When we first recorded this podcast, Chris Charbonneau was the CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky. She is a formidable figure in reproductive rights movement for the past 40 years- more than 30 have been at Planned parenthood. She is an inspiration, has an incredible list of accomplishments and is a hero to many people.
Since then, the Board of Planned Parenthood decided to remove Chris from her long-time post. The move came after a donor used a racist term in a meeting referring to Black people, and Charbonneau repeated the word while reporting the incident to and internal staffer, according to the Seattle Times.
At the time of the incident, Chris reportedly, was caught off-guard and recoiled at the use of the word. The Staffer felt that Chris’s response was insufficient and that she should have reprimanded the donor more. Another white staff member voiced her outrage and quit after an internal investigation found no wrongdoing, stating that what Chris did was “inexcusable and unforgivable.” Evidently, the board agreed and shockingly, decided to terminate Chris shortly after.
We at the Do Together Podcast do not condone the use of racist language or racism in any form. However, we have all been caught off-guard by someone saying something so outlandish that we don’t know how to react in the moment. Chris self-reported the incident and was appalled by the behavior.
While the right thing to do would have been to immediately and aggressively admonish the donor, Chris was clearly taken aback. None of us knows how we would react in the seconds following a state of shock. I, myself, have been told to “go back to [my] own country” and responded like a deer caught in headlights. Canceling her for such an incident and trying to ruin her reputation discounts our basic unpredictable humanity.
Is the left eating its own? Appearance over substance? Do we really wipe away a 40-year career professional with a history of fighting for racial justice and making sure Planned Parenthood resources are used for all communities of color?
At a time when we are coming dangerously close to losing the federal abortion protection of Roe v Wade, changing leadership now seems irresponsible. This is a time where strong leadership, continuity, and experience are paramount. This is a time where we needed to come together and focus rather than fraction and distract. This is a gift to those who do not support women’s reproductive rights.
We really enjoyed this session with Chris. It was a wide-ranging interview where we discussed topics such as sex education, state abortion rights, and the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on increasingly constrictive abortion laws. She discussed how out of the box thinking allowed Planned Parenthood to source their own birth control pills, thereby avoiding pharmaceutical mark-ups. She also discussed how Planned Parenthood is expanding to support male and trans reproductive needs. Thank you for all the great work you have done, Chris. You will be missed.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Was Chris treated fairly?