- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The next leaders at Planned Parenthood will likely take a more forceful public tone than Dr. Leana Wen, who was ousted on Tuesday after less than a year in office.

But pro-life activists are seeing another big win after a year of legislative victories, as the nation’s largest provider of abortion services now faces a period of managerial and financial turmoil.

“Planned Parenthood’s abortion empire is more threatened than ever before,” said Lila Rose, president of Live Action.

The surprise departure of Dr. Wen, a 36-year-old former Baltimore health commissioner, took place in a “secret meeting,” according to the former president.

“I am leaving because the new Board Chairs and I have philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood,” she tweeted Tuesday.

According to multiple reports, some employees were increasingly skeptical that Dr. Wen — a medical doctor by training and temperament — had the executive leadership to handle a turbulent era for the reproductive health care provider.

But the search for a successor may be complicated by the fact that the divide over strategy and tactics has a long history at Planned Parenthood.

People close to Dr. Wen point to 1995, when then-President Pamela J. Maraldo failed to win a vote of confidence at a Planned Parenthood board meeting and subsequently resigned her post. Like Dr. Wen, Ms. Maraldo had sought to reshape the organization as a broad health care provider, which some critics felt, according to a New York Times article from the time, “would inevitably diminish their role as advocates for abortion rights and low-income women’s access to health care.”

On Monday — a day before she forced out — Dr. Wen, only the second doctor to lead Planned Parenthood, posted a link to a “blueprint” on how to advocate on health care issues where “politicians leave personal, medical decisions to patients and their health care providers.”

The next leader will likely face pressure to push a much harder political agenda in the face of opposition from the Trump administration and increasingly assertive conservative state legislatures. Such a shift in tone would not surprise activists opposed to Planned Parenthood.

“After putting her career and reputation as a doctor on the line in an effort to resuscitate the dying integrity of Planned Parenthood, Dr. Leana Wen found out the hard way that she no longer fit in at the organization she has been championing for the past eight months,” said Abby Johnson, a pro-life activist whose story is told in the film “Unplanned.”

According to BuzzFeed, quoting unnamed sources inside Planned Parenthood, Dr. Wen upset longtime employees with erratic managerial decisions. She also, according to the sources, refused to use trans-inclusive language, fearing a backlash in the Midwest.

Public remarks from Dr. Wen suggest “philosophical differences” over how to frame the group’s political argument.

“I believe that the best way to protect abortion care is to be clear that it is not a political issue but a health care one,” said Dr. Wen, in a statement published on Twitter.

Dr. Wen’s predecessor, Cecile Richards, had taken a higher-profile stance and became a household name in 2015 when testifying to Congress in the wake of videos showing abortion providers discussing selling fetal tissue to researchers. She often was seen in her trademark hot-pink suits and a fixture at New York social events. Ms. Richards has not yet publicly commented on Dr. Wen’s departure.

Planned Parenthood board member Alexis McGill Johnson will step in as acting CEO and president immediately of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

The leadership jockeying, though, has thrilled leading pro-life groups. “Planned Parenthood is a political machine intent on making abortion the ‘solution’ for every pregnant woman seeking help,” said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee.

Dr. Wen’s ouster, added Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, “is a sign that the abortion giant still overestimates its power in the new environment ushered in by the Trump administration.”

According to Gallup’s most recent polling, the majority of American believe in legal abortion, though with restrictions in later trimesters. In its annual report, Planned Parenthood reported an increase to $630.8 million in private contributions from $532.7 million the previous year.

A terse statement from Planned Parenthood thanked Dr. Wen. A search for a new president and CEO will begin early next year, said Planned Parenthood on its website.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide