AmeriCorps Boots Participants Lobbying at Planned Parenthood

National   Steven Ertelt   May 30, 2011   |   6:44PM    Washington, DC

The national volunteer service program AmeriCorps has booted two women who face accusations that they broke the program’s rules by lobbing for the Planned Parenthood abortion business.

Though the program does not prevent participants from working at Planned Parenthood, it bans “providing abortion services or referrals for such services.” However, a Wall St. Journal report indicates the women, who were participants in NYC Civic Corps, a part of AmeriCorps, allegedly violated rules on “attempting to influence legislation” and “organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes.”

Although they were one month away from completing a 10-month stint, the women were told not to return on Tuesday and they are reportedly deciding between abandoning the AmeriCorps program or taking another placement.

The WSJ indicated mayoral spokesman Marc LaVorgna responded to the decision, saying, “We disagree with the opinion because all applicable regulations were followed. But out of an abundance of caution, the Civic Corps members were relocated.”

“Neither NYC Civic Corps worker was involved with providing abortions, and neither engaged in political activities during their official hours,” LaVorgna said.

Officials involved in the decision said new York City will use private money to pay for the $1,270 monthly stipend and $5,350 educational award because of the rules violations.

Ironically, it may have been the Planned Parenthood abortion business that tipped of federal officials. It sent a letter May 9 to the Corporation for National and Community Service in Washington, D.C., which runs AmeriCorps, lobbying for the NYC Civic Corps program, the newspaper indicated. A representative of CNCS told the WSJ that the letter from Joan Malin, the CEO of the NYC Planned Parenthood “raised a red flag” because it described the roles of the workers it would train as working for Planned Parenthood’s “Activist Council,” where they would be overseeing “a group of trained activists that bring free reproductive health activist training to college students in NYC and the surrounding area.”

In the letter, PPNYC’s Malin said, “The Civic Corps members have done amazing work” and have been involved in “nearly every department at PPNYC through their own work and the work of the 670 volunteers and activists they manage and help organize.”

According to the WSJ, Ranit Schmelzer of the Corporation for National and Community Service did not provide any more details but confirmed it reviewed the problems on May 18 and told state officials “to take prompt action to prevent two New York City Civic Corps members from engaging in prohibited activities.” Susan Steele, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Children and Family Services, confirmed, “The state is now working with NYC to resolve the issues. That process is continuing.”

Of the more than 80,000 workers in the AmeriCorps program, 13 were assigned to Planned Parenthood programs before the two who were recently involved in the dustup were forced to cease their participation.

Simone Ward, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of New York City responded to the controversy, saying, “We have appreciated the opportunity to work with volunteers from the New York Service Corp. We designed and operated our program in a manner we believed to be in accordance with existing policies. Since concerns have been raised, we are working closely with city and state officials to address any misperceptions and to quickly resolve the issues.”

ACTION: Contact AmeriCorps at https://www.americorps.gov/about/contact/index.asp to urge it to prevent any of its participants from working at Planned Parenthood.