Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood, on Healthcare

On her first day in the job, the new head of Planned Parenthood Dr. Leana Wen joins the program to discuss what the organization means to her and its role in a country where healthcare is at the center of political debate.

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LEANA WEN: We are at a state of emergency for women’s health in this country. We’re facing a situation where in the Supreme Court we could see Roe versus Wade overturned or further eroded. There have been 400 laws passed in states over the last seven years that directly restrict a woman’s right to her own body and her health. And these laws were passed not based on medicine. Actually, medical groups and public health leaders oppose these laws. These are passed based on politics. And we know that the American people oppose this. We don’t want the government, politicians in the exam room to making decisions about our personal health, but this is what’s happening. We’re facing a situation where 25 million women, which is a third of women of reproductive age in this country, could be living in states where abortion is banned or criminalized. We also are seeing that in the U.S., we are the only industrialized country where the rate of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth is increasing, that African-American women are four times more likely to die in childbirth than 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than White women. These are profound health disparities. And as a doctor, I believe that it’s my moral imperative, it’s our moral imperative to provide health care to everyone, fight these disparities. That’s what Planned Parenthood has been doing for over 100 years and that’s why our country needs Planned Parenthood now more than ever.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Dr. Wen, I’m curious to know what, if any, influence the nature of your own country, where you came from, China, in this regard has on your on your thoughts right now as a physician and particularly when it comes to women’s care, the laws that had forced abortions, forced sterilizations, feticide, infanticide in China was so draconian that I wonder if that is spilled over into your consciousness and how you take that memory or knowledge into the job that you do right now?

WEN: Very much so. I left China with my parents just before my eighth birthday. We are fortunate to be able to stay in the U.S. on political asylum. My father was jailed in China for being a political dissident. And China has laws that deprive women of their bodily autonomy. The U.S. has laws that deprive women of their bodily autonomy, and this is what I will fight with every last breath. I believe that all people should have the right to something as basic as our bodies and our health. Look, you could have your own beliefs about what you want to do about your health but don’t impose it on other people. I believe this deeply as a person, as an immigrant, as a woman and as a doctor.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks with Professor of History Timothy Snyder, President of Planned Parenthood Leana Wen and forensic pathologist Judy Melinek. Hari Sreenivasan speaks with journalist and author Kurt Eichenwald.