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I Thanked Leana Wen, and I Meant It.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Dear Leana,

We’ve met. In the small town of Columbia, South Carolina, where there were no lines at the airport and maybe one flight out (ours) to DCA in the nation’s capital. I saw you eating dinner alone at the food court. A friend of mine recognized you and we immediately froze. You see, I had been protesting you all day at the Planned Parenthood Abortion Forum in South Carolina. Twenty Democratic Candidates had come out to profess their pro-abortion stance and turn the pain of abortion into a slogan, further fragmenting their campaigns away from the majority of America. I was leading a rally in the hot sun with more than 100 people from the local community outside of your air-conditioned forum, all outraged about what was taking place in their town. So, I guess in any other scenario one might consider us… enemies. Leana, I never want to consider you an enemy.


I am from Baltimore, born and raised. You were our health commissioner during the Baltimore Riots, and led efforts that helped men, women, and families receive their medication when pharmacies were burned down. Earlier this month, during your own painful loss of your child through miscarriage, in an article you reaffirmed your care for women and their health. While others in my profession mock you or throw your words back at you in that piece, I believe your words are genuine when you wrote, “If we truly care about the health of women, children and families, we must commit to policies that provide pregnant women with the care, humanity and dignity that all people deserve.” 

That’s why I went up to you in the airport in South Carolina that day. That’s why I told you what I did. I have no idea if you even remember, but what I said was sincere. I said, thank you. Thank you for all you’re trying to do for women. Thank you for dedicating your life to helping your patients. When we took our picture together, I was so nervous I could feel my heart beating in my back. I sweat from pores I didn’t know I had. I thought I would give myself away! There I was. Posing for a picture. Smiling. Chatting. You were the leader of the nation’s largest abortion vendor, the Goliath to our David, and I had the chance to tell you anything. But I opened with thank you, and I don’t regret it.

You might also remember that I didn’t leave our conversation there.

Leana, while we have like-minded goals, I let you know our paths to achieving them are different. I told you, abortion will not advance women, it will not truly help them. Like you, I care deeply to keep women safe, keep patients safe, and invest in our healthcare. That will not be achieved through abortion, and those are not Planned Parenthood’s goals.


I could go on about the countless women who are harmed during legal abortions, the terrible conditions of the Baltimore Planned Parenthood, failed health inspections there during your time as our Health Commissioner, or the women walking out of those doors on Howard Street sobbing because Planned Parenthood didn’t offer them any sort of prenatal services they actually needed – they walked in those doors with their child and walked out with no one.

I could try to explain what I think you already know. You didn’t lose a “potential life” as you described last month. You lost your beautiful, growing, living, second child. It’s painful because your child was real. He or she was there, growing inside of you. I can’t imagine that feeling, walking through doors of wherever you were with your child, and then suddenly walking out, with no one. I am so sorry for that.

In your op-ed in the New York Times talking about your departure from Planned Parenthood, you wrote that you did not want to treat those on the other side of this issue with “scorn and suspicion.” And I agree. Dr. Wen, I invite you to further explore the issue of abortion and how we can truly advance our healthcare and protection of women, especially in unplanned pregnancy situations. There are two patients who need your help when a woman is pregnant. Both the woman, and her child. The violent destruction of an existing human being, abortion, can never be categorized as healthcare in a humane society, and women deserve better than a procedure that rips their children away. Will you help us achieve that together as allies, not as enemies?



Michele Hendrickson

East Coast Field Director

Students for Life of America

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