After less than a year as Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s president, Leana Wen, MD, was ousted from the reproductive healthcare organization after a “secret” PPFA Board meeting.
According to a statement from the now former PPFA president, she is leaving her position due to “philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood.”
“I am leaving because the new Board Chairs and I have philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood,” Wen wrote in a statement posted on her Twitter.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve alongside our dedicated doctors, nurses, clinicians, staff, and volunteers who are on the frontlines of health care in our country.”
In her statement, Wen wrote that she believed the best way to protect a woman’s right to an abortion was to frame it as a health care issue — not a political one. In doing this, Planned Parenthood could “expand support for reproductive rights by finding common ground with the large majority of Americans” who view abortion and other reproductive health care as “fundamental.”
Although Wen admitted she and PPFA were “engaged in good faith negotiations” regarding her departure, it seems as though Wen was surprised by her abrupt termination, tweeting that she had “just learned” that her employment had ended. PPFA announced that Alexis McGill Johnson, the co-founder and executive director of the Perception Institute, will be taking over as acting president in a press release.
We’re pleased to announce @AlexisMcGill has been named Acting President and CEO of @PPFA and Acting President of @PPAct, effective immediately. Alexis is a renowned social justice leader and tireless advocate for reproductive rights and access to quality, affordable health care.— Planned Parenthood (@PPFA) July 16, 2019
In response to her departure, many fellow doctors have praised Wen’s work at the helm of Planned Parenthood, saying the move by the organization was a mistake.
“You were inspiring and a visionary, on-point leader. Thanks for what you did during a brief tenure,” wrote Esther Choo, MD, who has made a name for herself by being outspoken about racism and sexism in healthcare.
Another doctor who claimed to know Wen called the decision by the board to oust her a mistake. “This is a MONUMENTAL loss for PPFA,” wrote a doctor on Twitter. I’ve known Dr. Leana Wen for over a decade and can’t imagine a more powerful and articulate leader for the organization. Whatever the reason, this is a poor decision by the board.”
Others who worked with Wen thanked her for being an inspiration, lauding her as a “true hero” that would be deeply missed.
You were inspiring and a visionary, on-point leader. Thanks for what you did during a brief tenure.— Esther Choo MD MPH (@choo_ek) July 16, 2019
Dr. Wen has made significant progress during her tenure as president of Planned Parenthood and I am certain that she will continue to be a tireless public health advocate in her next role.— Elijah E. Cummings (@RepCummings) July 16, 2019
Meanwhile, conservative pundits took the news as an opportunity to poke fun at Planned Parenthood and criticize the organization’s work to protect reproductive rights.
“This was a difficult decision Planned Parenthood made between themselves and their physician,” wrote conservative Washington Examiner writer, Siraj Hashmi.
Other conservative pundits made jokes, likening Wen’s departure to the abortion process. While the Daily Caller retweeted Wen’s announcement and compared her termination to getting “rid of another clump of cells,” another conservative pundit called it a “perfect metaphor for abortion,” being ousted “without her knowledge or consent.”
I just hope Leana Wen was made to feel comfortable before PPFA decided to terminate her.— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) July 16, 2019
The news comes as reproductive rights are under fire, with several states passing the most restrictive abortion ban bills in history and the landmark Roe v. Wade decision hanging in the balance.
More recently, the reproductive health care organization took a huge blow after the administration’s ban on taxpayer-funded family planning clinics referring women for abortions would take effect on July 15.
Wen was the organization’s first doctor to hold the title in 50 years. However, before taking the helm at Planned Parenthood, she was a fierce advocate for women’s health, previously leading a lawsuit against Trump for cutting a grant for several cities’ teen pregnancy prevention programs, including Baltimore where she was served as the city’s health commissioner.
While it is unclear what direction the new board of PPFA would like to take next and what exactly the “philosophical differences” resulting in her termination after just 10 months were, early reports suggest there were “serious issues with Leana Wen’s management style.”
When publicly accepting the position Wen said:
"For more than 100 years, no organization has done more for women's health than Planned Parenthood," Wen said. "As a doctor, I will ensure we continue to provide high-quality health care, including the full range of reproductive care and will fight with everything I have to protect the access of millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood."
See all the different reactions to the news of Dr. Leana Wen’s departure from Planned Parenthood:
This is a MONUMENTAL loss for @PPFA. I’ve known @DrLeanaWen for over a decade and can’t imagine a more powerful and articulate leader for the organization. Whatever the reason, this is a poor decision by the board.— Ali S. Raja, MD (@AliRaja_MD) July 16, 2019
Dr. Wen, my heart breaks. You've been a shining light, an inspiration and a breath of fresh air for me and so many of my colleagues and friends at PPWI. Your contributions will not be forgotten. You are a true hero and you will be deeply missed.— Ramon Martinez (@Avvmo) July 16, 2019
This was a difficult decision Planned Parenthood made between themselves and their physician. https://t.co/Bg6HGc1VyW— Siraj Hashmi (@SirajAHashmi) July 16, 2019
In a perfect metaphor for abortion, President Leana Wen is ousted from Planned Parenthood without her knowledge or consent. https://t.co/fUeBKg1WLh— Tyler O'Neil (@Tyler2ONeil) July 16, 2019
Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen just had her job aborted: https://t.co/k7JzinfPUg— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) July 16, 2019
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