Planned Parenthood Federation of America is frequently under fire from pro-life politicians and organizations for being the largest single provider of abortion in the United States.

But last month, the company faced harsh criticism from among its own staff.

Numerous employees at varying levels of Planned Parenthood throughout the U.S. said they have faced pregnancy discrimination at the company, which claims to have healthcare for women - including prenatal care - as its mission.

In a report last month from the New York Times, several employees shared their experiences of being an expectant mother while working at Planned Parenthood.

Ta’Lisa Hairston, who worked as a medical assistant at a Planned Parenthood in New York, had high blood pressure after becoming pregnant and therefore needed more frequent breaks. Multiple notes from her nurses urging rest and breaks at work were dismissed by her supervisors, she told the New York Times.

“I had to hold back tears talking to pregnant women, telling them to take care of their pregnancies when I couldn’t take care of mine,” she told the New York Times. “It made me jealous.”

Hairston resigned from Planned Parenthood in June, after long shifts on her feet and infrequent breaks led to such severe swelling and complications that she had an emergency C-section at 34 weeks of pregnancy.

“I didn’t get into the medical field to be treated like this,” she told the Times.

Another former Planned Parenthood employee who requested anonymity reported a similar experience to Hairston - her managers ignored her doctor’s notes requesting frequent breaks, and she was asked to cut her maternity leave short.

Two former employees reported being fired from Planned Parenthood shortly after giving birth.

A former hiring manager from California who requested anonymity said that when she worked at Planned Parenthood, supervisors would blatantly discuss whether candidates for positions or promotions might become pregnant.

Candidates who were likely to get pregnant were often turned down for jobs or promotions, she said, despite the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibiting such practices.

According to the Times, of Planned Parenthood’s 55 regional offices (which oversee local clinics) only six provide regular paid maternity leave. About 20 offices allow for short term disability to cover maternity leave, in which an employer is paid a portion of their salary while on leave. Employees at Planned Parenthood’s headquarters, located in New York, are given six-week paid maternity leave.

Christine Charbonneau, who heads a Planned Parenthood regional office in Seattle, blamed the lack of paid maternity leave on financial constraints.

While some states have made cuts to government funding of Planned Parenthood in recent years, government funding of the company remains fairly stable. In August, the Senate rejected a bill that would have blocked federal funding to Planned Parenthood.

According to a 2018 report, Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding has increased by 61 percent in the past decade, from $336.7 million in 2006 to $543.7 million in 2016.

Despite defunding efforts, the organization received only two percent fewer tax dollars in 2016 than in 2015. “Government Health Services Reimbursements & Grants” constituted the largest source of funding for Planned Parenthood in 2016-2017, providing 37 percent of the organization’s revenue.  

Current and former Planned Parenthood employees from Florida told the Times that regardless of official policies, a general culture of discouraging pregnancy among the staff is prevalent at the organization. Coworkers would often announce at work that they were “not planning on having children or were gay or single.” Pregnant workers requesting breaks or special treatment were seen as lazy and uncommitted.

Several spokesmen for Planned Parenthood denied any discrimination.

“All the individuals identified in the article were treated fairly and equitably, free of any discrimination,” said Vincent Russell, the head of Planned Parenthood’s Hawthorne, N.Y. office, which oversees the clinic where Hairston had worked.

The Times said many of the employees they spoke with said they hoped that an article might spur change and address the lack of paid maternity leave available at the company. “It was looked down upon for you to get pregnant,” Carolina Delgado, a former Planned Parenthood employee from Florida, told the Times.

“I don’t think that any supervisor had to literally say it for us to feel it.”