“This week, I left my position as the president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood.
In my farewell message to colleagues, I cited philosophical differences over the best way to protect reproductive health. While the traditional approach has been through prioritizing advocating for abortion rights, I have long believed that the most effective way to advance reproductive health is to be clear that it is not a political issue but a health care one. I believed we could expand support for Planned Parenthood — and ultimately for abortion access — by finding common ground with the large majority of Americans who can unite behind the goal of improving the health and well-being of women and children.
When the board hired me to chart this new course, I knew that it would be challenging. Few organizations, let alone organizations under constant siege, accept change easily. Indeed, there was immediate criticism that I did not prioritize abortion enough. While I am passionately committed to protecting abortion access, I do not view it as a stand-alone issue. As one of the few national health care organizations with a presence in all 50 states, Planned Parenthood’s mandate should be to promote reproductive health care as part of a wide range of policies that affect women’s health and public health.
Another area of contention was my attempt to depoliticize Planned Parenthood. The organization and the causes it stands for have long been in the cross hairs of political attacks. In the last few months, seven states have passed laws banning abortion before many women even know that they are pregnant. Just this past Monday, the Trump administration announced that it would start enforcing a gag rule that would prohibit doctors and nurses working in federally funded clinics from referring patients to abortion care.
I had been leading our organization’s fights against these attacks, and believe they offer even more reason for Planned Parenthood to emphasize its role in providing essential health care to millions of underserved women and families. People depend on Planned Parenthood for breast exams, cervical cancer screenings, H.I.V. testing and family planning. To counter those who associate the organization with only abortion and use this misconception to attack its mission, I wanted to tell the story of all of its services — and in so doing, to normalize abortion care as the health care it is.”
David Lindsay: This story makes me sad. I have been a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood since young adulthood, but I am at a loss. I thought Leana Wen had good ideas for making this organization more palatable to some of its enemies. I also fear that a softer, more sophisticated PP would be more helpful in defeating Donald Trump. Tightening up and becoming more narrow and strident, will problably help him by keeping his pro-life supporters galvanized.
Here is a comment I liked:
Wen is correct and those within PP who opposed her will regret her loss. As an older physician who went through medical training at a time when abortion was illegal and I watched over the deaths of many young women who died from botched attempted abortions, I know how important Roe is. As a long time observer of the political realities, I know that a different approach by PP made excellent sense. I have been a dedicated financial supporter of PP. My enthusiasm for continuing in that role has been severely diminished. I suspect I am not alone in those feelings.