Dr. Leana Wen announced on Tuesday afternoon that after less than a year as the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the national women’s organization has decided to end her employment.
“I just learned that the @PPFA Board ended my employment at a secret meeting,” she tweeted. “We were engaged in good faith negotiations about my departure based on philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood.”
Wen, a Chinese immigrant who was the head of Baltimore’s health department, was appointed president last September. She was the first physician in nearly 50 years ― and only the second ever ― to be named Planned Parenthood’s president.
A person familiar with the situation told HuffPost that the real issue was that, under Wen, morale was low and “the organization was bleeding staff.”
“This had everything to do with her management style and challenges with her leadership,” the source said, requesting anonymity to speak freely. “Everything from creating a culture of mistrust among staff, having a very insular communication style. Only wanting to talk and communicate with a small number of people she brought in. Not wanting to work with existing experts.”
The source added that Planned Parenthood connected her with a leadership coach to work on her skills, but the board unanimously decided to let her go after the issues could not be resolved.
In February, BuzzFeed reported that two top employees were leaving Planned Parenthood. And staffers were reportedly taken aback by a 182-page handbook that Wen’s team brought to the organization about how to staff the new president. The “Special Assistant Guide” from the Baltimore City Health Department had tips for office demeanor (“Make sure to frequently look up [from Twitter] and make eye contact with Dr. Wen to see if she is trying to communicate urgent information”) and language use (“Dr. Wen ‘learns’ not ‘hears’”).
HuffPost reached out to Wen for comment, but did not immediately hear back.
Wen posted a full statement to Twitter just minutes later, writing that she is leaving the health organization over “philosophical differences” between herself and the board chairs.
“I believe that the best way to protect abortion care is to be clear that it is not a political issue but a health care one, and that we can expand support for reproductive rights by finding common ground with the majority of Americans who understand reproductive health care as the fundamental health care that it is,” Wen wrote.
“I am leaving because the new Board Chairs and I have philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood,” she continued.
Wen later tweeted a letter addressed to her Planned Parenthood colleagues, thanking them for their hard work. She also doubled down on the claim that she and the organization parted ways over philosophical differences, writing that the organization wanted to prioritize abortion care while she wanted to advocate for a “broad range of public health policies.”
Planned Parenthood Federation of America board chairs Aimee Cunningham and Jennie Rosenthal thanked Wen for her service in a Tuesday afternoon statement to HuffPost.
“We thank Dr. Leana Wen for her service to Planned Parenthood in such a pivotal time and extend our best wishes for her continued success,” they wrote.
Cunningham and Rosenthal announced that Planned Parenthood board member Alexis McGill Johnson has been named the acting president of the organization.
“I am proud to step in to serve as Acting President and facilitate a smooth leadership transition in this critical moment for Planned Parenthood and the patients and communities we serve,” McGill Johnson said in a statement. “I thank Dr. Wen for her service and her commitment to patients. I look forward to getting to work alongside the incredible team at Planned Parenthood who work every single day to help people access high quality reproductive health care.”
This has been updated throughout.
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