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Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen Explains Why She Wouldn't Call Herself a 'Pro-Abortion Person'

AP Photo/Steven Senne

Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen spoke with Politico’s Dan Diamond Wednesday and explained why she doesn’t describe herself as a “pro-abortion person.” She also responded to criticism over Planned Parenthood claiming abortion is just three percent of what they do and said she thinks the backlash over Gov. Ralph Northam’s comments on abortion is a "manufactured crisis."


Diamond asked Wen if she had “any sort of relationship with anti-abortion advocates,” such as Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser, or would sit down for coffee with them.

In response, Wen contested his terminology, saying “I think it’s accurate to say that they’re anti-abortion people but it would not be accurate to say that I am a pro-abortion person.”

“That doesn’t make sense to me, in the same way that you would never call a cardiologist pro-cardiac stenting, pro-cardiac surgery,” she explained. “I am for the full range of healthcare services that a patient needs in their lives.”

“But as Planned Parenthood’s leader aren’t you the most prominent leader in the abortion rights fight?” Diamond asked. “You’re out there fighting for access to abortion among other things?”

“Absolutely and I think that’s the right terminology that we are pro-abortion access, we are pro-reproductive healthcare,” she replied. “We are pro the full range of services for women’s health and for all people. We believe in healthcare as a fundamental human right that is guaranteed to all, regardless of ability to pay, immigrant status etc.”

When asked again if she would meet with those opposed to Planned Parenthood’s abortion services, she said, “I would be happy to engage anyone who stands with us on the importance of getting care to all people.”


Wen said that those opposed to Planned Parenthood due to abortion, “don’t understand medical care.”

“In medical care, we don’t see abortion as one thing, abortion is part of the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare,” she emphasized. “Abortion may be just over three percent of the total services that we provide but that is a core part of what we do, that’s healthcare.”

Diamond pointed out that “fact checkers and anti-abortion groups” have called the three percent statistic “misleading.”

A Washington Post fact check called the group’s three percent statistic “misleading” in 2015 because Planned Parenthood “treats each service — pregnancy test, STD test, abortion, birth control — equally,” despite the “obvious difference between a surgical (or even medical) abortion, and offering a urine (or even blood) pregnancy test. These services are not all comparable in how much they cost or how extensive the service or procedure is.”

They added that it was “unfortunate that the public has limited access to data about the organization. Planned Parenthood could end the speculation–and Pinocchios–by providing a more transparent breakdown of its clients, referrals and sources of revenues.”


“The equivalent would be saying like at a movie theater there may be only 40 screenings of the movie that day but there’s a lot more popcorn sold,” Diamond pointed out to Wen regarding the statistic. “You would never say that the movie theater, three percent of its activities are movies. Movies are the thing that gets people to the movie theater. So the idea that Planned Parenthood is only doing three percent of its services as abortion, isn’t it fair to say that abortion is the core goal of what you’re doing?”

Despite saying moments earlier in the interview that abortion is “a core part of what we do,” Wen contested that representation.

“I don’t think that that’s an accurate representation,” she said. “The accurate representation of what we at Planned Parenthood do is reproductive healthcare, abortion is part of reproductive healthcare. It’s important for us to contextualize abortion as one of the many aspects of reproductive healthcare which is standard healthcare. The way that we calculate our percentages is the same as any other healthcare system that I’ve ever worked for. That’s standard practice within medicine and that’s what we follow.”

Diamond invoked Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s recent comments on abortion, asking “do you understand why the imagery and the idea has inflamed so many on the anti-abortion side?”


“It’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that’s nonviable,” Northam told WTOP of third trimester abortions. “So in this particular example, if a mother’s in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

“These are lies,” Wen responded of the pro-life backlash to the governor’s remarks, “this is a manufactured crisis that’s not based on medical reality and I want to explain what that medical reality is. The medical reality is that 99 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks and those that occur later are because of extreme circumstances like grave danger to a woman’s life and fetal demise.”

According to the most recently available 2014 data from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, Wen is correct that only 1.3 percent of women have abortions after 21 weeks, however, that still comes to just over 12,000 abortions a year.

Additionally, The Guttmacher Institute cited a study from 2013 that found “most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.”


“I actually want to address Virginia and New York people have talked about this in I would say also misleading ways, what’s actually happening is that in the last seven years there have been over 400 bills signed into law that directly restrict abortion access,” Wen added.

She cited laws that require “forced ultrasounds, forced waiting periods,” claiming that “what the legislators are doing in New York and in Virginia and states around the country is to pass pro-active legislation to repeal these bad policies.”

The Virginia bill, HB 2491, would’ve reduced the number of doctors necessary to certify the need for a late term abortion from three to just one but also would've allowed an abortion after the second trimester for virtually any “mental or physical health” reason. 

Northam, a pediatric neurologist, actually disagreed with the reduction in the amount of doctors when discussing the bill.

“I think it’s always good to get a second opinion and for at least two providers to be involved in that decision because these decisions shouldn’t be taken lightly,” he told WTOP.

Del. Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax) said that her bill would allow abortion even after the onset of labor in a now-viral video which received widespread backlash. She later claimed that she “misspoke.”


The One World Trade Center was lit up pink in New York last month to celebrate the “Reproductive Health Act” becoming law. The measure, among other things, allows abortion at “any time” to protect “a patient’s life or health” and removes criminal penalties for abortion. 

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