Leana Wen, Former Baltimore Health Commissioner, Named Planned Parenthood President

The emergency room doctor becomes just the second doctor to take on the role.

A Planned Parenthood office
Scott Olson / Getty Images

The emergency room doctor becomes just the second doctor to take on the role.

With Planned Parenthood coming under continued attacks from conservative lawmakers across the country, the organization named former Baltimore Health Commissioner Leana Wen as its new president on Wednesday, reported the New York Times.

Wen, who is an emergency room doctor, is most well-known for her time in that role in Baltimore, proving a vital element in the city during the 2015 protests following the death of Freddie Gray.

She grew up as a poor immigrant in Compton, California, following her family leaving China while she was 7-years -old. At that time in her life, Wen relied on Medicaid, which gave her the experience to understand what those in Baltimore who needed to use the program go through. Her work proved effective in sharply reducing the infant mortality rate.

With all of that experience in the public sector of health care, Wen was in a good position to push back against the Trump administration making cuts to the sector. Part of that included a lawsuit from Baltimore against the administration for cutting pregnancy prevention funds, a case the city won by getting $5 million reinstated for the program. She has also led efforts for funding for health clinics for low-income women.

At a time when Planned Parenthood is under fire and seeing funding cut across the country, along with fears of Roe v. Wade being overturned as the Supreme Court nears a shift to the right, the organization needed a leader who is willing to fight, and in Wen it has clearly got that leader.

Those who helped make the decision told the New York Times that the reasoning behind Wen’s appointment was to underscore the healthcare mission of Planned Parenthood, with most of its patients coming from a low-income background. That made Wen the perfect candidate, a medical professional who has made a career out of helping poor women receive health care.

“Dr. Wen is fearless, as an emergency physician she has faced fire and urgent crisis and demonstrated her ability to quickly and very effectively save lives,” said Sarah Stoez, the CEO of Planned Parenthood in Minnesota and the Dakotas, adding that she is “the right leader for this moment.”

Wen has used the services of Planned Parenthood in her life, outlining her relationship with the non-profit in a statement. She also stated she saw the impact of the organization while in her role in Baltimore, according to CNN.

“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. As a patient, I depended on Planned Parenthood for medical care at various times in my own life, and as a public health leader, I have seen firsthand the lifesaving work it does for our most vulnerable communities.”

The outgoing president, Cecile Richards, also led the organization through tumultuous times and steered the organization through closures and funding cuts, raising the profile of Planned Parenthood which now has the support of the majority of Americans.

Wen will have a fight immediately on her plate with the Trump administration seeking to cut off Title X funding if Planned Parenthood continues providing abortion services. That funding is already prohibited by law from being used for abortion services, with the organization using the funds for its non-abortion services. Wen will be well prepared for that fight given her experience, having already defeated the administration for Title X funding.