U.S. (CBS) — Planned Parenthood announced on Tuesday that it had removed its president, Dr. Leana Wen, effectively immediately, following months of conflict with the board over the direction of the organization, sources close to the situation told CBS News. Dr. Wen’s departure comes after less than one year on the job and at a pivotal time for abortion access in America.
In a statement released on Twitter, Dr. Wen addressed her exit, adding that negotiations over her departure had begun prior to Tuesday’s announcement.
“I am leaving because the new Board Chairs and I have philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood,” Dr. Wen wrote in a statement. “It has been an honor and privilege to serve alongside out dedicated doctors, nurses, clinicians, staff, and volunteers who are on the frontlines of health care in our country.”
Dr. Wen’s short time at Planned Parenthood was tumultuous, said three sources familiar with the situation who cited leadership and management issues. Four senior leaders at Planned Parenthood, including the group’s former Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs, departed the organization during her tenure. To fill those roles, these sources said, Dr. Wen brought in former colleagues and friends despite internal objections.
There were also concerns with Dr. Wen’s statements in public appearances and on social media. Multiple speeches and tweets included inaccuracies that later had to be corrected, two sources told CBS News on Tuesday afternoon.
In late May, Dr. Wen came under fire for her repeated claim that “thousands” of women died receiving abortions prior to the procedure becoming legalized, a statistic that one source familiar says Dr. Wen was repeatedly told to stop using because it wasn’t true. Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler debunked the statistic, rating it four out of five “Pinocchios.”
A spokesperson for Dr. Wen could not immediately respond to the claims.
Alexis McGill Johnson, the co-founder of the Perception Institute, will temporarily fill the role, and Planned Parenthood will begin searching for a permanent president early next year. “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,” Johnson said in a statement.
The leadership change-up comes at a time when abortion access has become less certain. So far this year, states across the country have passed more than 300 pieces of anti-abortion access legislation, more than any other year, according to data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights research organization. Many of those new laws, including the wave of so-called “heartbeat bans,” are in conflict with Roe v. Wade, and are designed to potentially overturn the Supreme Court’s landmark decision.