All abortion debates are eternal. Within the abortion-rights movement, there are long-standing tensions between the absolutists and the incrementalists, the uncompromising progressives and the cautious voices.

And right now, as in the rest of American politics, the unapologetically progressive voices are ascendant.

I recently reached out to three former Planned Parenthood presidents—Faye Wattleton, Pamela Maraldo, and Gloria Feldt—for their perspectives on the July 16 ouster of Dr. Leana Wen, whose tenure as president lasted just eight months. In on-the-record interviews, the echoes in the organization’s history were clear. The attacks on Planned Parenthood are not new, and neither are the debates over its identity. “I get a little amused at people who say, ‘Well, you know, what’s going on right now, isn’t this just awful?’” said Feldt, who led the organization from 1996 to 2005 and now coaches women on executive-leadership skills. Conservatives’ attempts to restrict abortion are “not that far different” from the past, she told me. “It’s been going on certainly for as long as I’ve been involved [in the abortion-rights movement], which is close to a half century.” […]