Cecile Richards stepping down as Planned Parenthood leader


NEW YORK (AP) — Cecile Richards, who led Planned Parenthood through 12 tumultuous years, is stepping down as its president.

Under her leadership, the organization gained in membership, donor support and political clout but found itself in constant conflict with social conservatives for its role as the leading abortion provider in the United States.

The organization provides a range of health services at clinics nationwide, including birth control, cancer screenings and tests for sexually transmitted diseases.

Republicans in Congress tried repeatedly to cut off federal funding that helps subsidize Planned Parenthood's services to some patients, and several congressional committees investigated the organization's role in providing post-abortion fetal tissue to researchers.

In a statement today, Richards said she would remain engaged in political activism ahead of the November elections.

"There has never been a better moment to be an activist," said Richards, who was a featured speaker in Las Vegas at one of last weekend's largest women's marches.

Richards, 60, is the daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards. Before joining Planned Parenthood, she was a union organizer and deputy chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, among other roles.

Reaction to Richards' announcement reflected the divisive nature of the debate over Planned Parenthood's role.

Pelosi, the House minority leader, hailed her as "a portrait of energy, intellect, and determination" whose impact transcended reproductive rights.

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