The Corner

Politics & Policy

Planned Parenthood Whistleblower Awarded $3 Million for Wrongful Termination

Former Planned Parenthood president Dr. Leana Wen speaks at a protest against anti-abortion legislation at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2019. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

A former Planned Parenthood employee has received $3 million in damages after a jury in Maricopa County, Ariz., determined she had been wrongfully terminated for telling supervisors about unsafe medical practices.

Mayra Rodriguez sued Planned Parenthood Arizona in 2017 just after being fired, which occurred after she had been employed in several of the affiliate’s clinics across the state for well over a decade. At the time that she was fired, she was serving in an administrative role in Planned Parenthood locations in both Glendale, Ariz., and Phoenix.

In her lawsuit, Rodriguez says she was fired after being accused of having narcotics inside her desk, a false allegation that came just on the heels of her complaints about the practices of doctors working inside Planned Parenthood’s Arizona clinics — including the unusually high complication rates for women who obtained abortions from one doctor in particular, who had also been the subject of complaints from five medical assistants.

According to her lawsuit, she made the complaints because she “was concerned about the substantial health, welfare, and safety risks to these patients, as well as the substantial risk to the health, safety, and welfare of the inevitable future of [Planned Parenthood Arizona] patients.”

In response, Rodriguez was informed that Planned Parenthood Arizona’s upper management in the state was aware of issues with that specific doctor and that the problem would be addressed. The Arizona affiliate has since stated that the doctor still works for its clinics in the state.

In addition, Rodriguez informed a supervisor prior to her termination that, in violation of Arizona state law, a clinic manager had failed to report that a minor with an adult partner sought an abortion at the clinic. She said her supervisor never responded to that report.

In the fall of 2017, after making these various complaints, Rodriguez received a memo warning her and claiming she had exhibited “financial policy and procedure issues, inventory control issues, personnel and supervisory issues, alleged failure to perform daily duties, and alleged inconsistent and inaccurate communication,” according to her suit. Rodriguez alleged that the memo was a form of harassment related to her complaints. She was fired shortly thereafter, following what she says was an intentional mishandling of her temporarily storing a clinic narcotic at her desk.

“We believe the evidence was compelling that it was our former employee’s failure to follow organization rules and procedures, which are designed to protect both patients and the public, that led to her dismissal,” Planned Parenthood Arizona president Bryan Howard said in a statement after the jury verdict that awarded Rodriguez with $3 million.

Since having been fired, Rodriguez has been involved with And Then There Were None, a group founded by former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson, which helps abortion workers leave their jobs.

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