Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen was forced out Tuesday as the organization faces growing financial peril from a Trump administration order that all federally funded family planning clinics stop providing women referrals for abortions.

Planned Parenthood’s board met in emergency session Tuesday morning and approved Wen’s departure just eight months after she was hired to lead the nation’s largest women’s health care provider and most prominent abortion rights organization.

People familiar with Wen’s position said she has been battling over the organization’s direction with new board of directors chair Aimee Cunningham almost since Cunningham arrived in May.

Wen, they said, has been trying to refocus the organization’s mission and image as a public health organization that includes abortion rights but provides a wide array of services. She replaced a number of the organization’s top officials with people who supported that approach.

Those familiar with the situation said Wen was opposed by some board members and others who wanted to emphasize the organization’s commitment to abortion rights.

The board’s perspective was not immediately clear.


The leadership vacuum occurs at a difficult moment in the group’s history. It faces the loss of tens of millions of dollars in government funding, increasing attacks by antiabortion lawmakers at the state and federal level and the prospect that the 1973 ruling legalizing abortion will be overturned by the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority.

Under the new Trump administration rule that targets family planning clinics, Planned Parenthood stands to lose about $60 million a year — a blow that could transform the kinds of reproductive services available to poor women and girls across the country.

The move by the federal Department of Health and Human Services could force providers like Planned Parenthood to reduce the wide range of health services they offer, including birth control, cancer screenings, abortion and screening for sexually transmitted diseases.

The rule also is expected to allow more faith-based groups that focus on persuading women to continue their pregnancies and do not provide most forms of birth control to receive federal funding.

Late Monday, HHS put out a notice to clinics that it would begin enforcing the changes in its family planning program, which funds health services for low-income women. Planned Parenthood, other abortion providers, many state attorneys general and medical organizations have been fighting the change in courts. But they have lost several times in recent weeks.

The federal government’s $260 million family planning program serves 4 million women with low-cost or free health care services, including mammograms and Pap smears. About 40 percent of those patients are currently seen at Planned Parenthood and its affiliates. Women’s rights groups expressed alarm Tuesday at the impact of immediate enforcement of the rule.


District courts in California, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington sided with Planned Parenthood and its allies earlier this year, issuing preliminary injunctions preventing the rule from going into effect. But earlier this month, appeals courts overturned those decisions.

The court “has made clear that HHS may begin enforcing the Final Rule,” Diane Foley, the deputy assistant secretary overseeing the Title X program, wrote in an email to abortion clinics Monday.

Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but federal laws prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the woman.

The most controversial part of the rule — prohibiting providers from offering counseling or referrals for abortion, which critics call a “gag rule” — will be enforced immediately, HHS said. Violators could lose federal funds.

Physical separation of abortion and non-abortion services in different locations will take effect next summer.

“Moving forward with this policy to take away women’s rights before the legal process has played out is reckless and will hurt those whom HHS is supposed to serve,” Michelle Kuppersmith, director of Equity Forward, a watchdog project focused on reproductive health, said in a statement.


Planned Parenthood was thrust into the spotlight by opponents in 2015, when two antiabortion activists, posing as biotech workers, secretly recorded a video of their conversation, which included discussion of the organization’s donation of tissue from aborted fetuses for biomedical research.

The activists released a heavily edited version of the video that purported to demonstrate that the organization makes money from the donated tissue — an allegation the group has vehemently denied.

Wen was appointed Planned Parenthood’s president last November, succeeding Cecile Richards, the organization’s high-profile president for the previous dozen years.

Trained as an emergency room physician, Wen had been Baltimore’s health commissioner for four years. She used that position to speak out about Trump administration policy changes that she said hurt women’s reproductive rights. She objected to the administration’s changes to family planning policy, organizing doctors and other health professionals against the rule. She also was one of the most vocal advocates for treatment and other services for substance abusers.

A Shanghai native, she emigrated to the U.S. at age 7, living in Utah and California. She started college when she was 13, went to medical school and eventually became a Rhodes Scholar.

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