Dr. Wen's departure from Planned Parenthood seemed to be about one thing: abortion

Dr. Wen's departure from Planned Parenthood seemed to be about one thing: abortion
© Getty

Planned Parenthood’s firing of Dr. Leana Wen seemingly proves that the giant, tax-funded corporation continues to be about one thing: abortion.

In the end, the former president’s plan to present Planned Parenthood as a place where basic health-care needs were being met for underprivileged Americans didn’t align with the organization’s history or its vision. This move also leads me to believe that the very nature of the organization is political. After all, guaranteeing pro-abortion rights politicians get elected is how Planned Parenthood stays in business.

The installation of a physician as president of Planned Parenthood — a little over eight months ago — seemed to signal a major shift in the corporation’s tactics. It didn’t want to be seen as just an abortion facility, but the organization hoped to rebrand each Planned Parenthood clinic as a primary health-care provider. 


They wanted to be seen as an indispensable feature of the American medical landscape. For this, a physician at the head of the giant corporation was indispensable. Dr. Wen effectively promoted this vision of Planned Parenthood in the media. 

The media appearances has probably resulted in many people believing that a woman entering their facilities will be offered a full range of “women’s health care.” For example, Planned Parenthood does not provide on-site mammograms.

With over half a billion dollars in taxpayer funding each year, Planned Parenthood performs roughly one-third of all abortions in the United States.” (Guttmacher reports there were 926,200 abortions in in 2014. PP reports doing 332,757 abortions last year and 323,999 in their 2014-2015 report.

Is also administers only a tiny percentage of the over 50 million pap smears obtained by American women each year.

What it does do is terminate over 300 thousand pregnancies per year, while referring only a couple of thousand pregnant women a year to adoption agencies.


The Wen strategy also included not talking about abortion as an elective procedure generally used for women with limited options. Guttmacher data reports that “The three most common reasons—each cited by three-fourths of patients — were concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents. Half said they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with their husband or partner.”

Instead, she worked to rebrand abortion as routine, medical care. Many of the women who have abortions do so because of social and economic pressure, not health challenges confronting the woman or her child.

Sometimes, even abortions after 20 weeks performed at Planned Parenthood are sought by women for the same reasons — that is, difficult circumstances like being single or under financial stress. 

Just a couple of days before Wen’s got let go, the Trump administration implemented a policy banning clinics performing abortions from receiving Title X moneys slated for family planning services. The taxpayer money will go instead to cheerful Community Health Centers.

This change is projected to cost Planned Parenthood about $60 million a year. It’s also a sharp reminder Dr. Wen’s public relations campaign had failed to fool pro-life lawmakers at the federal and state levels — or their constituents. For all her efforts, Planned Parenthood retains its well-earned reputation for being exactly what it has always been: a large chain of facilities with a laser focus on abortion.

Perhaps it was this reminder that precipitated Dr. Wen’s removal. The corporation’s board feels it’s time to go back to basics and secure their funding stream. In the doctor’s own words, the board “has determined that the priority of Planned Parenthood moving forward is to double down on abortion rights advocacy.”                                                    

What does that look like? For the 2016 elections, it spent about $30 million to support pro-abortion candidates committed to keep tax monies flowing into their coffers. For the upcoming 2020 elections, the stakes are even higher, with the specter of a post-Roe age haunting their minds. 

For Planned Parenthood, the Dr. Wen “abortion is basic healthcare” detour is over. Abortion isn’t health care. The giant organization is done with that public relations canard. Abortion is (big) business and abortion is politics. 

Grazie Pozo Christie, M.D., is a policy adviser for The Catholic Association.