Former DC Mayor alleged to have forced female police cadets to have abortions

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Those of you who have been following D.C. politics for a while likely recall the name of Marion Barry. He was infamously one of the most corrupt individuals to rise to political power in a famously corrupt system. He not only became the Mayor of the nation’s capital but managed a second act after having been convicted in a crack bust and sent to prison. This week, in a bit of a blast from the past, we’re learning of even more darkness that took place during his administrations back in the 80s and 90s. Female police officers who were in training as cadets back in the day claim that cadets who got pregnant during their training were informed that they would need to immediately get an abortion or be washed out of the program. At least one was even given the name and address of an abortion provider and told to go “get the situation taken care of.” (Free Beacon)

Two Washington, D.C., police officers said the police department made them abort their pregnancies to keep their jobs.

Assistant Police Chief Chanel Dickerson, the highest-ranking black woman in the department, said Tuesday that when she was a cadet in 1988 she was told to end her pregnancy or be fired.

“I was told I had to have an abortion or be fired from the [Metropolitan Police Department] cadet program,” Dickerson said. “My choice to have a baby was personal and it should’ve been mine alone and not for an employer ultimatum.”

Dickerson ran into this policy during Barry’s first, lengthy run as mayor, back in 1988. (That was before he went to prison for crack cocaine possession.) The second officer to come forward was Karen Arikpo, who faced the same marching orders in 1997 during Barry’s second turn as mayor following his release from prison. Both are part of a pending lawsuit against the city alleging abuse and retaliation.

While I realize that all of this took place decades ago and before the #MeToo era and an increased focus on women’s rights and equality, wasn’t it always hard enough to find qualified applicants for the Police Department? Could they really afford to just toss them away for the “crime” of starting a family? I’m guessing this was a case of the Department operating on the assumption that anyone having a child wouldn’t put in as much time on the job and would wind up missing a lot of work.

But even for an earlier era, that’s a pretty brazen policy to put in place and just announce to the cadets, isn’t it? And now the case will be heard during a time when such a thing should be basically unthinkable. Unfortunately, they waited so long to bring their stories forward that all of the supervisors and responsible parties involved have probably moved on or retired by now. But with these two taking their stories to the public, will we be hearing from any other officers who faced the same treatment?

Still, even back in the 80s and 90s, Washington was a city run by Democrats and liberals. How did a policy like that get enacted to begin with? What happened to “my body, my choice?” The “choice” isn’t always for abortion, in case some of our Democratic friends have lost sight of that fact. No matter how you feel about the legality of abortion, women can still choose to have a baby and start a family. And forcing one of your employees to have any surgical procedure against their will should be a criminal offense.

This is a dark side to the Washington, D.C. PD that I really wish we didn’t have to learn of. I would hope that the policy in question was abandoned years ago, but now that the question is on the table they’re going to need to clear that up for us.