By the end of Wednesday, Dr. Leana Wen had become the former president of Planned Parenthood. She was unceremoniously deposed at a “secret meeting” of the board of Planned Parenthood over philosophical differences about the direction to take the organization.
This happened despite ongoing “good faith negotiations” about her departure. She had only worked since November 2018. Her tenure was abruptly ended after just eight months; throughout the pro-life world, the abortion jokes practically wrote themselves.
Perhaps she deserved it. She did, after all, helm the largest abortion provider in the country.
But spare a moment, if you please, to see her for the unique individual human life that she is, and the unique life that was her child.
News of her miscarriage broke on July 5th but likely went unnoticed by most Americans celebrating Independence Day weekend. It could not, however, have gone unnoticed by the Planned Parenthood leadership board.
As if it were possible for pro-life folks to dislike Planned Parenthood even more, they betrayed and forcibly ousted a woman who was already planning her departure less than a month after suffering a miscarriage.
Even by pro-choice logic, her child was wanted, loved, and now is lost to the mother in need of comfort, grace, and support. I don’t wish to use Dr. Wen’s experience to cudgel an organization she likely still believes in, but frankly, she deserved better.
She deserved better from Planned Parenthood board, and she deserved better from us pro-lifers using a grieving mother as the punchline of an abortion joke.
To the credit of many in the pro-life movement, as soon as news spread of Dr. Wen’s loss, much of the snark and the sneer turned to empathy and compassion. Notable pro-life advocate and fellow former Planned Parenthood leader Abby Johnson was among the first to put out this call:
“Prolifers, our job is to reach out to Dr. Leana Wen in love. Snarky memes & words will not bring about conversion. Let us also remember that she is a woman grieving the loss of a miscarried child. Let us treat her with care, not callousness. Let’s be the people we saw we are.”
Johnson’s organization, And Then There Were None, is dedicated to helping Planned Parenthood employees leave the abortion industry and spiritually heal themselves. It is a service that I hope Dr. Wen avails herself of.
It should be reason enough that Dr. Wen suffered a recent loss that we should offer our love, support, and prayers, but as further details emerged, one thought became clear to me:
She was a doctor at her core. She was a doctor all along.
Dr. Wen’s stoic demeanor and comparatively plain manner of speaking contrasted sharply with her fiery predecessor Cecile Richards, who was a professional activist.
In a statement directed to her colleagues, Dr. Wen described her vision for Planned Parenthood. She “came to Planned Parenthood to run a national health care organization,” which would include expanding healthcare services, as well as what should be remarkable to pro-lifers, “improving maternal health and the health of women before, during, and after pregnancy.”
In other words, Dr. Wen wanted to increase care and services to women including, it seems, those who wished to bring their babies into the world. In fact, an inside source told Buzzfeed News that Dr. Wen “had no interest in ‘the long-term future of abortion access work that had already been going on, saying there was no budget for it.’”
In context, this source seems hostile to Dr. Wen’s leadership, but taken with her statements, it appears she was making an earnest attempt at directing the organization towards providing more and better healthcare. Aside from providing abortions, this was a wholly laudable goal.
Unfortunately for her, this was not good enough for the new leadership board of Planned Parenthood which “determined that the priority of Planned Parenthood moving forward is to double down on abortion rights advocacy,” according to Dr. Wen’s statement.
Dr. Wen is a physician, through and through, and a suffering mother. Perhaps it is no coincidence then that this occurred the day before the traditional start of the Novena to St. Anne, mother of Mary and patron saint of mothers and of pregnancies and miscarriages. Let us reach out to Dr. Wen in love and in prayer. Let us pray for peace and comfort for her, as well as her conversion.
It is an incredible hurdle for an abortionist to leave the abortion industry, because to turn around is to face the countless bodies of those aborted babies; how much more so for the woman who oversaw hundreds of thousands of them?
But by the grace of God there are precedents for this, such as Dr. Anthony Levatino who has worked with Live Action after performing over 1,200 abortions, and Dr. Bernard Nathanson who became a pro-life activist after co-founding NARAL.
So pray for Dr. Wen. There is no evidence that she will be the next physician to abandon abortion, but she can still use God’s grace and the embrace of the saints at this time. My hope is that the physician at her core, that wayward healer, having collided head-on with the cruelty and ugliness of the abortion industry, will rise up and finally turn away.