On Friday, The New York Times published an interview confirming that Cecile Richards is stepping down as Planned Parenthood president. It was first reported by BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that Richards planned to leave the reproductive health organization after heading it for 12 years. Next, it seems, she intends to continue political organizing and help get more women elected to office in the coming years.
Richards released a touching statement confirming her departure on Friday:
Leading Planned Parenthood over the last 12 years has been the honor of my lifetime. Together, we have made real progress in this country, expanding access to services and making reproductive rights a central priority of our nation’s health care system. I’m deeply proud of the progress we’ve made for the millions of people Planned Parenthood health centers serve across the country each year. Planned Parenthood has been a trusted resource in this country for more than a century, and I will be leaving the organization well-positioned to serve and fight for our patients for a century more. Every day we see the incredible power that grassroots voices can have — there has never been a better moment to be an activist. You can bet I’ll be marching right alongside them, continuing to travel around the country advocating for the basic rights and health care that all people deserve. I’ve been an activist my entire life — and that won’t stop any time soon.
Richards isn't exaggerating when she says that she's been involved with activism her entire life. She's organized for unions, worked on political campaigns, and founded multiple progressive organizations, including America Votes and the Texas Freedom Network. She's been the president of Planned Parenthood since 2006.
Richards has aided in several women's successful campaigns for office, including her own mother, Ann Richards, who became a Democratic governor of Texas from 1991 to 1995, and Sarah Weddington, who served in Texas' House of Representatives between 1973 and 1977. Weddington is an attorney and is best known for representing "Jane Roe" in 1973's Roe v. Wade, the case in which the Supreme Court ruled that women have a right to abortion.
All of this bodes well for Richards' plan to help Democratic women run for office — with a focus on the upcoming midterm elections — after she leaves Planned Parenthood. "As a lifetime organizer, I’ve never been more excited, despite this Congress and this presidency," she told the Times. "There’s this kind of organic activism by women [right now]."
She's reportedly not planning to run for office herself, despite some speculation to the contrary. "I’m not thinking of running for anything," she told The Times.
Besides the political campaigning that's in her future, Richards also has a memoir coming out in April: Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead — My Life Story.
Richards told The Times that she's proud of the work she's done at Planned Parenthood and said that she is especially heartened by recent historic lows for unintended pregnancy and teen pregnancy. She says that the antagonism she's received for her work over the years pales in comparison to the positive feedback.
"For every person who has come up and said something 'tacky,' as Mom would say," she said, "there are literally hundreds of women who have stopped me in the subway, on the street, in an airport to say, 'thank you.'"
The Planned Parenthood Federation Board of Directors does not yet have a replacement for Richards. The Times reports that she will discuss the search process during the board's annual meeting this Friday and Saturday. Also on the agenda is the date of her departure, which is currently up in the air.