Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards Stepping Down (Updated)

The news comes at a time when Planned Parenthood is increasingly under attack from Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration.

Cecile Richards speaks at the Planned Parenthood Capitol Takeover in Washington, D.C. on March 1, 2017. Lauryn Gutierrez / Rewire

UPDATE, January 26, 10:25 a.m.: Planned Parenthood officially announced Richards’ departure in a January 26 statement. “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,” Richards said.

Planned Parenthood’s longtime president, Cecile Richards, will reportedly step down.

Richards helms both parent organization Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its political arm, Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She’s held the top position for more than a decade.

Two sources confirmed the impending departure to BuzzFeed News, which first broke the story on Wednesday. One of the sources told BuzzFeed that Richards “has informed at least some members of the organization’s board of directors.”

Planned Parenthood would not directly address the report when asked by Rewire. “Cecile plans to discuss 2018 and the next steps for Planned Parenthood’s future at the upcoming board meeting,” a spokesperson said.

The meeting is reportedly scheduled for next week.

Republicans in the U.S. Congress have long targeted Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortion care among its reproductive health-care services, which also include contraception, mammograms, and Pap smears. GOP lawmakers in 2015 coordinated a smear campaign with David Daleiden, the since-indicted Center for Medical Progress leader behind deceptively edited videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood profited from fetal tissue donations.

Three Republican-led congressional committee investigations, 13 states, and a Texas grand jury have disproved Daleiden’s allegations. But the claims are gaining new traction under the Trump administration. The U.S. Department of Justice indicated it may launch a criminal investigation based on a powerful Senate committee’s report propping up the same baseless allegations. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who worked closely with Daleiden on a $1.59 million “witch hunt” that turned up no credible findings, pulled the same talking points for her 2018 Senate campaign.

Emboldened Republicans in April gutted federal safeguards that allowed four million low-income Title X patients, including 1.5 million Planned Parenthood patients, to access reproductive health care. The move was intended to punish Planned Parenthood for providing abortion care with its own funds, in accordance with federal law set forth by the Hyde Amendment. More recently, Trump’s U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week rolled back an Obama-era effort to stop states from cutting off Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding,

Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration, however, have thus far failed to reach their ultimate goal: defunding Planned Parenthood. Independent polling from Quinnipiac and Kaiser Family Foundation underscored the public’s opposition to 2017’s defunding efforts.

“I think that [Richards] has to take a lot of credit for the fact that Planned Parenthood is one of the most respected and supported organizations in the country. Most Americans understand the fight,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL), the top Democrat on Blackburn’s investigation, told Rewire in an interview.

“And Cecile, by being such a great articulator of what’s at stake here, what it’s really about, can take a lot of that credit.”

Billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer told The Washington Post that Richards, the daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards (D), is “someone we have partnered with very happily.”

“If she stops, I hope it’s because she’s doing something new and important,” Steyer told the Post. “If she ran for any office, I’d support her.”

Richards’ next moves are unclear. Her memoir, Make Trouble, is scheduled to publish in April.