A Washington, D.C. assistant police chief said that she was told to get an abortion or be fired, NBC News reported on Thursday.
Chanel Dickerson — the assistant chief of the Youth and Family Engagement Bureau for the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia — is one of ten former and current female police officers who filed a class-action lawsuit last month against the city alleging widespread discrimination. According to the report, Dickerson said in a community meeting last Tuesday that she was told as a police cadet to get an abortion to keep her job.
“I was told I had to have an abortion or be fired from the MPD cadet program,” Dickerson reportedly said at the meeting. She was 18 at the time. “My choice to have a baby was personal, and it should’ve been mine alone and not for an employer ultimatum.”
According to the MPD’s website, Dickerson has been with the department since 1988 when she began her career as a cadet. Since then, she has overseen several divisions and has earned multiple awards, including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Heroes Special Recognition award.
Following NBC’s report on Dickerson, another D.C. police officer came forward with similar claims. In an interview with Fox 5, Karen Arikpo, who has worked with the MPD for more than 20 years, said she was given the same ultimatum when she was a police recruit in the police academy in 1997.
At the time, Arikpo was pregnant. She said she thought she could get through the academy by hiding her pregnancy. Then, she says her female sergeant gave the class an ultimatum.
“If we were pregnant, we needed to get an abortion or we would be fired,” Arikpo said. "So later that day, I went and told my class sergeant that I was pregnant. And she said I needed to have an abortion." Arikpo said the sergeant referred her a local doctor to carry out the abortion.
“I thought this was something I would take to my grave,” Arikpo told Fox 5. She noted that her confidence to speak up came after Dickinson came forward with her experience.
Fox 5 said that Arikpo regrets having an abortion to keep her job and has since endured years of fertility struggles.
“All these years, I’ve tried, and I’ve never been able to have a baby," Arikpo said. "I did this for a job. And then to want kids and can’t have them. How do you tell people that?"