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February 2018, Week 2

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 [https://portside.org/] 
Material of Interest to People on the Left 

 ‘THE CALM IN THIS STORM’: REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS LEADERS REFLECT ON
CECILE RICHARDS’ LEGACY  
[https://portside.org/2018-02-14/calm-storm-reproductive-rights-leaders-reflect-cecile-richards-legacy]


 

 Caitlin Cruz 

Rewire
[https://rewire.news/article/2018/02/09/calm-storm-reproductive-rights-leaders-reflect-cecile-richards-legacy/]


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 _ Planned Parenthood under Richards took deliberate steps to
improve its engagement with Black women and other women of color as an
organization. But there is still work to be done: The next leader
must be someone with the skills of managing a large multi-state
organization, but also needs to be a leader who understands white
supremacy and the role race plays in reproductive care _ 

 AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Planned Parenthood President Cecile
Richards is sworn-in on Capitol Hill at an oversight hearing in
September 2015. 

 

At the end of January, Cecile Richards announced that she planned to
leave her position after 12 years as the president of Planned
Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund,
the organization’s advocacy arm.

Richards joined Planned Parenthood in 2006, at the tail end of the
second Bush administration that had seen an explicit anti-choice
embodiment in the White House and a reinstated global gag rule. For
better or worse, she has become synonymous with Planned Parenthood and
all its services.

“I don’t quite know where to start,” Jodi Magee, president and
CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health, told _Rewire_. “I think
Cecile has been completely fearless and a fierce fighter on behalf not
just of Planned Parenthood but of all women’s autonomy and the
ability to access the reproductive health care and generally the
health care we need to live healthy lives of dignity, so hearing that
she was stepping down made me sad.”

“Planned Parenthood has always had a huge name recognition, but
Cecile has really skyrocketed their name,” Magee continued. “Their
public exposure, their reputation, their integrity of service, the
kinds of things that she’s had to fight against … she’s just
spoken with such great integrity.”

“Every single step of the way it’s been very, very impressive,”
Magee said.

Magee noted Richards’ testimony
[https://rewire.news/article/2015/09/30/gop-congressmen-use-hearing-badger-planned-parenthood-president/] in
front of the U.S. House Oversight Committee in September 2015 as one
reason to celebrate her tenure. Richards, who was defending the
organization in the wake of deceptively edited attack videos
[https://rewire.news/ablc/2017/07/19/two-years-later-come-david-daleidens-accusation-planned-parenthood-sells-baby-parts/],
ended up defending to the committee her own salary, how the
organization does mammograms, and even its political work.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) asked Richards to pick one—lobbying or
providing health services—as the most important part of Planned
Parenthood’s work. Richards replied, “I think the two things go
hand in hand. What we have learned over the years is that in order to
be able to provide health-care services to women, you have to also be
able to advocate, particularly for women who are underserved.”

Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of
Abortion Funds (NNAF), also cited that appearance as an important part
of Richards’ legacy when speaking with _Rewire_.

“When I watched the congressional hearings a couple years back when
the totally deceptive videos came out and know how hateful they were
towards her … I’ve always admired her composure,” she
told _Rewire_.

Composure became necessary as Richards made Planned Parenthood into a
political powerhouse alongside its health-care clinics. During her
time, she grew the donor base
[https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/cecile-richards-announces-plans-to-depart-planned-parenthood-after-12-years-of-service] from
three to 11 million supporters—its largest ever. Planned Parenthood
also made its first presidential primary endorsement
[https://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2016/01/07/planned-parenthood-in-its-first-primary-endorsement-backs-hillary-clinton],
of Hillary Clinton, in 2016. “Let’s be clear: Reproductive rights
and health are on the ballot in 2016,” Richards said
[https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/pressroom/planned-parenthood-action-fund-endorse-hillary-clinton] in
a statement at the time. “It is unthinkable that our daughters and
granddaughters would have fewer rights than my generation did.”

Despite the outcome of the last presidential election—or perhaps in
spite of it—Richards and Planned Parenthood continued in 2018 to
forcefully advocate for the right to birth control, abortion, and
other facets of reproductive care. In the month and a half after the
election, Planned Parenthood received more than 300,000 donations,
according to the _Guardian_
[https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/25/progressive-donations-us-election-planned-parenthood-aclu].
Seventy percent of donors had never given before. But even before
2016, Richards’ fundraising skills had been evident: In the most
recent data available, PPFA reported
[http://www.thenonprofittimes.com/news-articles/richards-stepping-planned-parenthood/] $252.9
million in revenue in 2015, up from $195.7 million in 2014 and $176.6
million in 2013.

“You know, leading an organization that [is] synonymous with
abortion, [among] anti-choice people in particular. I’ve just been
amazed at how calm how composed she always is,” Hernandez
told _Rewire_. “And for that reason she has really been a symbol, I
think, for many people of the calm in this storm.”

Hernandez, who joined NNAF in 2015, says she is also grateful for the
advice Richards offered when she took the helm at the organization.
“I did get to sit down with her at a Congressional Black Caucus
event about a year into my tenure and she gave me some really good
advice about supports that I needed as a new leader, which were really
helpful,” she said.

Planned Parenthood has more than 600 health centers across the country
and says they see 2.4 million people each year. That was one thing
that particularly annoyed Magee about the congressional hearings: They
completely ignored the size and scope of Planned Parenthood’s
services in favor of a partisan agenda. “It was just such a blatant
political assault,” she said. “It had nothing to do with the
integrity of services or with the quality of the service.”

“Planned Parenthood is a _huge_ organization, so that’s a big
responsibility in and of itself,” Magee said. “But to have led
during this particular period of turmoil, not just since the election,
but prior to the election with Congress going after Planned Parenthood
in the myriad number of ways, and with the people who oppose women’s
access to abortion services and to contraception [who] have been going
after Planned Parenthood for decades. This is not a task for a
wallflower.“

And while there has been little word about who will take over for
Richards later this year, it certainly must be someone ready for
battle. “This is definitely a task for somebody with bold leadership
skills and Cecile certainly [has] those in spades,” Magee said.

After Richards announced her resignation, many within the reproductive
rights and justice communities said it was critical that a woman of
color take over—the first one that would do so since Faye Wattleton,
who originally established the Action Fund, stepped down in 1992.

It’s notable that Planned Parenthood under Richards took
deliberate steps
[https://rewire.news/ablc/2018/02/05/next-head-planned-parenthood-black-feminist/] in
recent years to improve its engagement with Black women and other
women of color as an organization. But, as activist and author Loretta
Ross wrote in _HuffPost_
[https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-ross-planned-parenthood_us_5a6f7965e4b06e25326a9740],
there is still work to be done: Yes, the next leader must be someone
with the skills of managing a large multi-state organization, but they
also need to be a leader who understands white supremacy and the role
race plays in reproductive care.

“An incoming president of any race who lacks experience analyzing
the white supremacist movement is not qualified to counter its
attacks, even if she knitted a pink pussy hat to avoid ever wearing
red handmaid’s robes,” Ross wrote.

Richards has been mum on her plans for after Planned Parenthood. She
has a memoir coming out in April, and she has politics in her blood.
(Her mother is famed former Texas Gov. Ann Richards.) With Kirsten
Gillibrand, a senator for New York, potentially eyeing a presidential
run, some have speculated we’ll see Richards campaigning herself.
And maybe by the end of 2018, we’ll have an answer for what comes
next for a woman who often acted as a calming presence in the stormy
fight for reproductive rights.

[Caitlin Cruz is an independent reporter as well as contributing
writer to _Pacific Standard_‘s website, covering women’s health.
She’s based in Texas.]

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