The new president of Planned Parenthood, Dr. Leana Wen, is trying to reposition the abortion business as a bastion of health care for people across the country through interviews and media appearances. It hasn't been easy. Although she has been well received at liberal outlets, Wen is struggling to silence critics within the abortion movement.
After an interview with BuzzFeed, Wen went to Twitter to seemingly set the record straight after she says the news outlet "completely misconstrued her vision for Planned Parenthood" by using the headline "Planned Parenthood's New President Wants to Focus on Nonabortion Health Care."
Wen went on to state that Planned Parenthood's "core mission is providing, protecting and expanding access to abortion and reproductive healthcare. We will never back down from that fight – it's a fundamental human right and women's lives are at stake."
Apparently, BuzzFeed wasn't on brand.
It was a surprising response to an otherwise favorable interview. Throughout the article, BuzzFeed reported on Wen's desire to refocus Planned Parenthood on providing "nonabortion" health care while also providing abortions. The article was run of the mill in many ways, but Wen's response to the title shows that there are those that question her dedication to abortion on demand, the core philosophy of Planned Parenthood. By responding to those unvoiced critics, Wen showed that all is not well behind the scenes and that efforts to direct Planned Parenthood back towards health care have not been well received.
The struggle that Wen is experiencing has to do with the fact that health care has not, nor really ever been, a key focus of Planned Parenthood over the last 15 years. That is unlikely to change.
Since 2006, the so called health care services of Planned Parenthood have decreased significantly with cancer screenings down 65%, contraception down by 32% and other services by 36%. Wen even tried to argue in the interview that Planned Parenthood provides vaccines, a standard part of any medical practice. But if you look on its website, the only vaccines offered are all related to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If Planned Parenthood wants to serve the communities they claim to care about, its offices would offer the polio vaccine and all other child and infant vaccines, and not just HPV vaccine and Hepatitis A and B.
The focus on abortion has resulted in an organization with questionable employees and low-quality medical treatment. There was a moment when Planned Parenthood could've reversed course and become the health care organization that Dr. Wen wants to believe exists. In 2016, after the presidential election, Planned Parenthood's former president Cecile Richards met with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner about the future of the abortion business. Trump and Kushner told Richards that she could secure funding for her organization for years by no longer providing abortions. Richards refused the offer.
When abortion is the only thing that matters, then all other medical treatments become less important. That's what has happened at Planned Parenthood.
In many ways, Dr. Wen showed her precarious position by immediately backtracking as soon as the BuzzFeed article came out, which was in no way unfavorable towards her or the organization.
Drastic changes have to occur within the organization for Dr. Wen to reverse course and have her organization focus on health care, which can only be achieved when abortion is no longer part of the equation. Until Dr. Wen understands that fact, she will face an arduous and unsuccessful fight.