As Wen Leaves Planned Parenthood, States Want to Argue Against Baltimore’s Title X Suit

Dr. Leana Wen, the national president of Planned Parenthood and former Baltimore City health commissioner, speaks at the annual Planned Parenthood Maryland gala in Baltimore in April. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines

The news came in a straight-forward tweet just after 4 p.m.

“I just learned that the @PPFA Board ended my employment at a secret meeting. We were engaged in good faith negotiations about my departure based on philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood. My statement to come shortly,” wrote Dr. Leana Wen, the former Baltimore City health officer who took the helm of Planned Parenthood to political acclaim eight months earlier.

Wen had been the first physician to head the health and reproductive rights organization in almost 50 years.

The board was meeting in emergency session Tuesday before announcing Wen’s departure.

She will be replaced by Alexis McGill Johnson, who has been a member of the national board for nearly a decade.

In a two-page letter to colleagues Wen said she took the helm at Planned Parenthood “to run a national health care organization and to advocate for the broad range of public health policies that affect our patients’ health.”

During a speech in Baltimore earlier this year, Wen spoke about her focus on shifting perceptions of Planned Parenthood.

“Reproductive health care, women’s health care cannot be seen to be any different than what it is: standard health care. And health care has to be a fundamental, human right,” she said.

The Planned Parenthood board leadership, though, thinks the organization’s priority should be to “double down on abortion rights advocacy,” Wen wrote.

“With the landscape changing dramatically in the last several months and the right to safe, legal abortion care under attack like never before, I understand the shift in the Board’s prioritization,” Wen wrote in the letter to colleagues.

She closed the letter by saying that she will “always stand with Planned Parenthood.”

The moves come just after officials in the Trump administration announced Monday they would begin enforcing new rules for Title X funding, which would prohibit clinics that receive federal funding from making referrals for abortion, mandate prenatal care referrals for patients seeking abortions, and require providers who offer abortion services or refer patients for abortion services to maintain separate facilities from Title X-funded activities.

The city of Baltimore sued over the rules and was granted a preliminary injunction to prevent them from taking effect in Maryland by the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, but that injunction was stayed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case remains pending before the Fourth Circuit, which is scheduled to hear arguments Sept. 18.

On Tuesday, 14 states filed a brief asking to take part in oral arguments before the court.

The attorneys general of the 14 states – Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia – who all support the change in federal rules “believe the Court would benefit from hearing the contrary perspective of the States supporting the rules.”

The states are seeking five minutes of oral argument during the case. The federal government did not oppose the request for the states’ time and the city of Baltimore will consent if its lawyers are also given an additional five minutes of time, Dave Yost, attorney general of Ohio, wrote in a filing.

The court did not immediately rule on the motion.

The state of Maryland is separately challenging the Title X rules, in a case with 30 other states filed in Oregon. The entire U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will rehear the case.

General Assembly lawmakers passed a bill – along partisan lines – this year that will provide state funding to replace federal Title X family planning dollars. Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) allowed the bill to take effect without his signature. The state was expected to receive about $3.2 million in federal Title X funding this year, which it would pass on to eligible health care providers. Maryland will instead reject federal funding and fund programs at the same level using state money.

Planned Parenthood serves more than 40 percent of the country’s Title X patients.

Wen had confirmed to Politico on Monday night that the organization wouldn’t comply with the new rules and would begin using emergency funds.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) issued a statement praising Wen’s career after Tuesday’s announcement.

“I have witnessed her extraordinary leadership in public health both nationally and in Baltimore as the Baltimore City Health Commissioner. She is a voice for the voiceless and has been tremendously successful in her innovative and solution-minded approach to delivering the best health outcomes for those in need,” Cummings said. “Dr. Wen has made significant progress during her tenure as president of Planned Parenthood and I am certain that she will continue to be a tireless public health advocate in her next role.”

In her statement, Wen said she would “continue my life’s work and mission of caring for and fighting for women, families, and communities.”

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