AmeriCorps Members Removed from Planned Parenthood Assignment

May 28, 2011; Source: Wall Street Journal | One month before their 10-month assignment was finished, two AmeriCorps members assigned through the NYC Civic Corps to work at Planned Parenthood of New York City were taken off the job by the federal government. Somehow, the federal government determined that the AmeriCorps workers were working in violation of program guidelines as a result of a May 9th letter from Planned Parenthood to the Corporation for National and Community Service “lobbying” for the NYC Civic Corps’ funding.

The letter from PPNYC’s president and CEO, Joan Malin, recounted how one of the AmeriCorps workers worked in the human resources department recruiting and training volunteers and interns, the other in the public affairs department working with an “Activist Council” of “trained activists that bring free reproductive health activist training to college students in NYC and the surrounding area.”

Malin said that the two women who worked at PPNYC through the Civic Corps were doing “amazing work.” Were they kicked out for providing abortion services or referrals (which AmeriCorps bans)? Not in this case. The Corporation dismissed the two for having violated the AmeriCorps prohibition against “attempting to influence legislation” and “organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes.”

A Corporation official would not explain more specifically what these two women had done – or what Malin’s letter revealed – that violated the AmeriCorps reg, although one statement from the Corporation suggested that the dismissal might have been preemptive, designed to “prevent two New York City Civic Corps members from engaging in prohibited activities.”

So the two women didn’t do anything with abortion services or referrals. They didn’t do any political activities during their work hours. But they’re out. Out of 80,000 AmeriCorps workers, a total of thirteen had been assigned to Planned Parenthood organizations, including these two Civic Corps members in New York City. It looks like the Corporation buckled in anticipatory fear.

In a commentary on the New York dismissals, Lifenews.com, an anti-abortion news service, suggested that the real reason was abortion services. Tipped off by the code words “reproductive health,” it called on its readers to “contact AmeriCorps…to urge it to prevent any of its participants from working at Planned Parenthood.” —Rick Cohen