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clinics and hopefully to begin to help shape what we think. In 10 years, Planned Parenthood will be 100 years old. A lot of things have changed in the 90 years that they’ve been around. We’re thinking about how we provide services in the best way. How are we actually engaging mainstream America in our public policy and political battles? We have such majoritarian support. We just have to figure out how to unleash that. And how do we engage at the state and local levels to protect the kinds of services that we need to provide? There’s just unbelievable potential. It’s funny because I’ve spent most of my life creating organizations, starting up things that need to be started. It’s incredibly exciting to go to an organization that has such an important mission, great history, is really at the forefront of the social justice movement for all these years. And it’s been great to reconnect with a lot of folks that I’ve known with Planned Parenthood for years and get to work with them now as a colleague. The country’s in bad shape. This is a tremendous opportunity to take this organization into the 21st century. I think that the role that it plays is as important, if not more important, than at any time in its history. TO: Does your experience in the political world serve this organization well? CR: I’ll be president of the nonprofit and the PAC as well. A big piece of what I’ll be working on with the PAC is building our political operation, while the federation’s work is making sure we’re supporting the clinics in every way possible to provide our services. The struggle for our clinics now is primarily a public policy struggle. They’re in business to provide services. At the same time they’re having to deal with the far right every day to try to provide those services. It’s an enormous challenge. The organization has made enormous strides in the last 10 years to recognize the importance of advocacy and how it really does have a direct impact on its ability to do its work. There’s a tremendous willingness across the board in the organization to build that. And we’ll look at working with other partners, both traditional partners in the progressive community and also other kinds of healthcare organizationspeople who really think these kinds of services have to exist. That is something I bring to ithow we look both internally and externally as well. There are struggles in a lot of states. I do think Texas has made a mark as one of the most regressive and difficult places to work. That said, it’s a place, too, where Planned Parenthood has some of its strongest affiliates and best leaders, so I think that we are well suited to take these folks on. It’s unbelievable. The public is on our side on these issues. It’s matter of building the kind of support and community that we need. The right only survives, we found in Texas, when no one knows what’s going on. We found that when they took over school boards. We found that in electoral politics. It’s when everyone else is asleep at the switch that they’re successful. And that’s true in a nonpartisan way. The work that Planned Parenthood does is supported by Democrats, by Republicans, by independents. It’s not a partisan issue. In fact, George Bush, Sr., was a really strong supporter of Planned Parenthood. I think we have to get back to that and rebuild that community as wellAmericans who recognize that these are services that everyone uses, regardless of party preference. TO: I talked with you right before you officially began work for Planned Parenthood and a few weeks before South Dakota passed its abortion ban. Did you expect the ante to be raised so quickly? CR: No. The change in the Supreme Court has really emboldened the farright adversaries of family planning. They are now planning for a postRoe world. The question has become: Who decides for women about having children? Is it a woman, her doctor and her family or is it politicians? The American public clearly believes that it should not be politicians. This [the South Dakota ban] has widened the playing field. Now it includes Mississippi and Louisiana. courtesy of Planned Parenthood We’re not going to sit back in any state where women are being barred from having access to care. They don’t want women to have access to family planning in any way, not just abortion. In the past, states have used legislation to chip away at access to healthcare. This is a much broader agenda. These decisions are about women’s access to the full range of healthcare and family planning. These decisions are going to be made by state governors and legislators. We are working in every state. TO: What have you learned in your first month on the job? CR: I’ve been amazed. I’ve visited healthcare providers across the country that provide such important care every day despite the political wrangling. I’ve also been amazed by the range of women and teens we serve every day. They need the services we’re providing. I was in Portland, Oregon, and I realized how many people trust us and need us in order to receive the confidential care and services we provide. They can go ask any question and not be afraid or be embarrassed. There is often no place else they can have access to contraceptives and family planning. We have to make sure that access to healthcare continues. III Former Observer editor Geoff Rips frequently writes about the culture and cultures of Texas. Cecile Richards APRIL 7, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11