This article was originally posted as an op-ed at the Columbus Dispatch here.
“Abortion is health care.”
So we’ve been told. Often in all caps, often with angry picket signs.
But the recent ousting of Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen underscores the falsehood of that statement.
Hired eight months ago and lauded for her background as a physician, Wen seemed to represent a turning point for Planned Parenthood. Unlike her predecessor, Cecile Richards (whose resume was exclusively political), Wen was trained as an emergency room physician and served as Baltimore’s health commissioner for four years.
With Wen in control, Planned Parenthood seemed poised to propagandize abortion as “health care” with renewed vigor.
And that was certainly Wen’s goal.
“Planned Parenthood’s New President Wants To Focus On Nonabortion Health Care,” rang a headline from Buzzfeed News earlier this year.
In the story, Wen explained her new vision for the abortion business, outlining her first marketing campaign: “This is health care.”
The purpose of the message, as Buzzfeed pointed out, was to show that “Planned Parenthood is first and foremost a health care organization, not a political symbol.”
But the headline was too much for Wen — or perhaps the powers that be within the abortion business.
The day after the article ran, Wen tweeted a carefully crafted clarification of her vision.
“I am always happy to do interviews but these headlines completely misconstrue my vision for Planned Parenthood,” she wrote. “First, our core mission is providing, protecting and expanding access to abortion and reproductive health care,” she continued in another tweet. “We will never back down from that fight — it’s a fundamental human right and women’s lives are at stake.”
After Wen’s termination in July, it can only be assumed that those tweets came after a slap on the wrist from the board of directors.
In a statement explaining her “secret” firing, Wen outlined what she called “philosophical differences” between her and the board: “I believe 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’s vision lost out, and it’s no wonder why.
With more than a half-billion taxpayer dollars being funneled to Planned Parenthood each year, the operation is certainly a political one.
Consider the fact that in 2017-2018, Planned Parenthood performed 332,757 abortions — accounting for approximately 96% of the group’s pregnancy-related services.
That same year, it received $563.8 million in taxpayer funding. As divided as the country is over the subject of abortion, the siphoning of that much money is a powerful feat that takes major political influence to achieve.
That’s why Planned Parenthood’s PAC sweats so hard to spill millions of dollars at the feet of pro-abortion candidates every election cycle.
And yet, despite their best efforts, the current political situation is undeniably shaky for Planned Parenthood. With states like Ohio passing pro-life legislation like the “heartbeat bill,” as well as a recalibrated Supreme Court with a pro-life majority, the country could very well see the reversal of Roe v. Wade in the near future.
Not only that, but the day before Wen was fired, a new rule from the Trump administration took effect, slashing $60 million in Title X funding from Planned Parenthood’s coffers.
Rather than comply with the new rule and stop abortions and abortion referrals, Planned Parenthood decided to protect abortion at all costs, saying its clinics will start using their own emergency funds while it wages a legal fight.
By firing Wen, they’ve shown their hand in a major way. Abortion isn’t just one of many “health care” services the business provides.
It’s core to their mission.
Wen said so. And with her termination, so did the board.
Stephanie Ranade Krider is vice president and executive director of Ohio Right to Life.