Update: Cecile Richards announced on Friday she's stepping down as president of Planned Parenthood, after more than a decade at the helm of the women's health and reproductive rights organization. Her departure was first reported by BuzzFeed News on Wednesday.
"Leading Planned Parenthood over the last 12 years has been the honor of my lifetime," she said in a statement provided to Refinery29. "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. I’m deeply proud of the progress we’ve made for the millions of people Planned Parenthood health centers serve across the country each year."
She continued, "Every day we see the incredible power that grassroots voices can have — there has never been a better moment to be an activist. You can bet I’ll be marching right alongside them, continuing to travel around the country advocating 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."
In an interview with The New York Times, Richards said that after leaving her role she will be promoting her memoir Make Trouble in the spring and will focus on helping the Democratic party as we inch closer to the midterm elections.
This story was originally published on January 24, 2018.
In a statement provided to Refinery29 via email, a spokesperson for the organization said: "Cecile plans to discuss 2018 and the next steps for Planned Parenthood’s future at the upcoming board meeting."
The official did not provide further comment.
According to BuzzFeed News, Richards has already told several board members about her plans to step down from her position.
She joined Planned Parenthood in 2006, and has since transformed the organization, which is currently the biggest abortion provider in the nation. Under her leadership, Planned Parenthood expanded its capacity for fundraising and organizing, which elevated the organization's profile. And ever since President Trump took office, Richards and Planned Parenthood have been at the forefront of many fights, including the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the attacks on women's healthcare.
"That's really what we're fighting for: How do we ensure that people will continue to get coverage in America, and continue to get healthcare. As you know, these issues are far beyond Planned Parenthood," she told Refinery29 last year. "We're talking about literally millions of people in this country losing access to healthcare. That's our commitment: to ensure that we have healthcare equity in America, but this administration and this Congress is making it very difficult."
Through her tenure, Richards has faced constant attacks from Republicans in Congress, and now the Trump administration, which have constantly tried to come up with ways to withhold federal funds from the organization. And in 2015, she weathered a major scandal after an anti-choice activists secretly recorded and heavily edited a series of videos that made it seem like Planned Parenthood was illegally profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. After five congressional investigations and more than a dozen state-level probes, none of the inquiries found evidence of wrongdoing.
It's unclear what Richards will do next if she ends up leaving Planned Parenthood, but that didn't stop some of her fans from saying on social media that she should run for governor of Texas like her mother, the late Gov. Ann Richards. (The deadline to file to run for office in the 2018 election in Texas was December 11. Records indicate Richards has not filed to run.) What we do know is that her memoir Make Trouble is scheduled to come out in April, but what happens before or after that is anyone's guess.