegedly suggested it wasn’t important since Puerto Ricans weren’t considered U.S. citizens back then.

Others told The Daily Beast they were upset Callen didn’t always use gender-inclusive language, sometimes referring to “pregnant women” instead of “pregnant people.” Aspen Christian, the digital organizer for PPPA, told The Daily Beast Callen refused to change her wording even after repeated asks.

“She doesn’t understand what accountability is,” Christian told the outlet. “We’ve given her so many opportunities to own up to the fact that what she’s doing is not OK, and she’s just like, ‘Thank you for saying that.’”

This is just the latest example of left-leaning institutions and problems with racism. In August, the president of the National Organization of Women resigned amid allegations of racism. In March 2019, the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center was fired amid allegations of racism and sexism within the organization. Two weeks after he was fired, the president of the organization resigned.

This particular affiliate is part of Planned Parenthood’s lobbying arm.

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