WASHINGTON — Planned Parenthood, the biggest name in reproductive care, began the process of laying off approximately 14 percent of its national staff on Monday, in an effort to redirect resources and prioritize local affiliates.
The workforce reduction, though expected, comes just under two weeks from the first Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization anniversary, the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the federal right to an abortion.
Planned Parenthood is at the forefront of the fight for access to abortions nationally, leading in many of the legal battles against states that have curbed abortion access and often setting the tone for how abortion providers responded to the new legal landscape in some of those states. It is also often the subject of anti-abortion activist attacks, including Republicans who’ve cast it as an arm of the Democratic Party.
According to a Planned Parenthood Federation of America union leader who spoke anonymously due to fear of retaliation from Planned Parenthood, the unions had a list of more than 100 people affected by the layoffs, and dozens of them were union members. It’s a “very substantial number of people” who are affected by the layoffs, said the representative.
Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement to the Globe the layoffs would land across the national office.
The layoffs, according to a Planned Parenthood spokesperson, would be effective July 7, but employees who were laid off would have their last working days on Monday and Tuesday. The Planned Parenthood spokesperson said more than 730 employees work at the national office.
“Fact: the majority of PPFA national staff, as of last week, were non-union eligible. Fact: the majority of laid off staff this morning are either in the DC or NY unions. More updates to come,” tweeted unionized Planned Parenthood staff on Monday, which had expected that 10 to 20 percent of staff would be affected by the layoffs.
In an earlier statement, the unions representing employees criticized Planned Parenthood for “pushing out some of our movement’s brightest minds” after serving “during the toughest times for abortion access.”
Planned Parenthood did not respond to queries about whether the job cuts were indicative of financial issues, and how much its cash flow has changed in the wake of Dobbs, when many people who support reproductive rights were mobilized in several ways, including donating. The Associated Press reported that McGill Johnson said the changes did not reflect money problems.
PPFA and the Action Fund cast the move as a pivot to a “federation-wide strategy” to “meet rising challenges amid the loss of abortion access, ongoing systemic health inequities, and attacks on our democracy.” The restructuring was expected to affect national employees, while investing more resources into the 49 independent Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country.
When announcing the upcoming layoffs at the end of May, Planned Parenthood also stressed an increased emphasis on telemedicine, in order to reach more people in underserved areas given the fractured reproductive health care landscape across the country. Even before the fall of Roe v. Wade, patients seeking abortions and reproductive care could face hours’ long drives to get the attention they needed.
Planned Parenthood leadership also promised to launch a Black Health Equity Initiative “to improve health outcomes and reduce disparities, particularly for Black patients, starting with states in the South and Midwest,” Planned Parenthood said in a blog post. The restructuring changes were expected to go into effect in July.
“We believe this strategic decision is essential to meet the current moment for Planned Parenthood patients and the future of reproductive health and rights. But this means we will be saying goodbye to some fierce and talented warriors on our staff who have fought tirelessly and bravely to serve our mission,” McGill Johnson said in a statement on May 23. “We don’t take this moment lightly. We deeply value the national office staff who have shown up and shown out for us in the darkest of times over the last months and years.”
In the same statement, McGill Johnson said they had shared the restructuring plan internally in March, and said that leadership had informed national staff to expect “notice of job loss” in June.
In a new statement on Monday, McGill Johnson praised the work done by the staff that was let go.
“No one comes to work at Planned Parenthood by accident,” she said. “The staff leaving today are without exception, outstanding, dedicated, and talented, and I know that other organizations will be extremely fortunate to have them on their teams. We are incredibly grateful to each and every one of them who has stewarded this organization to where it is today.”