Will Cecile Richards last long at Planned Parenthood?

July 24, 2006 09:00 AM

Commentary by Jim Sedlak

Although the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has had a number of presidents over its 90 years of existence, I only consider an individual who has served for five years or longer to be a "major president" of the organization. That list has just four names: Margaret Sanger, its founder, who was leader from 1916 through 1962; Dr. Alan Guttmacher (1962?1973); Faye Wattleton (1978?1991); and Gloria Feldt (1996?2005).

Earlier this year, Planned Parenthood hired Cecile Richards as its latest president. The obvious question when the organization brings in a new president is, "Will she be one of the 'major presidents' or just a place holder?"

In an article in the July edition of Vogue magazine, one of the former "major presidents," Faye Wattleton, said of Richards, "For the first time in a long time, I'm feeling optimistic. If the organization doesn't eat her alive, she'll be a success."

That caveat by Wattleton is very significant. As a number of leaders of Planned Parenthood have discovered, there is much tension and division within this seemingly homogenous organization. Wattleton herself is reported to have left in 1991 because of internal squabbling. Her successor, Pamela Maraldo, lasted less than three years as internal strife and a "no confidence" vote by the board of directors forced her to resign. Her major faux pas was trying to steer the organization away from abortion and into the mainstream of health care.

Of course, those of us who oppose the programs and philosophies of Planned Parenthood are not surprised by this internal conflict. As we understand that Planned Parenthood's activities result in drawing millions of young people into lives of sexual sin and the killing of over a quarter of a million babies a year in Planned Parenthood-operated abortion facilities, it is clear there can be no real peace in the organization.

Although Richards has only been at the helm of Planned Parenthood for a few months, the impact of the organization on her is beginning to make itself known. Take, for example, the Vogue article mentioned above.

Planned Parenthood, of course, runs the largest chain of abortion facilities in the country: at least 175 locations that committed 255,015 abortions last year and 3.8 million since it opened its first abortion facility in 1970.

The first task of any Planned Parenthood president has to come to grips with is the killing that this organization does. Both Wattleton and Feldt embraced that part of the organization: Pushing for increased acceptance of abortion, opening more facilities and increasing the number of abortions each year. That's one of the reasons they lasted so long at the helm.

The Vogue article seems to indicate that Richards is not comfortable with this. In the two-page picture at the beginning of the article, Richards is seen at the desk in her office surrounded by five beautiful toddlers wearing nothing but diapers. For those of us that have been fighting Planned Parenthood for sometime, the immediate reaction was one of remembering a Planned Parenthood of Minnesota 1986 ad that proclaimed, "Babies are loud, smelly and expensive. Unless you want one."

That Richards would import these babies for a photo shoot with a major magazine shows that she is not comfortable leading an organization that is the largest single abortionist in the country ? doing 20 percent of all U.S. abortions each year.

Another indication of how uncomfortable she is with the killing is the fact that, according to the Vogue article, "In her inaugural speech to the national conference of Planned Parenthood affiliates, she admitted that she, like millions of American women, once made the difficult decision to have an abortion." The author of the Vogue article said that, when she asked Richards about the abortion, "she declined to discuss it any further."

So, here we have the president of the largest abortion chain in the country refusing to discuss her own abortion and surrounding herself with live, cute babies in an obviously staged picture to accompany an article in a fashion magazine. Not the stuff of which "major" Planned Parenthood presidents are made.

The Vogue feature is revealing in other ways. First, the thing that strikes you about the babies in the staged shot with Cecile is that none of them are smiling. The child in Cecile's lap has the most neutral look, while the one standing at the front of the desk appears to be screaming. An African-American baby, who is standing in the back against a credenza, seems to have a fearful look on his face. The baby closest to the camera has a wide-eyed expression that almost screams, "Get me out of here!"

Second, many post-abortive women find solace in building a relationship with God. Yet the article describes Richards' religious affiliation as being a "lapsed Unitarian."

So what do you do when you say that you have been responsible for the death of your own child and you find yourself in the position of leading the largest chain of abortion facilities in the country? You bury yourself in work and you surround yourself with images that belie what is happening in your soul. You give fiery speeches, all the while punctuating your words "with karate chops," and hope nobody notices the pain within.

Cecile Richards is just beginning her tenure as head of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. There is no certainty, at this point, where she will wind up in the history of the organization.

In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Richards said, "I've been involved in reproduction rights issues for years as a board member and fund-raiser working with foundations, so I have a history with Planned Parenthood." She also noted that Planned Parenthood is "the largest reproductive health care provider and it has been for 90 years. It has the strongest grass-roots base in the country to impact public policy. It's a uniquely important organization."

In a speech at the "Take Back America" conference, Richards told the audience that Planned Parenthood has 860 health centers around the country in 50 states and has more members, employees and staff than the 50 state Democratic parties combined. She said, "We have the potential to swing the vote in 2006, 2008 and 2010, and that's a lot of power."

It appears Richards, who is by profession a political organizer, sees Planned Parenthood as a big political machine - one that can win elections and change the balance of political power. But that is a lie. Planned Parenthood is actually a killing machine.

We predict that she will be able to fool herself and get by on her charm and drive for a year or so, but after that, it will be the babies that get to her. She will wake up one morning and realize that she not only killed her own child, but is responsible for the deaths of millions more. Then, she will be gone - another "place holder" president.

Release issued: 24 Jul 06

Back to news