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Pro-choice v. pro-abortion

Former Planned Parenthood president’s new book reveals the divide among supporters of legal abortion


Dr. Leana Wen Associated Press/Photo by Lloyd Fox/The Baltimore Sun (file)

Pro-choice v. pro-abortion

After what she thought was a successful interview on The View during her first full day as Planned Parenthood’s president, Dr. Leana Wen received a text from a Planned Parenthood board member. “Good job on The View,” it said, according to her new book Lifelines. “Next time, make sure you talk about abortion.” Other staff members told her people in the office were concerned that she hadn’t given more attention to the procedure, and one advised her to talk about it in every interview: “You’re the president of Planned Parenthood. People expect that from you.”

Wen said the aftermath of that interview taught her an important lesson: Planned Parenthood is inextricably tied to the abortion industry. In a section of her new book, Wen highlights the highly politicized organization’s radical position, drawing attention to a divide among those who favor legal abortion.

Wen says she used to think pro-life groups hyped the connection between Planned Parenthood and abortion to bring down the organization’s reputation among legislators. But she discovered during her tenure as president of the organization that Planned Parenthood wanted to own the abortion label. Some of her coworkers said they were proud to provide the procedure and would call themselves “pro-abortion” rather than “pro-choice.”

Wen fell more on the “pro-choice” side of the spectrum. Whenever she tried to emphasize the services Planned Parenthood offered that would help reduce the need for abortions, the board and staff members would push back. She recalls their talking points: “If we don’t talk about abortion openly, loudly, and proudly, as a positive moral good, then we are further stigmatizing it and the people who need it.”

But women she knew told Wen abortion was more complicated than that. Some aborted babies they wanted because of bad circumstances or bad health. They “would much rather never have had to go through any of it,” Wen wrote. When she brought up these examples, colleagues dismissed her, saying she was making abortion sound dramatic.

Eventually, Wen’s attempt to temper the organization’s radical pro-abortion stance lost her the position. In July 2019, after she had been at Planned Parenthood less than a year, the board voted her out. At the time, Wen said she was leaving due to “philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood.”

Her experience mirrors a larger political divide. The Democratic Party has adopted Planned Parenthood’s radical stance, even supporting appropriations bills that would allow taxpayer dollars to fund abortion procedures. Polling suggests the majority of Americans oppose the idea. The party that in 2008 included a statement in their platform calling for policies that would “reduce the need for abortions” today has no room for moderates.


Leah Savas

Leah reports on pro-life topics for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, Stephen.

@leahsavas

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