By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D. NRL Director of Education & Research
Late Wednesday afternoon, multiple news reports announced that Baltimore’s City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen, has been named as the new president of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading abortion “provider.”
Wen, 35, will take office in November, replacing Cecile Richards, the heavily political operative who led the nation’s top abortion group from 2006 until earlier this year. Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s Executive Vice President and Chief Experience Officer, served as president during the interim.
In contrast to Richards, who had extensive experience as a political organizer and activist, Wen is a public health official with actual medical training. This is being universally interpreted as signaling that Planned Parenthood thought it important to reemphasize its image as a healthcare provider after years of abortion centered political campaigns and high-profile fights with Congress. However, no doubt PPFA’s massive political involvement will continue unabated.
In a statement, Naomi Aberly, chair of Planned Parenthood’s board of directors, called Wen “a dynamic public health leader and practicing physician.” Carol Tobias, the president of National Right to Life, offered a more realistic observation: “Though it’s being largely ignored in media accounts, the appointment of a new president does not change the fact that Planned Parenthood’s primary focus is on abortion, with their clinics performing more than one-third of abortions annually in the United States. No doubt Leana Wen will seek to continue promoting and expanding Planned Parenthood’s abortion empire.”
Wen took pains to immediate signal that she is not abandoning Planned Parenthood’s role as America’s biggest abortion performer and promoter. (PPFA performs about 1/3rd of all the abortions done in the United States.) Consider the example she used in the introductory video that Planned Parenthood tweeted out on September 12 to explain why she became the health commissioner of Baltimore.
In talking about how she “wanted to fight for our most vulnerable individuals,” she wasn’t referring to unborn children, but a woman she encountered in her practice who she was unable to resuscitate after a “home abortion”!
On cue Wen labeled this a “failure in the system,” because the woman was, in Wen’s words, “too scared to seek medical care.” This is truly amazing.
Not a word here that Planned Parenthood is now selling chemical abortifacients at many of its locations that specifically and intentionally cause women to endure and undergo the most painful and bloody parts of their abortions at home. Nor is there a hint that many of her new colleagues in the abortion industry are vigorously defending if not actively promoting at-home DIY (do-it-yourself) abortions which are inherently dangerous to the mother.
By choosing someone with a strong medical background, Planned Parenthood is obviously trying to regain respectability in the medical community. With Dr. Wen’s appointment, Planned Parenthood is attempting to rebrand itself as a medical entity with abortion just another “medical service.” In case anyone thinks this is just a pro-life interpretation, Wen herself says in the video tweet that “Having a physician as the head of Planned Parenthood is a sign that what we are doing is mainstream medical care.”
Calvin Freiburger noted another part of Wen’s appeal to PPFA. “Under Wen’s leadership, the city of Baltimore sued the Trump administration over its reduction of federal funds to controversial teen pregnancy prevention programs, and resisted the president’s elimination of family planning grants to facilities involved in abortions.” (A federal judge ordered the funds restored in April 2018 and HHS reversed its decision to cut that teen pregnancy prevention program funding earlier this summer.)
Though Wen has a broad medical and public health background, there is no evidence that Planned Parenthood intends to broaden its medical offerings. Having a physician as the public face of an organization that aborts over 320,00 children each year will not translate into Planned Parenthood adding immunizations, physicals, treatment for sore throats, earaches, etc.
Even with a physician at the top, few Planned Parenthoods will ever offer prenatal care, infertility services and certainly not pediatric services–the sort of services you’d find at your local community clinic that genuinely cares about “women’s health.”
In fact, about the only service to any staying power or even growth over the past fifteen years at Planned Parenthood is, you guessed it, abortion.
Wen is an immigrant, whose parents fled political persecution in China when she was eight years old. While stories about Wen share this detail, they generally fail to mention that one of the most egregious human rights abuses in which the Chinese government engaged was forced abortion as part of the nation’s “one child policy.”
As Freiburger observed, “Wen’s background and new job are particularly ironic in light of Planned Parenthood’s support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which supported China’s policy of forced abortions and sterilization. The Trump State Department announced last year it was pulling support for the fund specifically because of its complicity in China’s population-control efforts, but Richards called the move ‘cruel & dangerous.’”
You’d think that this would create in Wen a visceral disdain for “family planning” that is built around abortion, but this appears not to be the case. Wen says that when her family came to the United States, growing up poor in Compton, California, they relied on Medicaid and Planned Parenthood for health care (Slate, 9/12/18). While the Medicaid makes some sense, it is unclear what this means when it comes to Planned Parenthood, given the limited services it actually provides.
An intellectual prodigy, Wen graduated from Cal State University at age 18 with a degree in biochemistry. She volunteered at Planned Parenthood in St Louis when attending medical school at the Washington University School of Medicine. She did her residency at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, while she was a clinical fallow at Harvard Medical School.
While there, a Planned Parenthood’s press release says, Wen was elected president of the American Medical Student Association and took a year off “leading 65,000 physicians-in-waiting to fight for universal health and advocate for reproductive rights.”
During her tenure as Baltimore’s health commissioner, Wen led a number of positive public health campaigns, dealing with the local opioid epidemic, improved delivery of food and medications to seniors, a vision program providing eyeglasses to needy children, and even a “healthy babies” program that was supposed to have resulted in a nearly 40% reduction of infant mortality in seven years’ time. (Don’t expect something like that from Wen at Planned Parenthood, since, again, the organization’s standard services don’t include prenatal or obstetric care).
Dr. Wen’s appointment can best be understood as a strategic move by Planned Parenthood to defend the half a billion dollars a year it gets from local, state, and federal governments for programs like Wen’s. After all, how do you make the case that your group is about healthcare when your head is a high power political operative with a long history of campaign activism?
Now, with Wen, they still have someone with some political experience but with a much longer medical resume.
None of this changes that the core of Planned Parenthood’s mission and the foundation of its empire is based not on healthcare for the nation’s most vulnerable members, but on their destruction.
Abortion takes the life of more than 300,000 babies a year at Planned Parenthood, easily making them the nation’s largest abortion performer. Actual figures have not been released, but at going rates, the numbers of abortions they report performing in the last ten years would easily generate over a billion dollars in revenues.
It’s why Planned Parenthood fights so hard to maintain their abortion empire, why they spend tens of millions to elect and keep in office hard core politicians who will vote to protect their funding and the most extreme forms of abortion.
Wen may have saved countless lives during her tenure as an emergency room doctor and public health advocate. But now with Planned Parenthood, unless she dramatically changes course, she’s going to be heading an organization that is filling up the other side of the ledger.