NO matter which side of the abortion issue one stands on, Faye Wattleton will be missed when she leaves her post as president of Planned Parenthood. To abortion-rights advocates, she has been articulate and magnetic as the most visible leader in the battle to preserve the right to abortion.
During Ms. Wattleton's 14-year tenure, Planned Parenthood's budget has gone from $90 million to $384 million, and the number of women served is up to 4.1 million from 1.1 million.
"Faye Wattleton has made a tremendous contribution to protecting the right to choose," says Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League. "She's an eloquent and dynamic spokeswoman whose organization has provided urgently needed health care to millions of American women."
Wattleton, who last week announced her plans to resign, has been the most public advocate of abortion as birth control. Critics say she has damaged the image of Planned Parenthood by putting so much emphasis on keeping abortion legal.
In a Monitor interview last summer, Wattleton hinted she might like to continue her work in other ways.
"My background," she said, "is in maternal-child health, and I would find it much more interesting to talk about how to develop new forms of birth control, how do we develop new curricula for sex education, how do we work to get parents doing a better job of educating their children about sexuality.
"Those are far more interesting subjects to me than politics ... because I don't think these are political issues. You cannot politically make a parent do what they're supposed to do.... You have to, through a course of work in society, change the environment and change the thinking."
Wattleton's resignation will take effect in April, when she becomes host of a television talk show on women's issues.