Former Planned Parenthood Chief: Abortion Should Be ‘Rare’

Leana Wen and Sen. Richard Blumenthal in Washington, DC / Getty Images

Former Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen praised Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's (D., Hawaii) advocacy for "safe, legal, and rare" abortion at Tuesday night's Democratic debate.

In a tweet, Wen called the issue a "third rail for Democrats," adding that abortion supporters should focus more on reducing "the need for abortions by investing in prevention."

Wen's comments came after Gabbard identified herself as the only candidate on the debate stage who favored a "safe, legal, and rare" approach to abortion. President Bill Clinton coined the phrase in 1996 to encapsulate his views on the topic, and for a time it served as a mantra for the pro-choice movement and the Democratic Party more broadly.

By 2016, however, Clinton's wife Hillary, who was running for president, seemed ready to omit "rare" from the formulation. Hillary Clinton's campaign position came as the left in general shifted to a more stridently pro-abortion stance, leading to Gabbard's perceived estrangement from the rest of her party.

Planned Parenthood fired Wen in July after she attempted to steer the organization to focus more on "health care" during her eight-month tenure. After her ouster, Wen alleged the board held a "secret meeting" and determined she was not "political" enough for the group.

Wen wrote in a September letter to the Planned Parenthood board that she believed deemphasizing "abortion care is the best way to protect it." She also called out the "vocal minority" of national staff and board members "who prefer a stridently political, abortion-first philosophy."

Wen's ouster followed a series of setbacks for abortion advocates. Five states—Ohio, Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana, and Missouri—passed legislation restricting abortion availability in 2019, and a conservative-leaning Supreme Court is expected to once again take up the issue in the near future.

Planned Parenthood announced in early October a $45 million push to defeat pro-life candidates in the 2020 elections.