BY CHEYENNE ELLIS ’21
Planned Parenthood has recently selected Dr. Leana Wen, a former emergency room doctor and current health commissioner for Baltimore, as their next president. Wen will assume the position with experience in patient and community activism, as well as hands-on medical experience. She will be the first physician to accept the role in over 50 years, according to the New York Times.
Planned Parenthood, founded in 1916, is a reproductive health clinic that offers services including birth control, abortions and breast and ovarian cancer screenings. According to their website, Planned Parenthood serves over 2.4 million people per year in their 600 healthcare centers in the United States. In 2016, they provided 706,903 HIV tests, as well as 336,614 breast exams.
“For more than 100 years, no organization has done more for women’s health than Planned Parenthood, and I’m truly honored to be named its president,” Wen said in a statement to CNN. “As a doctor, I will ensure we continue to provide high-quality health care, including the full range of reproductive care, and will fight with everything I have to protect the access of millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood.”
Dr. Wen grew up in Compton, California after her family fled from China around her eighth birthday. Her family relied on government assistance as she grew up and struggled to make ends meet. Her family also depended on the numerous services provided by Planned Parenthood. Now, she works to support others living in similar situations and has received recognition for making strides in closing racial disparities in healthcare and lowering infant mortality rates in Baltimore, according to the New York Times.
“As students who value our diversity and recognize that our Mount Holyoke family is made stronger by our peers who have immigrated to the United States, we celebrate that Dr. Wen is herself an immigrant and is determined to dismantle barriers to care for everyone in this country,” said Mac Chambers ’20 on behalf MHC Planned Parenthood Generation Action. “The experience, compassion and training that Dr. Wen brings to her new posts is inspirational.”
Wen will be taking over the presidency during a precarious time for Planned Parenthood. Republican members of Congress have sought to defund the organization and the Trump administration proposed a gag rule earlier this year to defund reproductive centers unless they cease to provide abortion services. In addition, the potential appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court could result in a repeal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion in the United States, according to NPR. Many view this as an attack on women’s healthcare.
“Planned Parenthood is important as they not only provide abortion services, but also help with birth control and safe sex,” said Jenny Wu ’21. “Losing funds would decrease the amount of services available to women and would make it harder to reach the necessary services.”
Aleasha Jay ’21 is also concerned. “Planned Parenthood provides a broad range of services to those who rely on Medicaid and Title X,” said Jay. “If Planned Parenthood, an already nonprofit organization loses funding, thousands of women from all backgrounds will feel like their health is no longer in their hands.”
Despite the hardships that the organization is expected to face, those who know Wen believe she is up for the challenge. “Anyone who has worked with Dr. Wen knows that when it comes to protecting her patients, she doesn’t back down from a fight,” Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland told the New York Times.
In an interview with NPR, Dr. Wen explained her visions for Planned Parenthood when she takes over as president this October.
“Our mission, our commitment in Planned Parenthood is to provide health care no matter what. It is to vigorously defend that right to health care,” Wen said. “It’s also to point out the truth. It’s to point out what data and science show us, which is that we know what works when it comes to reducing the need for abortions. We know that what works is birth control. We know what works is family planning.”
At Mount Holyoke, there is an on-campus organization called Planned Parenthood Generation Action that collaborates with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. They aim to raise awareness about reproductive health and rights while also educating students about sexual health and safety.
On behalf of the organization, Chambers expressed support of Wen’s appointment and hope for a bright future for Planned Parenthood. “As we face increased threats to our reproductive rights and bodily autonomy, we know Dr. Wen’s experience will be an incredible source of wisdom and leadership in these ongoing fights for our rights,” said Chambers. “Dr. Wen will be a powerful voice in the fight to ensure all people can make their own healthcare decisions and ensure Planned Parenthood continues to provide highquality care to millions of people across the country, no matter what.”