Cecile Richards is a social liberal activist who worked as president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 2006 through 2018. As president of Planned Parenthood, Richards built the organization’s political and advocacy arm from nearly non-existent into a political powerhouse. Under Richards, the number of abortions provided annually by Planned Parenthood increased by 56,000 (21%) and the amount of annual federal funding given to the organization grew by nearly $200 million (58%). Richards announced her intention to step down as Planned Parenthood’s president in 2018.
Under Richards, the organization created the massive super PAC Planned Parenthood Votes which has spent over $35 million supporting pro-abortion politicians, and dramatically increased the size of the organization’s lobbying and advocacy arm, known as Planned Parenthood Action Fund. 
Prior to her work for Planned Parenthood, Richards served as the deputy chief of staff to then-minority whip Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California). She also founded a number of influential liberal organizations. In 2003-2004 she co-founded and presided over America Coming Together and America Votes,  two of the “527” political committees that were created to support the Presidential campaign of then-U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts). Together these two organizations coordinated hundreds of millions of dollars worth of spending among a large number of liberal donors and influence organizations including George Soros, Peter Lewis, the AFL-CIO, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, and the American Federation of Teachers. Richards also founded the Texas Freedom Network to support abortion policies in Texas while opposing the agenda of the state’s religious conservatives. 
Richards was invited to President Barack Obama’s White House 39 times, and is credited with firming up the Democratic Party’s embrace of abortion rights “as a central part of the party’s platform.” Time named Richards one of the most influential people in the world during President Obama’s first term.
Background and Early Career
Cecile Richards was born in Waco, Texas in 1957. Her father, Dave Richards, was one of the most active labor-union lawyers in Texas, and her mother, Ann Richards, was a politician who is (as of 2018) the most recent Democrat to serve as Governor of Texas.
Before college, Cecile and her mother worked for Sara Weddington’s 1972 campaign for the Texas State House. Weddington came to fame as the lawyer who successfully argued Roe v. Wade before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Cecile met her husband Kirk Adams while the two were working as union organizers. Adams currently works for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the couple lives in New York City. They have three children. Lily, the oldest, has served as the press secretary for U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and worked for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Labor Union Career
While at Brown University, Cecile Richards supported a janitors’ strike, helping her into a career as a union organizer. Beginning in 1980, she traveled the country running a number of union organizing campaigns for garment workers in the Rio Grande Valley, nursing home employees in East Texas, and hotel workers in New Orleans.
In the late 1980s, Richards led the SEIU’s “Justice for Janitors” campaign, which unionized and demanded higher pay for cleaning crews in Los Angeles.
In 1990 Richards and her family moved to Austin so she could run her mother’s gubernatorial campaigns.  After her mother lost re-election in 1994 (to future President George W. Bush), Cecile created the Texas Freedom Network, an influential liberal group to combat religious conservative “issues, organizations, money and leaders” and to combat the pro-life agenda. 
Nancy Pelosi Staffer
In 2002 and 2003 Richards served as Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff during Pelosi’s time as Democratic whip in the House of Representatives. Pelosi touted Richards’s efforts saying, “Cecile helped me set up the whip office […] Everyone knows she’s politically astute and a wonderful communicator, but she’s also a great administrator. She could be the President.”
Political Action Committees
In 2003, Richards co-founded America Coming Together (ACT), a pro-Democratic 527 political action committee that raised about $200 million from George Soros, Peter Lewis, and a variety of Hollywood moguls. Other prominent liberals involved in ACT included Ellen Malcolm of EMILY’s List, Steve Rosenthal of the AFL-CIO, and former Clinton White House operative Harold Ickes.
In 2004, Richards founded and then served as the president of the liberal 527 organization America Votes “a Washington-based coalition of 32 of the biggest, richest, and most influential unions and liberal interest groups in the country.” America Votes’ members included ACT, the AFL-CIO, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the Sierra Club, the NAACP, the League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood, and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). 
America Votes coordinated its member organizations’ get-out-the-vote efforts, which together spent about $350 million during the 2004 presidential campaign  to supplement the Democratic effort in support of John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. 
Also see Planned Parenthood Federation of America (Nonprofit)
From 2006 through 2018, Cecile Richards served as president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. In January 2018, Richards announced her intention to leave Planned Parenthood, vowing to remain a constant advocate for the organization’s liberal policy agenda.
During her time at the head of Planned Parenthood, “Richards greatly expanded the organization’s fundraising and organizing capabilities — and helped raise its profile through celebrity-oriented campaigns and increased political participation.” According to Time, when Richards took the reins at Planned Parenthood in 2006, “the organization didn’t even have a centralized website.” However, under her leadership it gained “much more political heft” that resulted in President Barack Obama mentioning Planned Parenthood during his 2012 presidential debates.
According to Buzzfeed, Richards’ and Planned Parenthood’s advocacy could largely be credited with the Democratic Party’s embrace of abortion rights “as a central part of the party’s platform.”
Under Richards’ leadership, the number of abortion services provided annually grew by over 56,000 procedures (21%) from 2005 through 2017.
Richards presided over massive growth in the organization; its volunteers and supporters reportedly grew from 2.5 million to 11 million. The group’s annual revenues grew by $560 million (62%) to $1.46 billion in 2016. Notably, Planned Parenthood’s national office budget under Richards jumped from $67.5 million in 2006 to $437 million in 2017. 
Shortly after taking over as president of Planned Parenthood Richards delivered an emphatic speech where she pledged “to swing the vote in 2006, 2008 and 2010” and to use the power gained from those elections to influence legislative policy. She specifically promised that under her watch “Planned Parenthood [was] going to become more political” so that she could beat back pro-life policy opponents.
In 2008, Richards called Barack Obama “a passionate advocate for women’s rights” and touted Planned Parenthood’s endorsement of his candidacy. In 2016, Richards was a key supporter of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, touting that there had never been a Presidential ticket more committed to Planned Parenthood’s pro-abortion agenda than that of Hillary Clinton and Sen. Tim Kaine. In total, Planned Parenthood’s various entities spent at least $38 million to elect Democrats in 2016.
Lobbying and Policy
Under Richards’ leadership Planned Parenthood’s lobbying spending grew from a low of $365,000 in 2006 to a high of $1.9 million in 2011. In total under Richards, Planned Parenthood Federation of America spent over $13 million on lobbying.
Similarly, the budget for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the organization’s formal 501(c)(4) lobbying arm, grew from $4.3 million the year before Richards took over to $24.8 million in 2015.
When asked to prioritize “the most important part of Planned Parenthood’s work,” Richards said that the organization’s lobbying efforts were just as important as its provision of healthcare services.
In 2010 Richards celebrated the passage of Obamacare with President Barack Obama, and she proclaimed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s efforts to pass the legislation had been “heroic.” Richards said she was “most proud” of securing the Obamacare mandate that required all insurers to provide birth control for free. 
In 2017, Richards, flanked by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the House’s Pro-Choice Caucus, pledged to fight against Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and launched the “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” campaign.
In 2015, after a series of videos released by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress seemed to show that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue for profit in a dubiously legal manner, Richards testified before Congress defending her organization. She said she was “proud” of Planned Parenthood’s provision of fetal tissue while trying to minimize “the organ donations as a small part of [Planned Parenthood’s] work.”
Richards has stated that, after her departure from Planned Parenthood, she plans to “pour herself into the midterm elections, fund-raising and campaigning for Democrats” and to increase and organize the number of women who run for office and who vote.
She also wrote a book entitled Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead — My Life Story, published in April 2018. Hillary Clinton praised the book calling it “practical advice and inspirations for aspiring leaders everywhere” and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) called it a “must-read.”