Planned Parenthood fires its president

Leana Wen addressing a conference   

As the 2020 election season approaches, Planned Parenthood, America’s most influential abortion lobby group, is having the jitters. The Trump Administration is trying to choke off its funding. In 2019 nine states have passed laws restricting abortion. Roe v Wade could be overturned in the Supreme Court if the President gets a chance to appoint a pro-life justice.

There is a lot at stake. Planned Parenthood needs to prove that it will go mano a mano with its pro-life foes. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg recently made a US$1 million donation to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund to fight back against restrictions. Fund-raising depends on demonstrating effectiveness and commitment. Weakness could be fatal. Joe Biden recently lost a top donor who thought that the Presidential hopeful was not keen enough on abortion.

So, to meet these crises the Planned Parenthood board has taken the radical step of firing its president, Dr Leana Wen, after only eight months in the job.

According to the New York Times, she was “a smart but alienating manager who wanted to significantly reorient the group’s focus away from the abortion wars and more toward its role as a women’s health provider.” As Dr Wen stated this week, “The best way to protect abortion is to be clear that it is not a political issue but a health care one.”

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Dr Wen defended her record. She said that she wanted to de-politicise Planned Parenthood:

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.

Unfortunately for her, politicizing abortion is probably what Planned Parenthood does best, not health care. And Planned Parenthood doesn’t want to change.

Her replacement is a current board member, Alexis McGill Johnson, an African-American political scientist.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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