Planned Parenthood Staff Rocked by Layoffs Plan

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

A massive restructuring at Planned Parenthood is rocking the staff of its national office, who were told this week that layoffs are coming to the nation’s best-known abortion provider.

“No one feels job security because no one knows what jobs will be impacted,” one employees’ union member told The Daily Beast. “There’s not a lot of clarity around what this specifically looks like.”

“It’s really hard to get work done,” she added.

Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson cited the challenging climate after the fall of Roe v. Wade in a blog post announcing the reorganization. She said the nonprofit will expand its “direct investment” in the 49 affiliates across all 50 states—focusing on providing healthcare and building infrastructure—by $70 million.

“Investing more in Planned Parenthood local organizations, along with reimagining the role of the national office, means there will be a reduction in the national office workforce,” she said. “We believe this strategic decision is essential to meet the current moment for Planned Parenthood patients and the future of reproductive health and rights.”

The unions representing employees in New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. released their own statement, claiming Planned Parenthood 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,” they said. “We have served PPFA during the toughest times for abortion access. We deserve more than empty claims of equity and of supporting our futures.”

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Planned Parenthood has a federated structure, in which each of the independently run clinics are supported by the national office. The national office is responsible for national political campaigns and assisting affiliates with communications, marketing, and scheduling, among other duties.

Members of a union representing national staff told The Daily Beast that leadership informed them of the coming restructuring in March and enacted a hiring freeze in the national headquarters around that time. At an all-staff meeting in April, leaders confirmed that the restructuring process would involve layoffs but did not provide specifics.

Staff were informed Tuesday that layoff notices will be sent June 12 and will affect 10 to 20 percent of the national staff, which the union said would be about 80 to 140 people.

Despite this, union members said, they received no more information about the restructuring than was contained in the press release and blog post, leaving many of them feeling concerned about their job status and confused about the future of the organization.

“We care so much about the mission, that's why we’ve been burning ourselves out for this work for so long,” the union member, who asked to remain anonymous for concerns over their job security, told The Daily Beast. “But we have no idea what they’re planning, what the new structure will look like, what our teams will look like, what campaigns we’ll be working on, how we’ll be able to support affiliates—anything.”

That person said staff were told they would be kicked out of the Planned Parenthood computer system the day the layoffs take effect, which they fear will make the handover process difficult.

“We’ve all been working really hard on a lot of campaigns, we’ve been building relationships with outside organizations … for years,” she added. “And we don’t know what this means for any of that.”

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Adrienne Verrilli, Planned Parenthood's vice president of communications, said the restructuring is meant to ensure that clinics have the resources they need to expand their services. She added that the organization had tried to make employees aware of their plans as early as possible, including by disclosing the restructuring plan in March and holding a meeting before the layoffs were announced publicly Tuesday.

“[We’re] really trying to balance the anxiety this causes [with] also making sure folks have the information they need to make decisions,” she said.

“These changes no one is taking lightly,” she added. “We have the most kick-ass staff who have shown up and shown out in the darkest of times.”

Some state affiliates have expressed support for the plan, such as Kersha Deibel, the CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, who told the Associated Press the changes would help them if a pending court decision allows the state to enact a six-week abortion ban. “No matter what happens, we are continuing to build power and making plans to protect and support patients who need access to care,” she said.

Fourteen states have banned almost all abortions since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June, and two others have banned it after six weeks. At least 66 clinics were forced to close in the first 100 days after the ruling, leaving the remaining clinics to pick up the slack. Between April and August 2022, the number of abortions performed in New Mexico increased 17 percent; in Illinois, they increased 30 percent.

Planned Parenthood has faced criticism from other clinic operators and activists who feel its affiliates have not taken bold enough action against the bans. A recent New Yorker article detailed how Planned Parenthood affiliates in Montana stopped providing medication abortion to out-of-state patients when surrounding states banned abortion, blindsiding the other clinics in the state. Planned Parenthood eventually reversed course but still will not ship abortion pills to anyone but Montana residents.

The group has also faced calls to invest more on local issues and in communities of color. McGill said Tuesday that the restructuring effort will include the launch of a Black Health Equity Initiative, which will focus on “developing equity-based health care delivery models to improve health outcomes and reduce disparities.”

National employees who spoke with The Daily Beast said they support stronger investments in the states and in communities of color, but said they want more insight into how that would affect them and the organization as a whole.

“We’re committed to evolving and changing,” another union member added. “[But] we want to be partners in this process, want to make sure we are thinking about how we can take care of employees while… making sure everyone can get the care they need.”

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