Cecile Richards who became president of Planned Parenthood in 2006 will soon step down. Her future plans have not been disclosed, but Richard’s press release stated those plans will be discussed at a Planned Parenthood Board meeting next week.
However, with her memoir—Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage—to be published in April, Richards will undoubtedly spend months on the road touting her book. Her publisher, Simon & Schuster, describes the author as someone who
“shines a light on the people and lessons that have gotten her through good times and bad, and encourages readers to take risks, make mistakes, and make trouble along the way.”
The right and wrong of abortion aside, Richards has passed through quite a gauntlet during her eleven years at the helm of the largest abortion provider in the country. In spite of criticism from the pro-life lobby, she managed during the Obama years to raise the level of federal funding to half a billion dollars or about 40 percent of its overall budget.
In return for that investment, Planned Parenthood performed an average of 300,000 abortions each year during Richard’s tenure, amounting to an approximate total of 3.5 million. However, it has also been reported that during the same period other services declined: Chuck Donovan of the Charlotte Lozier Institute read through all the annual reports of Planned Parenthood between 2004 and 2016, finding “total cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, including Pap smears, breast exams, and colposcopies (the organization does not perform mammograms), declined from more than 2 million per year to just under 634,000, a reduction of more than 70 percent.”
Thus, under Cecile Richard’s tenure, it became more and more difficult to describe her organization as one merely interested in “women’s health.” As Donovan concludes, by 2015, the organization operated with a “nearly exclusive focus on abortion.”
Richard’s more serious challenge arose in July 2015 when the first of the undercover videos was released by David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress. Thousands of hours of video shot inside of Planned Parenthood clinics show officials openly discussing the selling of fetal body parts to outside vendors. The videos were dismissed by Richards and her supporters, as well as most of the media, for being “highly edited” as well as illegally obtained.
However, the claim that the footage was “highly edited” is not credible since two of Planned Parenthood’s business partners have pleaded guilty to selling baby parts from Planned Parenthood. Da Vinci Biosciences and DV Biologics settled for $7.8 million in a lawsuit brought by the Orange County District Attorney. According to the Los Angeles Times, The two companies illegally sold fetal brain tissue “for up to $1,100 per vial” to pharmaceutical companies and universities around the world.
Whether litigation of this nature will ever impact Cecile Richards and Planned Parenthood remains to be seen. At least 16 states have defunded Planned Parenthood as a result of that investigation, with many others considering similar action. In addition, many of its clinics have shut down by protesters—leaving just 597 clinics at the end of 2017 compared with 700 in 1973.
Given the threat of legal action, the decline of state funding, the threat of federal defunding, and the loss of local clinics, Cecile Richards is leaving Planned Parenthood at a good time. She can ride into her book tour with a credible reputation among those who are disposed towards supporting Planned Parenthood and her leadership.
Her possible entry into politics has been raised, but not by Richards herself. The deadline for filing with the Texas secretary of state to run for governor has already passed. I think it would be very difficult for Richards to be elected to any state or national office with the growing validation of the undercover videos shot by the Center for Medical Progress. Regardless of how voters feel about abortion, it’s safe to say many abortion supporters draw the line at dismembering and selling a child’s body parts.
It is probable that Richards will end up as a media pundit, a think-tanker, a paid official with the Democratic Party, or, most likely, a highly paid speaker on the lecture circuit among friendly corporations and nearly all colleges and universities.
From the perspective of Planned Parenthood supporters, they have lost an effective and attractive leader, one who will be hard to replace. From the opposite perspective, the loss of effective leadership is welcome, but the question remains, who will replace Cecile Richards?