Reproductive health advocates were surprised—and admittedly, worried—when Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards announced she was stepping down from her role in January of 2018. The current administration had vowed to defund the org, and it felt (and continues to feel) as though there were never-ending new threats to women’s health and reproductive rights. Many wondered who would pick up the mantel and continue the vital fight for women’s health.
It looks like we finally have an answer—and we’re in immensely good hands. Today, September 12th, Planned Parenthood introduced the world to their new president, Dr. Leana Wen of Baltimore, Maryland. The org made the announcement via a video on their Twitter page, as well as a press release on their website.
And now, many are wondering: Who exactly is Leana Wen? Prepare to be both impressed and inspired.
Wen, 35, is a Chinese-American immigrant whose family came to the United States when she was eight years old (making her both the first Asian-American and the first immigrant to lead the org in its over 100 year history). As she described in the Twitter video, her family relied on government support and welfare programs—as well as basic healthcare from Planned Parenthood—during her childhood. It was this crucial safety net that enabled Wen to eventually go on to pursue a degree in emergency medicine, and she ultimately become Baltimore City Health Commissioner—meaning she spearheaded all public health initiatives for the city.
As if all of that wasn’t already impressive enough, Wen and her office sued the Trump administration when they attempted to cut funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs in Baltimore in March 2018—and won.
She continued, “Having a physician as the head of Planned Parenthood is a sign that what we are doing is mainstream medical care. […] Every year, 2.4 million women come to planned parenthood. They don’t come to make a political statement. I see what happens when clinics close, and millions of women could be denied access to basic healthcare services.”
Wen seems like the perfect person to lead Planned Parenthood—and the rest of us—in the fight for basic healthcare for women. We unfortunately anticipate continued threats to women’s reproductive rights in the coming years, but we’re heartened and inspired to know a physician like Wen will be fighting with us on the front lines.