Planned Parenthood Chief: ‘We’re Not Political by Nature’

Abortion-rights supporters take part in a protest Thursday, May 30, 2019, in St. Louis. A St. Louis judge heard an hour of arguments Thursday on Planned Parenthood's request for a temporary restraining order that would prohibit the state from allowing the license for Missouri's only abortion clinic to lapse at …
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

New acting president of Planned Parenthood Alexis McGill Johnson told CBS News her organization is primarily a healthcare provider that has been the victim of politicization.

Johnson’s interview with CBS’s Kate Smith is being aired as Democrat presidential contenders take the stage in Detroit for two debates Tuesday and Wednesday.

Asked if Planned Parenthood is a political organization or a healthcare organization, Johnson said Planned Parenthood is “primarily a healthcare provider,” asserting as well that the group is a victim.

“We’re not political by nature, but we’ve been politicized,” she said. “And that fight has actually been our focus to ensure that our health centers stay open.”

Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood announced  the sudden ouster of its first physician president in decades, Dr. Leana Wen, who was also frequently touted by the organization as a “Chinese immigrant.” The abortion giant immediately replaced her with the politically savvy Johnson.

The controversy over that decision continues to rage on as Wen claims she wanted to transform Planned Parenthood into a women’s healthcare organization, including abortion at any stage, and Planned Parenthood’s political organization complained to the media about Wen’s management style.

Most who follow abortion industry politics, however, know Planned Parenthood is fighting to keep its political power as President Donald Trump is hailed as “the most pro-life president in modern history.”

“We can expect to see a more aggressive political and legal agenda from Planned Parenthood under Johnson,” Troy Newman, president of abortion industry watchdog Operation Rescue, said about the severe turmoil within Planned Parenthood.

“We are getting a glimpse of the disarray and division within Planned Parenthood’s ranks,” he added. “What we are seeing right now is a desperate attempt to regain political power it lost when President Trump took office in 2017. They are willing to throw anyone and everyone under the bus to get that power back.”

According to the CBS interview, Johnson is especially troubled by individual state restrictions on abortion, observing much of the state legislation contains language that is in conflict with the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, in which the court invented a right to abortion, though none ever existed in the Constitution.

“We are very concerned about Roe,” Johnson said. “We have a court that hangs in the balance.”

Johnson’s organization has been challenging the “heartbeat” measures, which ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, that have been passed in six states. Alabama passed a law that bans abortions in most situations.

“All of these things are chipping away at women’s reproductive freedom,” Johnson said. “What’s at stake is our ability and our access to control our own lives through our own reproductive choices.”

Planned Parenthood’s new leader said she is “the face of an organization that stands up for people who need access to sexual and reproductive health care.”

“And I stand proudly in saying that,” she added. “And I stand proudly in saying that reproductive health care and sexual freedom should include abortion. I think we need to take away the stigma from thinking about abortion as anything other than basic health care.”

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