AmeriCorps Members Removed from Planned Parenthood Assignment

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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,, 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

  • J

    Might not be as mysterious as the writer makes it sound. I served with AmeriCorps for 2 years. Even if you lobby after “working hours”, you will still get in trouble if: you were in an AmeriCorps t-shirt or if you identified yourself as an AmeriCorps volunteer. Technically, AmeriCorps members are “24/7” – so you can never go to a political rally and ID yourself as a volunteer. The letter only SUGGESTS that it was a preemptive strike. We just don’t know yet if they actually did it. We can’t rule that out. When you sign up, AmeriCorps makes it VERY CLEAR what will happen to you if you lobby. I think it is easy to jump to the conclusion that AmeriCorps didn’t like the abortion services side of things. But, the question needs to be asked, why did they place the women there in the first place? Why did they let them stay at PP for 10 months? It doesn’t make sense to me to say that they’ve just decided (or just learned) what Planned Parenthood does/stands for. I feel as if the writer is attempting to demonize AmeriCorps too quickly. Whether or not we agree with the lobbying restrictions for AmeriCorps members, the girls knew the restricitons full well when they signed up. We just don’t yet if they actually lobbied yet or not.

  • James Charles

    It is indeed not as mysterious as Mr. Cohen suggests, because the tide of public sentiment about killing babies is changing, and he is on the wrong side of the tide…

  • rick cohen

    No one’s demonizing AmeriCorps. It’s more a matter of providing clear and consistent guidance. Please note an important point: advocacy and lobbying are not the same thing. This confuses lots of people. J, you refer to the AmeriCorps people at PPNYC doing lobbying, but that has a specific definition. Lobbying is certainly a form of advocacy, but most of advocacy is not lobbying. Thanks for your comment.