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Planned Parenthood Denies Removing President Dr. Leana Wen in ‘Secret Meeting’

After less than a year on the job, Planned Parenthood has ousted its president and CEO, Dr. Leana Wen. In a tweet on July 16, 2019, Wen said that she learned that the health and advocacy organization’s board decided to end her employment after the board held a “secret meeting.” However, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood said that is factually incorrect. 

“The meeting wasn’t secret — it was a decision made at a board meeting,” the spokesperson told SheKnows. “There was a two-week period where the board was figuring out opportunities for resignation and negotiations were going on up until Tuesday. It wasn’t an immediate or surprising development to her whatsoever.” 

 In her tweet, Wen did note that she had been in good-faith negotiations with the board regarding her leaving the position over “philosophical differences” with the new board chairs. In a statement released on Twitter, Wen suggested that the philosophical differences came over Planned Parenthood’s approach to abortion advocacy. 

“As a physician and public health leader, I came to Planned Parenthood to lead a national health care organization that provides essential primary and preventative care to millions of underserved women and families, and to advocate for a broad range of policies that affect our patients’ health,” she wrote. “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.”

Wen then elaborated on this in another statement posted on Twitter which details how she wanted to make health care a priority for the organization, while the board wanted to go in another direction. “The new Board leadership has determined that the priority of Planned Parenthood moving forward is to double down on abortion rights advocacy,” Wen wrote. “With the landscape changing dramatically in the last several months and the right to safe, legal abortion care under attack like never before, I understand the shift in the Board’s prioritization.”

In an exclusive interview with SheKnows in January 2019, Wen stressed that she would make access to health care a priority. “People around the country made it clear that they want more health care, not less,” she told SheKnows, adding that “reproductive health care is health care, and health care is a fundamental human right.”

Planned Parenthood announced Wen’s departure in a statement on July 16, and immediately named Alexis McGill Johnson the acting president and CEO of the organization, effective immediately. Johnson is a former member of the board of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, as well as a former chair and member of the board of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. According to the organization, the search for a new president and CEO will begin early next year, with a goal of having a new president in place by the end of the year.

Wen, the former Baltimore City Health Commissioner and an emergency room doctor, was the first physician to run Planned Parenthood in nearly 50 years. The previous Planned Parenthood president and CEO Cecile Richards — who spoke at our BlogHer conference back in 2017 — held the role for more than a decade.

Wen could not be reached for comment.

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