Cecile Richards will step down as president of Planned Parenthood at a to-be-announced date in 2018, the organization announced today. The move puts an end to Richards’ 12 years at the helm of New York. N.Y.-based health and family-planning organization.
“This last year has been one of the most inspiring of my life as longtime staff and supporters marched and rallied alongside brand new activists, like Deja Foxx, a teenager from Tucson, who fiercely defended Planned Parenthood to her United States senator,” Richards said in a video message to supporters. “Or Gina Walkington, a Planned Parenthood patient from Bristol, Wis., who got involved last winter and is now organizing thousands in her community. Deja and Gina are just some of the 11 million supporters who embody Planned Parenthood’s mission.”
Planned Parenthood’s base of supporters has increased from three million to 11 million during Richards’ tenure, according to an organization release. Recent mission-related advancements have included an 80-percent increase in hormone therapy offerings for transgender patients between 2013 and 2015 and a current 30-year low in unintended pregnancies in the U.S.
Richards has also led Planned Parenthood to steady climbs in fundraising, according to available Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990 data. Planned Parenthood Federation of America reported $252.9 million in revenue in 2015, up from $195.7 million in 2014, $176.6 million in 2013, and $139.4 million in 2012. These figures do not include dollars from the post-2016-election trend of donating to the organization in President Donald Trump’s or Vice President Mike Pence’s name.
Planned Parenthood has been active in the political arena under Richards’ watch, particularly since Trump’s election. Richards criticized the perceived disconnect between the Trump administration’s efforts to empower women in the workforce, but limit healthcare options during a conference call organized by the American Civil Liberties Union to mark Trump’s first 100 days in office last spring. “The administration has been around for 100 days . . . Planned Parenthood has been around for 100 years,” she said at the time.
The New York Times reports that political advocacy, such as fundraising and campaigning for Democratic candidates in advance of the 2018 midterm elections, will be among Richards’ focuses after departing from Planned Parenthood.
In addition to financial success and increased political exposure, Richards has navigated the organization through turmoil during her tenure, most notably in 2015, after videos serviced of organization officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue. Richards described the videos and fallout as a “smokescreen” made out by political opponents of the organization and announced that affiliates involved in fetal-tissue donations would not seek federal reimbursement, despite being legally entitled to do so.
Planned Parenthood and like organizations have also faced pressure from courts and the political process during her tenure. The United States Supreme Court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby decision delivered a blow after holding that employers could decline to provide insurance covering certain types of birth control methods to employees on religious grounds. The organization’s federal funding has also been a target of attack by lawmakers.
Multiple calls and emails placed to the organization concerning the timing of Richards’ departure and future organization steps were not returned prior to publication. The New York Times reports that such details will be hashed out during the organization’s annual meeting this weekend.
“Under Cecile’s 12 years of leadership, Planned Parenthood has reached new heights,” said Naomi Aberly, chair of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Board of Directors in a statement. “Cecile’s stewardship and dedication to women’s health has propelled our organization forward, mobilizing millions of supporters along the way and becoming a catalyst for activism. Because of Cecile’s leadership and the amazing team she has built, the organization is well-positioned to continue to fulfill our mission of delivering quality, accessible sexual and reproductive health care and ensuring reproductive freedom.”