As Planned Parenthood’s new president, Leana Wen wants to focus on the organization’s health care services.
Wen told BuzzFeed News she hopes to see Planned Parenthood affiliates’ services expand to be able to treat issues such as depression or addiction, including increasing the number of Planned Parenthood centers that have naloxone, a drug that counters opioid overdoses. Wen, 35, is the first physician to lead Planned Parenthood in nearly 50 years.
“People aren’t coming to Planned Parenthood to make a political statement,” Wen told BuzzFeed News. “They’re coming because they need their vaccinations. They need their well women exams. They’re getting HIV tests.”
“The last thing I would want is people to get the impression that we are backing off of our core services,” she said. “What we will always be here to do is provide abortion access as part of the full spectrum of reproductive health care; it’s who we are. But we also recognize that for so many of our patients we are their only source of health care.”
Still, Wen told BuzzFeed she wants to continue the political work the organization has done, particularly with its involvement in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
Wen, who fled to the U.S. from China when she was only 8 years old, has been critical of the Trump administration. While she was Baltimore’s health commissioner, the Maryland city successfully sued the Trump administration after it cut funding to grants that went toward teen pregnancy prevention programs. Ultimately, a federal judge required the administration to restore about $5 million in grant money to the programs, The Baltimore Sun reported last year.
“I am hopeful that the value of science and evidence will continue to be recognized, and I look forward to continuing to fulfill our responsibility of protecting the health and ensuring the well-being of our youth,” Wen said at the time.
Wen succeeded Cecile Richards as head of Planned Parenthood in November. Richards was perceived as a more political leader and once referred to the Trump administration as “the worst for women that I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
Wen was also behind the website “Who’s My Doctor” in 2014 which was geared toward revealing information about doctors, including their political affiliations, views on abortion and whether they received any outside funding.
Planned Parenthood recently came under fire after employees accused the organization of mistreating some of its pregnant employees. Carolina Delgado, who previously worked in the Miami office, told The New York Times that it was “looked down upon for you to get pregnant.”
Ta’Lisa Hairston, who worked in a White Plains, New York, clinic, said her managers ignored medical notes recommending she take breaks and would rarely give her time for a lunch break.
“I believe we must do better than we are now,” Wen said in response to the allegations. “It’s our obligation to do better, for our staff, for their families and for our patients.”