Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is making a $1 million personal donation to the political arm of Planned Parenthood, a decision she says is directly motivated by the recent wave of abortion restrictions signed into law by Republican governors, including in Alabama, Georgia and Missouri.
“I think this is a very urgent moment where the rights and the choices and the basic health of the most vulnerable women — the women who have been marginalized, often women of color — are at stake,” she told HuffPost in an interview. “And so all of us have to do our part to fight these draconian laws.”
Sandberg previously donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood in 2017, shortly after President Donald Trump took office and amid Republican efforts to defund the organization. At the time, she publicly spoke out against Trump’s reinstatement and expansion of what’s known as the “global gag rule,” which bans federal funding for international health organizations that speak about abortion as a family planning option.
Unlike in 2017, her new donation is specifically directed toward the group’s political advocacy arm, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which organizes in states with restrictive abortion legislation and endorses candidates with strong records on abortion rights.
“Planned Parenthood is going to fight back in the courts, in Congress, in the state houses, in the streets, for women’s health and rights,” she said. “We all have to do everything we can to protect women.”
She repeatedly stressed the personal nature of her donation, saying it was not made as part of her role at Facebook.
As the second-most powerful person at the social media giant, Sandberg has received criticism for not providing adequate responses to a string of recent company controversies, such as Facebook’s role in Russia’s election interference, user data breaches, the company’s slow process in cracking down on right-wing extremism on the platform, and for ordering opposition research on Facebook competitors and critics, including prominent Democratic donor George Soros.
When pressed, Sandberg declined to weigh in on Facebook’s policies, including whether she supports corporate action against the abortion legislation — again citing that the donation was personal and not part of her “work as a corporate leader.”
She expressed particular concern that the recent abortion bans are affecting areas of the country where abortion access is already limited and will disproportionately hurt people of color and low-income people, who may not have the resources to travel to a location with an abortion clinic.
“If you are a wealthy woman, you can just fly to New York,” she said. “I want to make sure that the women with the fewest resources still have access to these services, and I think that is slipping away every day in our country.”
In Missouri, Planned Parenthood is fighting to keep the only remaining abortion clinic in the state open. The wave of restrictive abortion laws could also put strain on clinics and medical providers in neighboring states, which are anticipating an influx of new patients.
Sandberg has been a prominent contributor to Democratic candidates, including backing Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.
While affirming that abortion rights are “a critical issue for me when supporting any candidate for any office,” she declined to say which candidates she plans to endorse in the future, or whether she will become more politically involved on abortion.
“I think this is a very strong political statement,” she said of her donation. “This is, I think, one of the best ways to be politically involved.”
In response to Georgia’s abortion law, a string of Hollywood studios and production companies have threatened to leave the state, home to a generous film and TV tax credit program that has attracted high-profile productions and generated billions of dollars in revenue for the state.
But some Georgia film and TV workers, as well as other prominent figures like former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, have argued against boycotts. They have instead urged people to contribute to organizations fighting the ban, such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, and to advocate for longer-term reforms. The main Planned Parenthood organization and its state and regional offices, not the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, files any lawsuits challenging anti-abortion legislation.
Sandberg declined to take a direct stance on the issue of boycotts and what corporate leaders should do, but said, “I certainly think people should do what they can,” adding that she is “hoping that everyone gets a lot more active.”
In a statement, Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen thanked Sandberg “for her longstanding commitment to Planned Parenthood and her leadership as a role model for women and girls everywhere.”
“Now, more than ever, Sheryl’s generous support is necessary to help Planned Parenthood fight back against unprecedented attacks on people’s health and rights,” Wen said. “As anti-women’s health politicians try to pass extreme abortion bans across the country, our freedom and rights hang in the balance.”
CORRECTION: A previous version misstated the mission of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which organizes and endorses candidates in states with restrictive abortion legislation. The main Planned Parenthood organization and its state and regional offices, not the fund, files any lawsuits challenging the legislation.