• Give a Gift
  • Customer Service
  • Promotions
  • Videos
  • Blogs
  • Win
  • Games

April 15, 2011

Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards Speaks Out

What's it like running an organization in the crosshairs of politicians, rabid opposition, and even the Supreme Court? For Cecile Richards, 53, the stately president of Planned Parenthood, it's business as usual.

Share
cecile richards

Photo Credit: Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Special Offer

In late February, the House of Representatives voted to defund Planned Parenthood — the most aggressive assault on your organization since you assumed the top job in 2006. Were you surprised?
I think what I didn't realize until then was how fiercely under attack all of women's health care would be, way beyond Planned Parenthood. I have been stunned by how much this new Congress is so focused on rolling back access to women's health care at a time when women are more in need than any other moment in my lifetime.

It's no secret that Planned Parenthood's abortion providers face death threats. Do you ever feel in danger?
I've never lived in any way afraid of what comes next. You just have to do what you think is right. We spend a lot of time making sure that our 11,000 employees around the country are safe. That does weigh on me. Particularly at times like this, when the political tension seems to be at a boiling point.

You must get loads of hate mail.
Let's just say there are a lot of people praying for me.

What's it like running an institution that has to routinely fend off attacks that threaten its survival?
I try to keep it in perspective. When Margaret Sanger first opened her birth-control information center 95 years ago, she was hauled off to jail. Women have had to fight every step of the way for reproductive care.

How do you get things done when you're constantly dealing with crises?
Yes, we're dealing with this battle in Congress. But we're also making so much progress where it really matters. We see 3 million patients a year, and in the last 30 days, we will have seen 2.2 million visitors to plannedparenthood.org; 10 percent come from other countries, where they have no information about birth control. We are testing a program where young people can text their questions to Planned Parenthood. And, as a result of health-care reform, there is going to be an explosion of health-care access for women. Planned Parenthood will happily be at the forefront.

You were the deputy chief of staff to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. So you've spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill. Do you think the mostly male Congress treats women differently?
I was in a couple of meetings with senators yesterday, and they were lecturing me on what we should be doing. And I thought, God, if I were a male CEO, head of a large national health-care organization, I don't think they'd be lecturing me. Sometimes you just have to nod, say thank you, and move on.

Your mother was Ann Richards, the legendary Democratic governor of Texas. Did she give you any good job advice?
She believed that women are always waiting for someone to give us permission. We think we don't have the right clothes, don't know the right people, don't have the right degrees. She told me to never turn down a new opportunity because I might think I'm not qualified — the only regrets you have are for those things you didn't do.

What comes next for you — political office?
Could be. I don't know. I haven't ever planned ahead.


Share
Connect with Marie Claire:
Advertisement
horoscopes
daily giveaway
Go to the Beach

Go to the Beach

enter now
You Know You Want More
More From World News on Women
Is This The Most Condescending Political Ad Ever?

Women are obsessed with marriage, so picking a political candidate is kind of like saying yes to the dress.

This Act Could Put an End to Anti-Abortion Legislation

Women's right to choose is constantly at stake—but this might the solution.

post a comment

Special Offer
Link Your Marie Claire Account to Facebook
Welcome!

Marie Claire already has an account with this email address. Link your account to use Facebook to sign in to Marie Claire. To insure we protect your account, please fill in your password below.

Forgot Password?

Thanks for Joining

Your information has been saved and an account has been created for you giving you full access to everything marieclaire.com and Hearst Digital Media Network have to offer. To change your username and/or password or complete your profile, click here.

Continue
Your accounts are now linked

You now have full access to everything Marie Claire and Hearst Digital Media Network have to offer. To change your settings or profile, click here.

Continue