Abortion retail giant Planned Parenthood has struggled of late to find the proper face for public display. The news that it has ousted its president Leana Wen after less than a year on the job showcases the organization’s identity crisis. At the time Wen was brought on, Planned Parenthood was still reeling from the 2015 undercover video exposé that revealed its executives’ active and shockingly callous participation in the harvesting of aborted baby parts to sell to medical researchers for profit.
Downplaying the fact that abortion is the centerpiece of the organization’s activities seemed a prudent move. Wen obliged, moving to spotlight a “full-spectrum” of health issues in order to hide abortion in the high weeds. The New York Times reports Wen ordered staffers to add pages to PP’s website on asthma and the common cold. For the abortion franchiser, it was akin to McDonald’s adding salads to its menu. Now, the organization has changed tactics in an about-face that seeks to bring attention back to its core service.
So Much for Soothing
“To counter those who associate the organization with only abortion and use this misconception to attack its mission, I wanted to tell the story of all of its services — and in so doing, to normalize abortion care as the health care it is,” Wen wrote in an op-ed for The Times, following her exit from PP.
But a funny thing happened amid this tranquil rebranding. Abortion opponents started winning legislative battles in state after state. Bills outlawing abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected have passed in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio. While Planned Parenthood was prettifying its image, its core product was losing traction.
The Times quotes Jess McIntosh, a Democratic strategist who has worked with pro-abortion groups, on the bind PP in which finds itself. Though he certainly didn’t intend his words to be taken this way, McIntosh bluntly stated that Planned Parenthood simply cannot afford to do a soft-shoe on abortion without jeopardizing its entire business model. “Because they have such an outsized share of market attention, they don’t have the luxury of letting go of the advocacy piece,” is how he put it.
Apparently, PP’s leadership agrees. Its board of directors moved to dismiss Wen. Aimee Cunningham has served on that board for three years. In May, she was named chair. Not long after, Wen was gone.
No More Games?
Cunningham has served on the national finance committees for the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. She is the founder of a group called Austin Women Invest to Elect, which serves to help elect progressive women to political office. “There has never been a more important time for women to lift up their voices and make themselves heard,” Cunningham is quoted as saying on the Austin group’s website. “Reproductive rights, access to health care, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, and immigrant rights are all on the line. Invest to Elect is a space for women to make real change by supporting candidates and elected officials who share our progressive values and commitment to equity and justice.”
Obviously, there is no need to prop up a pretense of caring about asthmatic women within such a war-like manifesto. Wen most definitely got the message on her way out the door: “The new board leadership has determined that the priority of Planned Parenthood moving forward is to double down on abortion rights advocacy,” she wrote to staffers in her departure letter.
The latest public relations pivot by Planned Parenthood should be welcome news to pro-lifers. The organization is vowing to be starkly upfront about abortion as its entire reason for existence, at a time when an ever-growing number of Americans are expressing their opposition to legalized abortion on demand.
For PP, the move may not reveal panic, but it is a sign of an organization on the defensive. Planned Parenthood has been stuck in reaction mode since the baby body parts scandal in 2015; it seems the revelation shook the powerfully connected organization far more than it lets on.
Deceit has long been a signature of Planned Parenthood’s operating procedure. Hiring Wen as a social justice-flavored full health care advocate was meant to continue that pattern, but it has not worked out as the group had hoped.
And so now we will see how in-your-face abortion advocacy flies as a political strategy. Planned Parenthood is fully embracing its core product, and let the chips fall where they may.