Planned Parenthood’s Deception: Former Abortion Workers Share Ex-Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen’s Disillusionment

Like Wen, they learned to their dismay that ‘Planned Parenthood only cared about abortion,’ not on providing a broad range of health care to women in need.

Leana Wen, former president of Planned Parenthood, speaks during a press conference on the reintroduction of the "Women's Health Protection Act at the House Triangle of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on May 23, 2019.
Leana Wen, former president of Planned Parenthood, speaks during a press conference on the reintroduction of the "Women's Health Protection Act at the House Triangle of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on May 23, 2019. (photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty)

In her recent book, former Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen outlined how her vision of expanding mainstream health-care options at the nation’s largest abortion provider led the group to part ways with her in favor of a continued focus on abortion advocacy. 

Several former Planned Parenthood workers who have since become pro-life told the Register that they had similar experiences of being dedicated to providing health care to women in need, but becoming disillusioned with Planned Parenthood as they realized that the focus was on abortion. 

In her book titled Lifelines, Wen — the first physician to head the abortion giant — discussed how, prior to accepting the job at Planned Parenthood, she thought “many patients depended on Planned Parenthood as their only source of care.” As a result, she wondered, “why shouldn’t the organization expand its services to provide primary care and mental health care, too? Planned Parenthood was one of few health-care providers with a presence in all fifty states — why shouldn’t it aim to extend its care to millions more women and families in rural and urban underserved areas?” 

When she was approached about becoming president, she accepted only when the board affirmed her vision of “a health-care organization first, with the advocacy as a necessary vehicle to protect rights and access.” But that vision was questioned almost immediately, as she recounted being chastised for not mentioning the word “abortion” in her first media appearance and concerns being raised that it was “a signal that I didn’t want to defend access to abortion.”

She also sympathized with women who “felt fortunate to have access to abortion care, but they would much rather never have had to go through any of it.” Yet when she described “the heart-wrenching decisions of patients such as these,” she was told that “I was once again stigmatizing women.” She described struggling with the “pro-abortion” mentality when it meant ignoring the “very real lived experiences” of women who would rather not have had an abortion.

Prior to Wen being forced out after just eight months with the organization, she wrote that it was “controversial to express any doubt about abortion, even those done later in pregnancy for nonmedical reasons. These are exceedingly rare and opposed by the vast majority of Americans.” She said she learned that “concern about a slippery slope drove abortion-rights groups to resist all restrictions. They feared that allowing limits to third-trimester abortions could open the door to the same for the second trimester, and so forth.”

Despite her realization of the group’s exclusive focus on abortion advocacy, Wen closed that chapter of her book with praise for Planned Parenthood’s “lifesaving, life-transforming care in extraordinarily challenging circumstances.” 

 

Abortion Quotas

Others who exited the group told the Register about their experiences with its extreme abortion focus and why they have become pro-life since leaving the abortion industry.

Caroline Strzesynski, a nurse practitioner, worked for 11 years at Planned Parenthood of Northwest Ohio, but left around eight years ago after the affiliate merged with Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. She told the Register that her affiliate did not provide abortion, but after the merger happened, she learned that the managers were meeting to discuss abortion quotas. She was told abortion was “how we make our money,” and the idea that it was just a small part of what the group does is “what we want the public to believe.” 

“The affiliate I was with actually provided prenatal services,” she said. “We had an agreement with a local midwife group who would come in and they would go to the health department, and then another inner-city clinic, too, where they would provide pregnancy services.” The organization’s focus even affected her own access to care, as she “saw those midwives until I was about six-months pregnant with my first, and it was at that time that then our new CEO ended up eliminating the prenatal program at our office; and so when I was six-months pregnant, I actually had to find another place to go to get my prenatal care.”

Strzesynski said she started out at Planned Parenthood with a very “pro-choice” stance, but joining a church community and having her first child began to shift her views. She said the day she learned about the abortion quotas, “that’s when I set sail from there, and I was done.”

“I would not have worked for a place that their intentions were to increase abortion numbers — that was the total opposite of what my thinking was,” she added. “Even as a pro-choice individual, that is unacceptable.” She said she and the other staff “were mission-driven: We really were about preventative health. It’s when we started merging with the other affiliates that then the abortion piece started creeping in more.”

She sympathized with Wen, saying, “You leave, but it’s not like you’re all of a sudden pro-life ... you really have to undo some things.” She had previously believed that pregnancy-care centers were deceptive and harmful to women, but when she was exposed to them after leaving Planned Parenthood, she was struck by how many more resources they offered than what she had been able to provide at Planned Parenthood. Strzesynski said that they “can absolutely fill the void of the needs of the community in a pro-life, loving way.” Shortly after her own departure, Wen actually recognized the work of pregnancy centers, as well, tweeting support for resources offered by a pro-life pregnancy center in Tennessee and calling it “the kind of common ground that all who support women, children and families should agree on.”

Myra Neyer, who formerly worked as a surgical assistant at a Planned Parenthood facility in Baltimore and left in 2014, told the Register that Wen “needs a lot of prayer, first of all because, at some point in time, all of us that worked in the abortion industries were disillusioned, and we still had that ‘it’s my body, my choice’ mentality.”

She said she started at Planned Parenthood thinking she was going to be helping women with things like cancer screenings and family planning, with “abortion also being a part of it, but I didn’t think it was such a big part of it until I started working there and realized that it was all abortion.” Neyer described “a quota we had to meet every day. We scheduled 50 abortions a day, and it was all about abortion, and it didn’t matter what that woman wanted in that counseling room — my job was to change her mind.” 

She quit after witnessing a woman being coerced by her boyfriend to abort quadruplets. “Watching four babies lose their lives to abortion,” she said, “I was just like, ‘What am I doing?’”

“When I left, it took a while for me to take the stand that I take now on abortion — where it’s not okay at all,” she said. “It’s so hard to break away from that because the excuse is ‘How about rape? How about incest?’  We’ve had to deprogram ourselves because they make you think that this is good for women.”

 

‘Not About Health Care’

Annette Lancaster, who from 2015 to 2016 was a health-center manager at Planned Parenthood in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, told the Register that her experience was very close to what Wen described in her book. “I started working at Planned Parenthood as a health-center manager under the assumption and auspices that I would be helping women. I knew that they performed abortions, but at that point in my life, I had never really been directly impacted by it, so I was neither pro-choice nor pro-life,” she said. 

“After working there just a few weeks, I started to realize that it was not about health care for women. Their major bottom line was all about money received from abortions.”

As health-center manager, Lancaster’s role was supposed to be administrative duties, but she said that “after being there just a short period of time, I found myself in the procedure room not only assisting the health-care assistants and the abortionist, but I was actually holding the ultrasound for day-two procedures. I am not certified. I do not have any type of medical training or medical certification.” 

“After the day-two procedures, we would have to piece back together the baby to make sure that everything was removed from the mother’s uterus,” she continued. “I’m not certified or trained to do this, but I knew what two arms, two legs and a torso and a skull look like, and I literally had an abortionist show me one time, ‘This is what it should look like: These are all the pieces that you’re looking for.’ That was it. 

“So basically, I’m signing off saying all these pieces are here; mom’s good to go. What happens if she comes back, and there was something left inside of her womb? I’m not trained. I wasn’t trained to be doing that.” That part of her former job “still haunts me to this day,” she added.

Lancaster remained at Planned Parenthood for nine months until she was told she was being terminated, but at that point, she had already planned to resign. “Senior leadership started reprimanding me because my abortion numbers were going down,” she said. “They were going down because I actually started listening to women and talking to them. Women who came in who were uncertain about their decision, I would either cancel their appointment or reschedule. 

“Our numbers were dropping, and so I began to ask the question: ‘Are we stat-driven? Do we have a quota?’” 

She was told there was no quota, but she continued to be “written up for not meeting my abortion numbers.” She said, at that point, she “still was neither pro-choice, nor pro-life,” but “frustrated at the fact that we were telling people we gave women an option; but, in reality, I saw that we did not. We were coercing women; we were basically forcing their hand.” 

After leaving and reaching out to Abby Johnson’s organization And Then There Were None, she said, “within a week or two, I became staunchly pro-life.” 

 

Fired for Complaining About Violations

Mayra Rodriguez, who was formerly a director of three Planned Parenthood facilities in Arizona, won a $3-million lawsuit against Planned Parenthood for wrongful termination after alleging that she was falsely accused of having narcotics in her desk following her repeated complaints about the safety violations of an abortionist. 

Rodriguez, who was Planned Parenthood’s 2016 employee of the year and worked there for 17 years, told the Register that, for the majority of her years with Planned Parenthood, she directed Title X businesses, which “are the clinics that are supposed to be handling preventative care, well-women exams, STDs, preventative care, birth control, pregnancy tests.” She said initially she “had nothing to do with abortion because those Title X clinics, as a rule, were not supposed to be mixed with abortion in order to keep receiving the funds.”

When she took over at the Planned Parenthood in Arizona, she “quickly started noticing things that I didn’t know were happening in the abortion clinics.” She became alarmed, seeing “the abortionist was breaking the laws and regulations in place to protect women.” Rodriguez complained about the abortionist forgetting “a 14-week baby head inside the woman and refusing to go back until I literally forced him,” and she said she was “fired because their interest was to protect the abortionist.”

“The reason I took them to court was to prove my case, to prove that they were in fact protecting the abortionist because all they cared about was abortion,” she said. “They didn’t care about the loyal 17-year director that had been with them through rain and storms. So, in a way, I know the deception she [Wen] had, because by being the director of the abortion clinic, it opened my eyes that Planned Parenthood only cared about abortion. They didn’t care about their staff members. They didn’t care about the patients. They only cared about the money.”

Going into the job, Rodriguez said she “was pro-abortion if other women chose that,” but not for herself or her daughter. She said that changed after “managing that abortion clinic and seeing the harm to women, seeing all the consequences ... all the possible complications that actually were more frequent than they would like to tell people: the perforations that happen a lot more frequently; the women not being able to have children in the future; the women going into depression; and seeing the women come back for one after the other. A woman after her first abortion is guaranteed to be a ‘repeater.’”

“Today, I am very much pro-life,” she said. “Women are being sold these ideas — that ‘having an abortion will fix your life’ — and then all they’re getting is sucked into a system that will make them keep having abortions.”

An aerial view of the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka, Kansas.

State Ballot Initiatives on Abortion (Aug. 13)

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade’s false assertion that abortion is a federally protected ‘right,’ the question of regulating abortion in America has returned once again to the 50 states. Many legislators and citizens will be faced with decisions on this important topic in the coming months. This week on Register Radio, we are joined by Paul Linton, a Catholic attorney and author of ‘Abortion Under State Constitutions,’ to discuss upcoming state battles on abortion. And then we talk with Alyssa Murphy, the Managing Editor of NCRegister.com, with a roundup of the stories you won’t want to miss.