Turmoil at Planned Parenthood as palace coup ousts its new president
Planned Parenthood is in the midst of a crisis, abruptly firing its president and changing practices and policies, drawing on "emergency" funds, and desperately trying to stave off further threats to its survival. The group that killed 332,000 children before their birth in its last fiscal year is officially tight-lipped about why it just fired the president who assumed leadership of the group only eight months ago. But insiders, speaking as "sources," are blabbing to their friends in the media, so it is possible to put together a sense of the chaos that seems to be engulfing the nation's largest abortion business.
Here is the official tweet from the group announcing the firing of Dr. Leana Wen, who had been hailed as a medical doctor, a racial minority, and an immigrant — all marks of purported virtue in the group's worldview — when she was hired to lead the business:
Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund announce Dr. Leana Wen’s departure from the organization. We thank Dr. Wen for her service and wish her the best in her next venture.— Planned Parenthood (@PPFA) July 16, 2019
The group has already removed its own web page about the defenestrated doctor at https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/our-leadership/dr-leana-wen.
The New York Times, recipient of the views of many insiders, writes:
The urgency of the abortion issue appeared to be at the heart of the disagreement. Dr. Wen, the first physician to lead the organization in decades, said that she believed "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."
The "urgency" appears to be a sense at the organization that it is losing ground. The publication of videos from the Center for Medical Progress showing officials of PP discussing the lucrative sale of fetal body parts exposed the deeply unpleasant nature of the group's operations and finances. The passage of state laws severely limiting abortion, Trump administration efforts to restrict its funding (see below), and the emergence of a Supreme Court majority that may be more skeptical of abortion, all contribute to this sense of crisis. The organization must be scared that the Overton Window (the range of topics that are considered worthy of discussion) has moved in the direction of restricting or even outlawing abortion.
When Dr. Wen took her job with the goal of reinforcing the claim of Planned Parenthood that it is a health care provider, not just an abortion mill, key officials departed. BuzzFeed reported in February, "Planned Parenthood Is Losing Top Political Aides as Its Staff Worries Over Its Changing Direction."
Planned Parenthood is losing two top political officers who helped build the women's health care organization into an electoral powerhouse under its recently departed president Cecile Richards, sparking internal concerns about a shift in direction under new leadership.
Deirdre Schifeling, executive director of the organization's political arm Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Wendi Wallace, Planned Parenthood's director of political outreach, told staff in late January that they would be leaving within a matter of months.
A third official, executive vice president Dawn Laguens, also left, according to the New York Times.
But those who left, and their supporters, ended up aborting the presidency of their foe in less time than it takes a baby to come to full term. Dr. Wen's first reaction on Twitter seemed to convey a sense of intrigue, with its mention of a "secret" board meeting.
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. My statement to come shortly.— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) July 16, 2019
The promised statement spoke of "philosophical differences."
As BuzzFeed reported in February, Planned Parenthood seemed to regard Dr. Wen as something new and different for its staff:
Wen arrived at Planned Parenthood as a health care administrator, not steeped in the world of Democratic campaigns. Some staffers were taken aback to receive a 182-page handbook on rules and tips for staffing Wen. The "Special Assistant Guide" from the Baltimore City Health Department, according to a copy obtained by BuzzFeed News, details guidelines on timeliness ("Nothing can fall through the cracks"), office demeanor ("Make sure to frequently look up [from Twitter] and make eye contact with Dr. Wen to see if she is trying to communicate urgent information"), language use ("Dr. Wen 'learns' not 'hears'") and correspondence ("Try not to look at emails more than once. Take care of it then").
Evidently, these requirements were not congenial to a staff oriented toward politics more than medical care.
I have to wonder if an op-ed in the Washington Post (non-paywalled version here) written by Dr. Wen describing her own miscarriage, and published a week before her firing, was the straw that broke the camel's back. Despite the overt scare-mongering over miscarriages and abortion restrictions...
If pregnant people are too terrified to seek medical care, they will be forced to make impossible trade-offs, at the cost of their health and lives. I once treated a woman in her late 20s who had a miscarriage complication. If she'd received care early, she could have had a simple outpatient procedure. But by the time she came to the ER, she had such a severe infection that she had to have a hysterectomy and was in the ICU for weeks[.]
Dr. Wen also invoked the emotional toll of a pregnancy that does not end in birth, and I wonder if that was simply a thoughtcrime for a group that makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year getting hundreds of thousands of pregnancies to end before a birth.
I knew even before I went to my doctor that I'd had a pregnancy loss.
When the test results confirmed it, I felt numb. Then I felt the guilt. I knew this was not rational — as many as 1 in 5 pregnancies result in miscarriage, with unsurvivable genetic issues as a major cause of early pregnancy loss. In the emergency room, I've counseled many patients who suffered miscarriages. I told myself what I've told dozens of women and families, that no one knows what caused the miscarriage, and there's nothing that could have been done differently. Yet, I couldn't stop the self-blame: Was it all the travel? Was it the late nights? What if I'd had less stress?
Guilt! The last thing that PP wants is for the possibility of feeling guilt over a premature end to a pregnancy — even an accidental end.
We can't know for sure if this heresy from the party line that abortion has no psychologically harmful consequences was what did in Dr. Wen, but the timing sure is suspicious.
One thing is sure: Planned parenthood is becoming more heavily and explicitly political. And it is retreating. Just published early this morning in The Hill comes this surrender:
Planned Parenthood on Tuesday said it will forgo federal family planning funds rather than comply with new Trump administration rules that prohibit the organization from referring women for abortions.
The group announced it will no longer participate in the only federally funded program dedicated to providing contraception and other reproductive health services to low-income women, marking a victory for Trump's conservative base.
Planned Parenthood will continue to offer services at hundreds of its sites across the country, saying it will draw on "emergency funds." And by eschewing the federal funds, known as Title X, the group can still refer women for abortions.
This is an organization in crisis.
Graphic credit: Twitter icon.