NEW YORK― Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards is planning to leave the organization after heading it for more than a decade, she confirmed in a statement.
Richards said that leading the organization “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,” she said. Richards added that she would continue to advocate 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,” she said. Planned Parenthood has not provided details on who might take Richards’ place.
Richards, the 60-year-old daughter of the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards (D), has been the iconic face of Planned Parenthood since 2006, during which time she transformed the family planning provider into a massively influential political force for abortion rights.
Each time Republicans in Congress have tried to defund the organization since taking over the House of Representatives in 2011, Planned Parenthood has bounced back stronger, gaining tens of thousands of new members and huge fundraising spikes. The group now has 11 million supporters ― with 1.5 million having joined in the past year.
Planned Parenthood flexed its political muscle last year after Donald Trump became president. Two of the main campaign promises made by Trump and Republican leaders in Congress were to defund Planned Parenthood and to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But despite having control of the House, Senate and White House, Republicans failed at both missions.
Richards attributes that failure to the groundswell of support for Planned Parenthood and its mission.
“If you had told me a year ago that we could block the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the two signature things Republicans promised ... no one would have believed it,” she told HuffPost last week. “It happened because you couldn’t go to a single town hall meeting without facing angry women in pink hats and T-shirts.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) commended Richards’ work in a statement.
“As an organizer, activist, and leader, Cecile has helped launch a nationwide movement to defend and advance women’s rights, and in doing so, she has inspired countless women to march, vote, run, and win,” Pelosi said. “Her leadership will be deeply missed, but I am confident that Cecile will continue to be a warrior for all women as she begins the next chapter of her journey.”
“Cecile has shown what it means to be a true fighter for the rights of women,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “In the face of unprecedented attacks, she has never backed down from a fight and always stood strong for the patients and doctors at Planned Parenthood and women across America. She put inclusive access to reproductive health care at the forefront of the political conversation and has shown it is not only key to women’s well-being, but also to true equality.”
This piece has been updated to include statements from Richards, Pelosi and Harris.