Planned Parenthood’s Executive Vice President Resigns

Dawn Laguens
Photo by Lorie Shaull

It's a new era at Planned Parenthood as Dawn Laguens, second in command to former president Cecile Richards, resigned and will leave the organization in December. She was the Executive Vice President in charge of branding, experience and politics. Interestingly, she is the second big defection to happen this year after Richards resigned in January 2018.

Laguens' decision to step down signifies that the century old organization is likely going in a different direction. Recruited by Richards in 2010, Dawn Laguens has played an instrumental role in helping secure and direct Planned Parenthood's political and policy strategy, known as Planned Parenthood's Action Fund. Dawn was also key in spearheading new branding that helped modernize the look and logo. She also had considerable influence in the organization, and was the acting president as a committee searched for a new president. Her resignation indicates a couple of things.

It shows that the organization is planning on moving in a different direction, i.e. less politics and more healthcare. This could be good optics for Planned Parenthood, which has faced stiff opposition to its business at the federal and state level. The appointment of Dr. Leana Wen, a trained emergency room physician, was likely in reaction to these increasing healthcare and policy pressures. In reaction, Planned Parenthood is likely going to try to increase its general reproductive and primary medical care services, which have decreased significantly over the years.

This directional shift could mean that at least some of Planned Parenthood's political influence will suffer as the organization goes in a different direction. Planned Parenthood has survived in many ways because of its incredible political power in the Democratic Party. Moving in a different direction means that there will likely be a decrease in Planned Parenthood's ability to command the same level of political influence over time since the organization has lost the two leaders who were the most politically active.

The hiring of Dr. Wen and Laguens' decision to resign likely means that the way Planned Parenthood conducts its public relations efforts will change. Expect to see an organization that strives to demonstrate an air of authority on healthcare matters, and will probably be slightly less politically combatant, especially when it comes to abortion. Although they will still file lawsuits and fight for reproductive rights, they may try to go in a slightly softer direction.

As a result, to a certain extent the organization may struggle to adjust under new leadership, as most organizations do. The additional goal of refocusing on healthcare will likely be a challenge to what has become a mostly politically driven organization. It would not be surprising if there were some decline in private donations, although the supposed "threat" of the Trump Administration might be a be a catalyst to keep the donations coming.

There is also the possibility that the numerous scandals under the leadership of Cecile and Dawn have forced Planned Parenthood to abandon two of its biggest stars. To a certain extent the decision to go with a physician with a limited amount of political experience as the new president was surprising, but also encouraging for pro-life supporters. It shows that the nation's largest abortion provider is scared. The government and taxpayers, who fund a third of Planned Parenthood's budget, have seriously considered defunding their operation and studies show that more young adults are embracing the pro-life cause. Perceptions are changing, and Planned Parenthood is feeling the pressure.

The resignation of Dawn Laguens created much less fanfare than Cecile's, but her resignation is perhaps just as significant. She was an influential figure behind-the-scenes in the organization who helped redesign the brand and increase Planned Parenthood's considerable political power. Her resignation is definitely a blow and, hopefully, shows that the future of the nation's largest abortion provider is in doubt.

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