Feud Intensifies Between ‘Hypocritical’ Planned Parenthood and Ousted Physician President

Dr. Leana Wen stands in the emergency department at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, during her medical residency. On Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, Wen, an immigrant from China who has been Baltimore's health commissioner for nearly four years, was named as the new president of Planned Parenthood.
AP Photo/Steven Senne

The public feud between Planned Parenthood and its recently ousted physician president is intensifying as Dr. Leana Wen accuses the left-wing organization of hypocrisy and attempted intimidation.

In a letter to Planned Parenthood’s board of directors that was obtained by the New York Times, the former president and CEO accused the group of holding her health insurance and severance pay as “ransom” until she agreed to sign a confidentiality agreement.

In the letter, Wen reportedly wrote, “I have no desire to file claims against Planned Parenthood for defamation, retaliation, or discrimination,” but then added that the organization was demanding she stop speaking publicly “in exchange for my contractually-guaranteed severance and continued health insurance coverage.”

Wen referred to Planned Parenthood’s actions as “unjust” and “unethical,” said the Times.

The battle between Wen and the abortion giant comes as Planned Parenthood has been more open that abortion is its central priority.

Though, for years, the group insisted abortion was a very small part of the “healthcare” services it provided, ultimately Planned Parenthood opted not to remain in the federal Title X family planning grant program when the Trump administration decided to enforce the program’s rule that grantees of the funds not refer for or perform abortions.

The organization abandoned the program, leaving about $60 million behind in federal funding that will now be redirected to federally qualified healthcare centers that do not perform abortions.

In her letter, Wen reportedly referred to the Trump administration’s Title X rule enforcement as she accused Planned Parenthood’s board of hypocrisy.

“It is deeply hypocritical,” she wrote, that her former organization, “would attempt to enforce a gag order on its immediate past President/CEO while fighting the Trump administration’s gag rule on Title X providers.”

According to the Times, Melanie Newman, senior vice president for communications at Planned Parenthood, said Wen’s accusations are “unfortunate, saddening, and simply untrue.”

“The attorneys representing the board have made every good faith effort to amicably part from Dr. Wen, and are disappointed that they have been unable to reach a suitable resolution regarding her exit package,” she added.

Newman claims Wen received in her severance package a full additional year of salary and health benefits “under terms that are standard and consistent with her employment agreement and any reasonable executive exit package.”

Nevertheless, Wen, who expressed disappointment in a Twitter post that her letter leaked out, said, “There should be no dispute regarding the terms of my employment contract, which are clearly spelled out.”

The ousted president’s tenure at Planned Parenthood lasted less than a year. At the time Wen was hired, the organization announced her as its choice for president with much fanfare that Planned Parenthood would have its first physician president in decades. The group gave the appearance of showing interest in developing its non-abortion services.

When she was suddenly fired in July, Wen at first referred in a tweet to the reason for her ouster as “philosophical differences” with the board, but then elaborated on that reference in a three-page letter to Planned Parenthood colleagues and supporters.

She explained:

One year ago, when I came in front of the Search Committee selecting Planned Parenthood’s next President, I posed this question: Did they see Planned Parenthood as an advocacy organization first, with medical services that are necessary to strengthen its impact, or did they see Planned Parenthood as a health care organization first, with advocacy as a necessary vehicle to protect rights and access?

Wen said she believed she was coming in as Planned Parenthood president to “run a national health care organization and to advocate for the broad range of public health policies that affect our patients’ health.”

“The new Board leadership has determined that the priority of Planned Parenthood moving forward is to double down on abortion rights advocacy,” she said.

According to the Times, Wen said in her letter she believed the best way to protect Planned Parenthood from the Trump administration and states eager to restrict abortion and cut the group’s funding would be to de-emphasize its abortion services.

“However,” she reportedly wrote, “there is a vocal minority,” including many national staff and board members, “who prefer a stridently political, abortion-first philosophy.”

The struggle between Wen and the Planned Parenthood organization became palpable in January after Wen’s interview with BuzzFeed News that was published with the headline, “Planned Parenthood’s New President Wants to Focus on Nonabortion Health Care.”

Following its publication, however, Wen tweeted the headline “completely misconstrue[d] my vision for Planned Parenthood.”

The physician then made what may be the most memorable announcement of her tenure at Planned Parenthood: Abortion is “our core mission.”

After Wen’s ouster, a report at Politico indicated a former Planned Parenthood employee denied the existence of “philosophical differences” between Wen and the board. The anonymous ex-staff member described Wen as an “incompetent manager” who had done significant “damage” to the organization.

At the time of Wen’s ouster, Troy Newman, president of pro-life group Operation Rescue, said the developing feud between Wen and Planned Parenthood was providing the country with “a glimpse of the disarray and division within Planned Parenthood’s ranks.”

“What we are seeing right now is a desperate attempt to regain political power it lost when President Trump took office in 2017,” he added. “They are willing to throw anyone and everyone under the bus to get that power back.”

Currently, Planned Parenthood still receives over $500 million in taxpayer funds as reimbursements through the Medicaid program.

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