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Goodbyes are always difficult. They are made even more difficult by unstable and uncertain times, by fondness and attachment to the one who’s leaving, and by a relationship that spans more than a decade of fighting together. As our fearless leader, Cecile Richards, steps down from her presidency today after twelve years of service, we’d like to salute her for her warmth, her tenacity, and her seemingly endless reserves of strength and grace under fire.

Under Cecile’s direction, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund are stronger than ever in our mission to build a safer and healthier world for women, young Americans, and marginalized communities. She has stepped up to bat politically again and again, ensuring that PP had a voice and a seat at the table when it came to shaping health care policies, expanding and preserving coverage and access to our services for the patients most likely to be ignored.

When the men on Capitol Hill (- “and it’s almost always men,” she’s said -) have tried to obfuscate, intimidate, or manipulate their way into anti-PP policy, Cecile has been unshakeable. In her time at our helm, we’ve seen exciting progress, from the forward motion of the Affordable Care Act to the tripling of our supporters - a number that has now surpassed ten million, according to Planned Parenthood’s website.

We’ve also seen a new era of anti-choice and anti-woman activism from the newly emboldened opposition, and a frightening push toward the hateful rhetoric of the past. From the breathtaking audacity of inviting only male religious leaders to testify on whether birth control should be covered under the ACA, to a reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule, to Congress’s tireless efforts to “defund Planned Parenthood” and repeal decades of progress for women’s rights in law-making based on bad science and fabricated evidence, Cecile has met every challenge with astounding energy and poise. She has had to be everywhere at once, fighting for our patients in Washington, meeting them on the ground in every state, educating and lobbying and organizing like the force of nature we know her to be.     

Today, we say goodbye to our president and prepare for what comes next. Even as the organization looks toward a bright future with new leadership, I know that we will miss Cecile’s fire.

But here at Planned Parenthood in Maine, we know that our work cannot - and will not - be slowed or hindered. When we think to ourselves, Where should we go next? What will we do?, we need only to remember what Cecile describes as her words to the women who approach her on the street, asking her these very same questions:

“Don’t wait for instructions,” she says. “Just get going.”


Hannah Matthews is a Health Care Associate for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and a former Public Affairs Intern for the Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund.

Tags: Cecile Richards