Planned Parenthood on Tuesday removed its president after less than a year in the job, seeking new leadership at a time when abortion rights have come under increasing attack from statehouses and Republicans in Washington.
The move came after hours of negotiations Tuesday between the board of directors and the president, Leana Wen, according to two people familiar with the decision.
Dr. Wen had been the first physician to lead the organization in decades. The people familiar with the move said there had been internal strife over her management, and that the group felt it needed a more aggressive political leader to fight the efforts to roll back access to abortions.
The board voted unanimously on Tuesday to appoint Alexis McGill Johnson, the co-founder of the Perception Institute, an anti-bias research group, to temporarily replace Dr. Wen, the people said. Ms. McGill will serve as acting president and chief executive of both Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nonprofit that provides health care services, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, its political arm.
Dr. Wen wrote on Twitter after the news broke: “I just learned that the @PPFA Board ended my employment at a secret meeting. We were engaged in good faith negotiations about my departure based on philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood.”
In a joint statement, Aimee Cunningham and Jennie Rosenthal, the chairwomen of the two Planned Parenthood boards, said, “We thank Dr. Leana Wen for her service to Planned Parenthood in such a pivotal time and extend our best wishes for her continued success.”
Ms. McGill Johnson has served on Planned Parenthood’s board for nearly a decade, including previously as its chairwoman.
“I am proud to step in to serve as acting president and facilitate a smooth leadership transition in this critical moment for Planned Parenthood and the patients and communities we serve,’’ Ms. McGill Johnson said in a statement. “I thank Dr. Wen for her service and her commitment to patients.”
Dr. Wen’s brief tenure — she was appointed last September — has coincided with a fraught moment for abortion rights advocates, as Republican-controlled statehouses in Ohio, Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana and Missouri have all advanced legislation to restrict abortion, and in some cases effectively ban the procedure altogether.
The legislative push gained momentum after Brett M. Kavanaugh replaced Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court, giving conservatives a possible fifth vote to uphold new limits on abortion. The efforts have alarmed abortion rights groups worried about a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established federal protections for abortions.
Dr. Wen, a 36-year-old former health commissioner in Baltimore, was among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people earlier this year. But inside Planned Parenthood, there had been significant turnover at the top of the organization since her arrival.
She replaced the group’s longtime leader, Cecile Richards, who had been a forceful voice on the national stage for women in general and abortion rights in particular.