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Guttmacher Sued After Firing Researcher for ‘Inappropriate Sexual Behavior’

Dennis Carter

Lawrence B. Finer accuses top officials at Guttmacher of "making false statements" about him.

A former researcher for the Guttmacher Institute is suing the organization for defamation after several women there accused him of sexual behavior deemed “inappropriate.”

Lawrence B. Finer, who worked at Guttmacher—a nonprofit committed to evidence-based analysis on reproductive and sexual health—for 20 years, was fired last year after an internal investigation found he had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior against workers at the institute, particularly young women who were new to Guttmacher. In his lawsuit, Finer accuses top officials at the organization of “making false, ruinous statements” about him and exposing him to “public hatred, contempt, aversion and disgrace, and induc[ing] an evil and unsavory opinion of him in the minds of a substantial number in the community.” (The lawsuit explicitly criticizes the organization and Rewire.News for statements included in our previous coverage.)

Finer’s lawsuit against Guttmacher names Mary Shallenberger, former chair of the organization’s board of directors, and Ann Starrs, Guttmacher’s former president and CEO. The lawsuit charges that releasing a public statement about Finer after firing him for the allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior was “self-serving and reckless.”

Women who spoke to Rewire.News anonymously in June 2018 described Finer’s behavior as inappropriate and “creepy.” One woman told Rewire.News that Finer was known for focusing attention on young women who had recently started their careers in the reproductive and sexual health field. 

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The law firm Parker Pohl LLP, which represents Finer, said he has struggled to find employment after being dismissed by the institute. “In multiple instances, employers with clear and demonstrated interest have disappeared once the issue comes up,” Finer’s law firm told Rewire.News. “At other times, roles for which Finer is well qualified have not yielded follow-up interviews. In such cases, the reason seems obvious.”

Asked about the charges that Finer “groomed” young women at Guttmacher, his attorneys wrote in an email to Rewire.News: “We’re unsure where this allegation came from, but Finer categorically denies this repulsive and defamatory claim.”

In the lawsuit, Finer said he had relationships with four women at the institute over a six-year span. The lawsuit claims “there is no issue of consent in this case.”

“His relationships with Institute employees or former employees … were wholly consensual, adult relationships, and not all were initiated by him. He never used, and never would use, his position to manipulate or ‘groom’ anyone, and no person was ever impacted professionally by her choice to date or not date him,” his attorneys wrote in an email to Rewire.News.

Guttmacher officials did not respond to several requests for comment. The organization said in a statement last June that it had not made enough effort to address the various complaints against Finer.

“To those who have come forward to recount their experiences, we thank you, we hear you, we believe you, and we apologize deeply for letting you down,” the statement said.

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