Late Tuesday afternoon, during the same week it was announced that the Trump administration's restrictive abortion rule would be going into effect, Dr. Leana Wen announced on Twitter that she would be departing from her role as president of Planned Parenthood. Before releasing a statement, she wrote, "I just learned that the @PPFA Board ended my employment at a secret meeting. We were engaged in good faith negotiations about my departure based on philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood."
She then tweeted a full statement, writing, "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, 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."
According to a press release from the organization, Alexis McGill Johnson, a member of the Planned Parenthood board, has been named acting president. It was also announced that the search for a new president and CEO will start early next year, and the organization hopes to have a new president in place by the end of 2020. Wen had been in the role for eight months.
The Washington Post reports that Wen had been "battling over the organization’s direction with new board chair Aimee Cunningham" and that Wen "had tried to refocus the organization’s mission and image as a health provider offering a wide array of services, including abortions."
Before stepping into her role at Planned Parenthood, Wen had been Baltimore's health commissioner. (She graduated from college by the time she was 18 and has also worked as an emergency-room physician.)
Her departure comes during a particularly tumultuous time for abortion rights in the United States. As mentioned above, as of this week, family planning clinics that receive taxpayer funds, including through Title X funding, will no longer be able to provide referrals for abortion. Clinics like Planned Parenthood use Title X funding in order to provide services to low-income patients and are faced with having to choose between funding and refusing to provide abortion referrals. In the past few months, there have also been a number of states who have tried to enact restrictive abortion laws with the goal of eventually getting the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade. Abortion rights have also become a key issue in the 2020 presidential race, with a number of Democratic candidates releasing plans on how they intend to protect women's health care.
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