In the April 2016 edition of The Bulletin of Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU), President Marylou Yam announced the commencement speaker for graduation exercises this Sunday May 22, 2016, would be Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. Dr. Wen, pictured at left in blue holding the sign, will receive an honorary degree from the university.
A few sentences on Dr. Wen’s biographical data is included. Areas focused on include her work with youth health and wellness, opioid overdose prevention, and violence prevention.
Some of Dr. Wen’s other advocacy work, that goes against Catholic teaching, remains unmentioned:
- She is a supporter of federal funding for Planned Parenthood and wrote that the group is “saving lives”
- She is health commissioner in a city that has taken action to persecute pro-life pregnancy centers.
- She has been praised by the local NARAL director and the director of the Baltimore Abortion Fund.
- She supports giving contraceptives to elementary school students at city schools without their parents’ consent.
- She wrote that physician-assisted suicide is an “important aspect of care” and that “assisted death” is “compassionate.”
If you want to let Dr. Marylou Yam know what you think about Dr. Leana Wen being honored by NDMU, you can email her at email@example.com or call her office at 410-532-5300.
She was appointed to her post by Mayor Stephanie-Rawlings Blake in late 2014. Rawlings-Blake has been a long-time friend of both Planned Parenthood and NARAL. As City Council President, Rawlings-Blake introduced legislation regulating pro-life pregnancy centers that became law. The law required the centers to post signage saying that they did not provide referrals for abortions or face penalties. The Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns filed a federal lawsuit. The law is not currently being enforced until the matter is settled.
Dr. Wen’s City Department of Health falls under the purview of Deputy Mayor Dawn Kirstaetter. Kirstaetter served as the executive director of a Berea, Kentucky affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She was also President of the Kentucky Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates.
Her message read (emphasis added):
As a doctor, I applaud Planned Parenthood for improving health and saving lives. As a public health leader, I join officials across Maryland including Congressman Van Hollen, State Senator Nathan-Pulliam, and Delegate Rosenberg to #standwithPP. As a woman and a citizen, I am proud to stand strong for #pinkoutday to support reproductive rights.
In June 2015, she wrote a letter to Members of Congress asking them not to cut funding to Title X programs including Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. Wen said the cuts “would have grave impacts on Baltimore’s public health.”
Dr. Wen was praised by the director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and the board president of the Baltimore Abortion Fund in a letter to the editor in The Baltimore Sun in June 2015. The writers thanked Wen for increasing the availability of contraceptives in city schools. They also chastised City Councilman Carl Stokes, who compared offering Norplant and Nexplanon in city schools to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. Stokes also was criticized in the letter for calling the issue of giving out contraceptives without parental consent a violation of parents’ rights.
That letter came after a news story that Wen’s health department had started implanting Nexplanon in girls at health centers in Baltimore City Schools. Nexplanon is a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) like Norplant. Baltimore City Schools were the first in the nation to provide Norplant for students in the 1980s.
LARCs are not the only contraceptives being distributed at the health centers in city schools. Condoms, oral birth control pills, Ortho Evra patches, Depo-Provera shots, NuvaRing, and Plan B are also available in the school-based health centers.
Despite claims to the contrary by some activists, the Food & Drug Administration requires labeling for Plan B to note that the “morning-after pill” as it is known can inhibit ovulation or implantation. NuvaRing has been the subject of controversy and lawsuits related to pulmonary embolisms that led to the disabling and death of women using it.
African-American ministers have also been critical of the Implantation of Norplant and Nexplanon in Baltimore City schools. One of them, Rev. Gregory Perkins, even made allegations of racism and asked why African-American girls were being targeted.
Dr. Leana Wen is also well-known for starting “Who’s My Doctor?” which advocates for the Total Transparency Initiative. Among other things, this initiative wants doctors to disclose information about payments from pharmaceutical companies and other sources of potential conflicts of interest.
One author writing for Forbes was critical of the part of that initiative that asks doctors do disclose their political viewpoints. Wen responded with a list of views on healthcare issues that were all that was included in that disclosure. Two of them were “end-of-life care” and “women’s health.” We already know that Dr. Wen advocates for positions against church teachings on women’s health. In 2006, Leana Wen was president of the American Medical Association. She made a statement then that “physician-assisted suicide is an important aspect of care” and that “assisted death is an extension of compassionate medical care.”
Despite her advocacy for positions against church teachings, Dr. Leana Wen is scheduled to receive an honorary degree and speak at commencement exercises on the morning of May 22, 2016 at Royal Farms Arena
NDMU was founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1873. It became the first Catholic four-year college for women in 1896.
Other graduation speakers at Catholic schools
The University of Notre Dame in Indiana was criticized for plans to honor Vice President Joe Biden at its commencement this year. After the controversy ensued, former House Speaker Boehner was also invited as a joint recipient of the Laetare Award. Previously. the school in Indiana was criticized for honoring President Barack Obama at its graduation.
The Cardinal Newman Society has more on Catholic colleges and their graduation speakers.