Pro-Abortion NGOs Rocked by Charges of Racism, ‘White Supremacy’
Friday, July 24, 2020

Two leading pro-abortion organizations operating globally and with UN agencies and officials have been charged with racism and white supremacy by former Black and staff members of color.  Women Deliver and International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) are both facing charges by former staff who claim racism and what is described as a “white savior complex” perpetuated by white women running the organizations and serving on the boards. As these organizations evaluate their internal actions for racism, they would do well to evaluate their external actions for racism and elitism.

According to Reuters, “Experts said the problems at New York-based Women Deliver were endemic in the NGO world, with widespread complaints of racial inequality in a sector already under fire for sexual abuse of vulnerable women”, referring to the revelation in 2018 that Oxfam staff had used prostitutes in Haiti during an earthquake relief mission which led to a wider discussion of abuse in the sector.

The article quotes Shaista Aziz, a campaigner against sexual abuse and racism in non-profit organizations, who told the news agency, “Racism is rife in the women’s sector. This is a moment now for truth, for constructive action and less talk.”

The head of Women Deliver, Dutch-born Katja Iversen who previously held positions at both UNFPA and UNICEF, apologized and took a leave of absence as the organization investigates the charges.  Iversen has been touted for her work on gender equality and has a close relationship with both French President Emmanuel Macron—she is a member of Macron’s G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council—and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Last year at the G7 she attempted to elicit G7 support for the Advisory Council 's Action Plan that stated: "Access to safe abortion is a fundamental right, as it falls within the right of every person to have the freedom of decision over, and respect for, their own body." President Trump’s presence and anticipated opposition prevented her from acting on her plan.

Tweets by former staff have appeared in news reports and opinion pieces.

“My time at Women Deliver was plagued by straight up racist, white faux feminism & toxic clickish (sic) behavior — from the top down,” wrote former employee Chelsea Williams-Diggs,

One writer in response to the charges asks: “So how does Iversen remain? She stays because she has the ultimate benefit of the doubt – linked to her whiteness and the white supremacy culture that underpins the development sector.”

Also undergoing scrutiny is International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) which is active at the UN and known for its pro-abortion activism. This month it was selected by UN Women’s Generation Equality Forum to be a leader along with IPPF, for the Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Action Coalition “to ensure efforts to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights are grounded in the realities, expertise, and priorities of feminist movements in the Global South.”

This was a few days before past employees sent their complaints of racism to the IWHC chair of the board saying it was “from the former, truly bold and independent voices of the International Women’s Health Coalition”.

They described a “toxic and racist organisational culture with almost all the power held in the hands of white women at the top of the organisation” and accused some managers of publicly humiliating, intimidating and belittling Black and women of color which they say has been “an open secret for far too long”.

“We, as former black women and women of colour staff at IWHC, have collectively chosen to break our silence to publicly name the institutional racism and bullying we faced, so that it can no longer be wilfully ignored,” states the letter.

“We have consistently found ourselves facing an institutional culture that inherently dismisses and discriminates against us.”

The letter referred to the complaints of racism by staff at Planned Parenthood of Great New York which led to the removal of CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, Laura McQuade.

The IWHC staff letter included examples of racist remarks including, “Board Chair Marlene Hess gave a white saviorism speech in front of an audience of more than 300 of IWHC’s supporters where she recounted her recent board trip to Brazil. She depicted IWHC grantee partners using racist stereotypes and derogatory language” and “…she remarked on the ‘miserable’ lives of the women she visited.”

The staff also complained that despite IWHC being a “feminist SRHR organization”, the board had refused to use certain words when discussing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) including feminism, abortion, redistribution of resources, and people of color.

Senior Management was also criticized for language and attitude toward grantees recalling one particular offensive example, “This same Director once asked one of us to make sure that grantee partners wore their ‘costumes’ to the Annual Dinner.” Most of IWHC’s grantee partners are Black women and women of color.

The staff called upon IWHC to release staff from past non-disclosure agreements so “they can speak their truth” and called upon IWHC to decolonize “its philanthropy by shifting funding away from elites within the Global South” and direct it to back to the “center” of movements.

IWHC staff are not alone in calls to decolonize the work in the sector.  The leader of Ipas, Ana Kumar, writing in White Supremacy in Global Health states,

 “What we don’t talk about explicitly enough, however, is how white supremacy operates in this sector. In many cases, we focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, mentorship, and funding strategies—which are all important. What we don’t talk about is how the structures and operations of our organizations are part of white supremacist culture. We don’t talk about how white people and those who center whiteness, including me, support policies and programs that perpetuate neo-colonialism.

“Are we still serving neo-colonial masters? Why do we in the global health sector, which is dominated by white people, especially white women, believe that we know how to solve the health problems of people in other countries? In what ways do we trivialize local knowledge because it doesn’t adhere to white notions of expertise and denies us the chance to be saviors?

Ana Kumar ought to read Target Africa: Ideological Neocolonialism in the Twenty-First Century: Ideological Neo-Colonialism Of The Twenty-First Century by Obianuju Ekeocha who warns about neocolonialism and the attitude that disregards and denigrates cultural and religious values in pursuit of the legalization of the death of children in the womb through abortion and population control.

Actions advancing access to abortion by Ipas, Women Deliver, and IWHC advance neocolonialism and perpetuate the idea that Obianuju Ekeocha warns about, “for them a better Africa is one with fewer Africans.” 

Kumar believes, “The system is far from perfect; our responsibility is to reimagine it, so that we can realize the promise of a better world for everyone.”

Tragically, because of the abortion work of Ana Kumar’s Ipas, Women Deliver and IWHC we cannot realize the “promise of a better world for everyone” until children in the womb enjoy protection from the violence of abortion.