Planned Parenthood Has Fired Its President Leana Wen

Planned Parenthood Has Fired Its President Leana Wen
Image:Associated Press

Less than a year into her tenure, Dr. Leana Wen has been fired from her role as president of Planned Parenthood. According to sources who spoke with the New York Times, “there had been internal strife over her management, and… the group felt it needed a more aggressive political leader to fight the efforts to roll back access to abortions.” In her eight-month tenure at Planned Parenthood, abortion rights have been under attack in states around the country, and the Trump administration has moved aggressively on its domestic gag rule, which could potentially cut tens of millions in federal funding for Planned Parenthood’s clinics that provide family planning services such as contraception as well as abortion referrals.

In a tweet, Wen wrote that the board “ended my employment at a secret meeting.” (A Planned Parenthood spokesperson disputed the characterization of the meeting as “secret,” describing it instead as a “routine board meeting.”) She added, “We were engaged in good faith negotiations about my departure based on philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood.” The New York Times reported that “the move came after hours of negotiations Tuesday between the board of directors” and Wen.

As for those “philosophical differences” Wen referenced, the Washington Post has more:

People familiar with Wen’s position said she has been battling over the organization’s direction with new board chair Aimee Cunningham almost since Cunningham arrived in May. Wen had tried to refocus the organization’s mission and image as a health provider offering a wide array of services, including abortions, they said. She replaced a number of the organization’s top officials with people who supported that approach.
Those close to Wen said she was opposed by some board members and others who wanted to emphasize the organization’s commitment to abortion rights.

In a longer statement she released on Tuesday, Wen wrote that she believes “the best way to protect abortion care is to be clear that it is not a political issue but a health care one, and that we can expand support for reproductive rights by finding common ground with the large majority of Americans who understand reproductive health care as the fundamental health care that it is.”

It appears that it wasn’t only Wen’s stance on abortion that led to friction within Planned Parenthood. Again, per the Washington Post:

But a person aware of the board’s perspective said the organization had been working with Wen for six months to correct “ongoing misalignment with the mission, creating a culture of suspicion and mistrust among staff and an alarming pattern of dishonesty on her part.”
The person, who requested anonymity because board members were the only ones authorized to speak for Planned Parenthood, said Wen had a “very insular style” and micro-managed work that was “not in her areas of expertise.”

She will be replaced for the time being by Alexis McGill Johnson, a former board member of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and former board chair of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Aimee Cunningham, in a joint statement with the action fund’s board chair Jennie Rosenthal, thanked Wen, writing, “We thank Dr. Leana Wen for her service to Planned Parenthood in such a pivotal time and extend our best wishes for her continued success.”

Update (July 17, 2:16 p.m.): This piece has been updated with a comment from Planned Parenthood.

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