January 26, 2018 / 5:56 PM / in 5 months

Planned Parenthood leader Richards steps down

(Reuters) - The president of Planned Parenthood, longtime activist Cecile Richards, will step down this year after leading the women’s health organization for more than a decade, the group said on Friday.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, poses before the Planned Parenthood 100 Years Gala in New York,U.S., May 2, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Richards, 60, has worked defending reproductive rights and other services including providing contraception, healthcare screenings and about one-third of the abortions in the United States.

“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,” Richards said in the statement.

The organization did not provide more information on the exact timing of the departure, saying that Richards would meet with its board of directors next week.

Richards’ departure comes as the abortion rights group has been under fire from the Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, which passed legislation last year allowing states to withhold federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate to secure its passage.

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Richards is the daughter of the late Ann Richards, the former Democratic Texas Governor. She said in her statement that she would be continue to be an activist, “marching right alongside” grassroots voices advocating for “basic rights and healthcare.”

She has been encouraging women to run during the midterm elections and has said she would be fundraising and campaigning for Democrats, including the record number of women running this election.

Her memoir, “Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead — My Life Story,” is due to be published in April.

During her presidency, Planned Parenthood grew its financial supporters grew from 3 million people to 11 million people, even as state legislatures passed hundreds of laws that restrict access to abortion.

Reporting By Jilian Mincer; Edited by Caroline Humer and David Gregoiro

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