Dr. Leana Wen Quotes On Reproductive Rights Show She's A Vocal Champion Of Women's Health
On Wednesday, Baltimore's health commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen, was named the new president of Planned Parenthood. And Wen's quotes about reproductive health show that she firmly believes in a woman's right to make medical decisions for herself. It's a big move for Planned Parenthood; the organization announced on Twitter that it would be the first time in almost 50 years that a doctor would lead the group.
Prior to Wen, Cecile Richards spearheaded Planned Parenthood for 12 years. While Wen hails from a medical background, Richards had once worked in Washington, D.C., as a staff member for the Democratic party. Her mother, Ann Richards, was the former governor of Texas.
In a short clip uploaded by Planned Parenthood on Wednesday, Wen talked about her upbringing and how she came to the United States at the age of 8. Her parents only had $40 at the time, she said. As her family relied on Medicaid, food stamps, and Planned Parenthood, Wen said she began to realize how she wanted to become an emergency physician. "I never wanted to turn patients away," she said in the video.
Over time, in interviews and her own articles, Wen has made her stance on reproductive health for women abundantly clear: Reproductive health care is a non-negotiable right. Here are some of her quotes proving just that.
1. A Right, Not Privilege
In July, Wen wrote in The Baltimore Sun a grim and eye-opening assessment of the state of reproductive health under the Trump administration.
"Reproductive health is a critical part of every woman’s health care," Wen wrote. "Standard medical care should be based on science, not ideology. The fundamental right to health cannot be a privilege reserved only for those who can afford it."
2. Calling Out The Trump Administration
In her Baltimore Sun article, Wen lambasted the Trump administration for attacking Baltimore's efforts to prevent teen pregnancy in 2017. "Baltimore City filed suit against the Trump administration for cutting our evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program," Wen wrote. "This new proposal would compound effects of the cut, roll back gains to health and opportunity, and fundamentally change the landscape of reproductive health and the clinician-patient relationship."
3. Slamming The Gag Rule
The new Planned Parenthood president has also blasted the Trump administration for the "gag rule" which threatens to cut American funding from non-American health groups and non-profits for mentioning or providing abortion services. In her Baltimore Sun piece, Wen wrote, "The choice between censoring our providers and denying care to vulnerable women is not one that anyone should have to make."
4. Promising To Keep Up The Good Fight
Shortly after Planned Parenthood announced that Wen would be its new president, she wrote on Facebook, "I depended on Planned Parenthood for medical care at various times in my own life, and as a public health leader, I have seen firsthand the lifesaving work it does for our most vulnerable communities."
"As a doctor," Wen vowed, "I will ensure we continue to provide high-quality health care, including the full range of reproductive care, and will fight to protect the access of millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood."
5. Supporting Better Maternal Health Care
Wen is also a huge supporter of providing better avenues of health care and support for mothers. In an NPR article titled "It Shouldn't Be This Hard For Moms To Find Comfortable Places To Pump," Wen discussed the need for more robust maternal health and social care for mothers seeking to breastfeed their babies.
"The decision to start or stop breastfeeding should be made freely by the mother and be based on full knowledge and what is best for her, not because of workplace constraints or misleading advertising," Wen wrote.
6. Collective Effort
In the same NPR piece, Wen also said, "We must all do what we can to support women by advocating for policies like lactation accommodation, paid family leave, universal healthcare, and quality, affordable, early child care."
7. Rallying Support For Title X
Wen is unmistakably clear about her support for the federal family planning program known as Title X. Under Trump's "gag rule," health providers that fall into the Title X category could lose their funding, consequently hurting their patients. In an interview with WYPR, Wen said, "It specifically funds thing like breast and cervical screening, testing for STDs, and very importantly, evidence-based affordable birth control."
Went added that one in three women in Baltimore relied on the Title X program for birth control and other medical services. She said that 23 clinics in the city run on the program's funding. Without the program, vulnerable women will lose access to and awareness about safe abortion services as Wen said that "clinicians can no longer refer pregnant women to legal, evidence-based reproductive health choices."
Additionally, Wen said the Trump presidency was "de-emphasizing" the importance of other contraceptive care, such as condoms or IUDs, through its attacks on Title X. It's that kind of "heavily censored script" that the doctor is deeply concerned about.
8. Standing Her Ground
In her WYPR interview, Wen made clear that navigating reproductive health care is first and foremost a patient's right, not anyone else's. "I don't think the government has any role in getting between a doctor and a patient or a nurse and a patient," she said. It's empirical observation and evidence that should govern science, she said, "not ideology."
Wen's thoughts on reproductive health care goes beyond this list. Her admirers are stoked to see her take charge of Planned Parenthood, including Richards, who tweeted after the announcement.
"[Wen] has dedicated her career to fighting for health care for all, both as a doctor and as a public health leader in the city of Baltimore," Richards said on Twitter. "I know she'll be a champion for Planned Parenthood patients and for women, men, and young people everywhere."