Who Is Dawn Laguens?
This article originally appeared in this issue of the WSR: 2018-04-04

By Jim Sedlak

As Cecile Richards wraps up her time as president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (she officially retires next month), Dawn Laguens (pronounced LaGANZ) has emerged as the interim public face of Planned Parenthood.

STOPP has received a number of questions about Laguens, her background, and her experience with Planned Parenthood, so we would like to share some facts about her.

According to Laguens’ official biography on Planned Parenthood’s website: “Ms. Laguens brings decades of experience in campaign strategy and message integration to Planned Parenthood, and is a CLIO award-winning writer and director. She has been one of the leading ballot measure consultants in America, having worked on a wide range of critical social issues. As the founder and president of LKK Partners, her clients included governors, members of the U.S. Senate and House, EMILY's List, the National Education Association, the Nature Conservancy, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Basic Rights Oregon, and Freedom to Marry, to mention just a few.”

In other words. Laguens was brought into Planned Parenthood in 2010 not for her healthcare knowledge or experience, but for her political acumen. In fact, we were unable to find anything in her background that even hinted of healthcare. According to her former partners at LKK, Laguens joined Planned Parenthood as “executive vice president of public policy and communications.” She held this position with both Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Her former partners founded a new organization in 2011 called 76 Words that carried on political activity in the 2016 elections, including activity in support of the Clinton campaign.

Laguens first appeared as a highly paid employee on the PPFA Federal Form 990 for 2012-2013. On that form she was listed as the chief experience officer with a total income of $399,105. The 2015-2016 Form 990 still lists her as the chief experience officer, but with a total income of $635,126. That’s a 59 percent increase in just three years.

PPFA describes her current position and accomplishments:

Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF), directs Planned Parenthood’s message, political and policy strategies—leading the organization’s work to defend access to care for millions of patients and advance reproductive rights and freedoms for all. Under her leadership, Planned Parenthood celebrated its Centennial, trained thousands of young diverse leaders, expanded access to care in underserved communities in the South, and grew Planned Parenthood's supporters to over 11 million. Ms. Laguens also spearheaded innovative efforts to keep a century-old brand relevant for the next generation, and changing the way our culture views sex, health and equality. Among other projects, Ms. Laguens led the production of Across the Line, an award-winning virtual reality experience that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival.

Across the Line is a hit piece on pro-life sidewalk advocates. It purports to show the experience of a woman going into Planned Parenthood having to face a group of unruly pro-lifers screaming at and intimidating her. For anyone who has spent time on the sidewalk outside of Planned Parenthood facilities, we know that what is represented in the video is not typical of what actually occurs outside these killing centers. What really happens is that caring individuals offer real help and assistance to women who have problems to overcome so they will see no need to kill their child. But that wouldn’t have the theatrical or political effect that Laguens’ film was trying to accomplish.

Cecile Richards credited Laguens for sending the Planned Parenthood Pink Bus to selected cities across the United States in 2011. Richards called it a “genius” idea. We covered the PP Pink Bus tour efforts in the Wednesday STOPP Report and discovered that the bus was mostly a flop. It had few riders and almost no one showed up to greet the bus after its first couple of stops.

In addition to her work with Planned Parenthood, Laguens is a member of the board of directors of LPAC, which describes itself as “the first lesbian Political Action Committee, with the mission of advancing women’s and LGBTQ equality by working to influence the current political and social landscape and to give lesbians a real and meaningful seat at the political table.”

She was a speaker at the March 2018 5th Annual Lesbians Who Tech + Allies Summit. The title of her talk was Sex & Tech: Innovating to Up-End the System.

Laguens’ LPAC biography gives her credit for “leading the successful campaign to defeat the Pence amendment, a congressional effort to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s access to federal funding. Since then she has shaped (Planned Parenthood’s) message and strategy through the Komen Foundation’s defunding of Planned Parenthood affiliates, defending insurance coverage for birth control, and helping to reelect President Barack Obama.”

In her private life Laguens is described as the mother of triplets (which her female partner helped her raise).

For readers interested in learning more about Dawn Laguens’ ideas and philosophies, we recommend her articles in the Huffington Post.

You can also get an idea of how she approaches the topic of sex with her children and their friends here. If my children were friends with her children, it would not be okay that “Their friends come over and I [Dawn] ask ‘Do you and your parents talk about sex and sexuality?’ and my kids’ eyes are as big as saucers.”

Jim Sedlak is vice president of American Life League, founder of STOPP International, and host of a weekly talk show on the Radio Maria Network. He has been successfully fighting Planned Parenthood since 1985.