What You Learn From A Life Surrounded By Troublemaking, Kickass Women


Published:

Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, speaking at a women's roundtable at Hillary for Minnesota Headquarters in St Paul, MN.

© Lorie Shaull, Flickr CC

The best and worst part about being a professional troublemaker is that the trouble never ends, Cecile Richards writes in her new memoir, Make Trouble.

She should know. Though she is now president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Richard’s leadership and activism, organizing and civil disobedience in the name of social justice, spans virtually her entire life. Even before the work with women’s reproductive rights, her career took her from worksites in New Orleans and East Texas, where she organized hotel and nursing home workers, to Washington, D.C., where during a gap year from college she was involved in efforts to implement Title IX, the law, passed five years earlier, requiring men and women have equal opportunity to education.

As head of what is perhaps the most visible symbol of feminism in this country, Richards routinely faces down attacks from anti-abortion and far-right foes and has fended off repeated efforts to defund and derail the women’s health care organization. Perhaps no single episode has raised her public profile as much as the five-hour grilling she endured by Republican male members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2015.

“Here’s what I learned sitting in front of that committee,” Richards writes in her book, Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead. “Focus on the people who are counting on you, not the ones who are trying to drag you down.”

Now, as she prepares to leave Planned Parenthood after 12 years, her sentiments about never-ending trouble seem inarguable. Uncertainty hangs over women’s rights issues in this country, from reproductive health to the gender pay gap. The Guttmacher Institute reports that, between 2010 and 2016, states enacted more than 330 measures to restrict abortion access. Meanwhile, the #MeToo movement continues to unmask a sexist, if not misogynistic, underbelly.

“For the first time in my life, I’m wondering whether my own daughters will have fewer rights than I’ve had,” writes Richards, the mother of two daughters and a son. “That alone is enough motivation for me to keep making trouble.”

You could say she was born into her role of troublemaker. Her mother was the late Ann Richards, who turned a career as a homemaker in a conservative state into one of progressive activism and politics to become the first female governor of modern-era Texas. Her name had become familiar to Americans during the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta when she famously derided then-Republican presidential nominee George H.W. Bush: “Poor George. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

Ann Richards’ 1991 gubernatorial campaign was an inspiration to women across Texas and beyond. “Everywhere I went, women my mom’s age and with her hairdo would grab me by the arm and say, “I never thought I’d see the day.”

She describes a life surrounded by kickass women. “At every job I’ve had, I’ve tried to work for someone who could teach me something—and more often than not that someone has been a woman.”

At age 16, she worked on the Texas House of Representatives campaign of Sarah Weddington, the ambitious young attorney who had argued the case of Jane Roe in Roe v Wade before the U.S Supreme Court in 1973. “It was a really tough race, and I saw firsthand how ugly it could be for a woman to run for office,” she says.

She worked in the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking woman in the U.S House of Representatives, admiring her courage and determination in going against her party leadership on the invasion of Iraq and then persuading the majority of House Democrats to go along with her in voting against it. She crisscrossed the country campaigning for Hillary Clinton in battleground states. Speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in 2016 Richards said, “Tonight we are closer than ever to putting a women in the White House. And I can almost hear mom saying, ‘well, it sure took y’all long enough.”

Of course, that didn’t happen.

After the election, Planned Parenthood was heading into a “battle of a lifetime,” she wrote. As a candidate, Trump promised to defund the organization, and House Speaker Paul Ryan vowed to repeal Obamacare.

But her organization was used to this. At one point, four  congressional committees were investigating it, more than were assigned to investigate Enron in the 2008 global financial crisis.

With more than 100 years of research in reproductive health, Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest provider of sex education resources and affordable health care—for both men and women. In 2016, it served more than 2.4 million patients.

When a Republican-controlled Congress passed a bill to defund it in 2015, President Obama vetoed it. Nearly every “knock-down-drag-out fight over the Affordable Care Act had to do with women’s health,” she writes.

She recalls a scene in the Capitol visitor center before a news conference to announce Planned Parenthood’s support for Obamacare. Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, the longest serving woman in Congress, jumped up on her trademark step stool, pulled out her bright red lipstick, and smearing it on declared, “Get ready women, we are going to war.”

Just before passage of Obamacare, a last-minute proposal was introduced, with support from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to prevent insurance plans from covering abortions under the law. The Stupak Amendment, as it was called, went against everything Planned Parenthood stood for. Eventually it was removed, but only after intense lobbying.

“Without the women in the House and Senate, it would have been a different story,” Richards writes. “I firmly believe that when half of Congress can get pregnant, we will finally stop arguing about birth control, abortions and Planned Parenthood—and we might even fully fund women’s health care.”

Richards believes that now, more than ever, women are the most important political force in America. “We have enormous power to change the direction of this country, and it’s time to use it.”

Lornet Turnbull wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Lornet is an editor for YES! and a Seattle-based freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter @TurnbullL.

This article was republished from YES! Magazine.

See also:
How Planned Parenthood Has Helped Millions Of Women, Including Me
It’s Her Choice

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

June 21, 2018

Salute the Sun! Summer begins this morning with the Sun’s entry into Cancer. The Northern Hemisphere’s longest daylight hours illuminate hearts and minds but challenging planetary alignments require courteous, tactful behavior. The Libra Moon makes…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

June 2018

Join us for a monthly gathering of like-hearted people to give and receive angelic energy healing. This session is a combination of group meditation and discussion, along with working in pairs...

Cost: Scale $5-$20 ($10 suggested)

Where:
Pathway Of Joy
884 Broadway, Suite 12
Upstairs in the Spiritual Renaissance Center building
South Portland, ME  04106
View map »


Sponsor: Pathway Of Joy
Telephone: 207-329-7192
Contact Name: Linda Huitt
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

What better way to end a busy day than with a little bliss. We'll support your body right where it is today and help you to open your spine to find more movement and flexibility. Begin and end...

Cost: $18

Where:
Body Love Wellness Center
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Sponsor: Bliss Through Yoga
Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice
Website »

More information

8 Week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course with Erin Woo Tuesdays, May 1 - June 19, 6–8:30 pm *Includes an all day retreat on Saturday, June 9 from 9 am - 4 pm Come explore the...

Cost: $290

Where:
Balance Bethlehem
2087 Main Street
Bethlehem, NH  03574
View map »


Sponsor: Balance Bethlehem
Telephone: 603-869-2125
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

If you are worried about getting Parkinson’s or have beginning symptoms, check out a free intro on how to rewire your brain from the inside. First and third Wednesdays of the month,...

Where:
, MA


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

June 21 - 24, 2018 Healing trauma and installing boundaries. 9am-6pm each day. With Judith Swack, PhD. Learn how to heal PTSD. HBLU™ integrates the best of biomedical science, psychology,...

Where:
Needham, MA


Telephone: 781-444-6940
Website »

More information

Learn from local industry leaders, scientists and experts about innovations in wellness, behavioral change, nutrition, fitness, environmental, societal wellbeing and more. Learn how to start or...

Cost: Free

Where:
CIC Cambridge
One Broadway
Venture Cafe 5th Floor
Cambridge, MA  02142-3104
View map »


Sponsor: CIC Cambridge
Telephone: 617-953-0674
Contact Name: Shakti Rowan
Website »

More information

Chef Arwyn Fires It Up! Embrace the Fire, the Sun, and the Light! Watch as Chef Arwyn brings our Café Bar to life cooking fresh, festive locally sourced ingredients over flames. She will...

Cost: $10

Where:
Groton Wellness
493 Main Street
Mill Run Plaza
Groton, MA  01450
View map »


Sponsor: Cafe at Groton Wellness
Telephone: 978-449-9919
Contact Name: Amy Ashman
Website »

More information

Revel in the longest day of daylight of the year! Join us for a special meditation celebration of the Summer Solstice. We will also be integrating our Tibetan and crystal bowls into this...

Cost: Pre-Reg. $20 includes materials

Where:
Brookside Farms
8 Mammoth Rd
Pelham, NH   03076
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
Website »

More information

Energy Healing is an expression of our infinite connection to divine life force and divine imagination. When these divine forces move through us, they bring healing, wisdom, and the ability to...

Cost: $30

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
90 Main Street
Andover, MA  01810
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Website »

More information

June 21 - July 1, 2018 Women’s Yoga Retreats in beautiful Rockport, ME. Relax, rejuvenate, rediscover. 3 amazing options: Kundalini Summer Solstice - Jun 21-24 Gentle Yoga - Jun 24-28...

Where:
Rockport, ME


Telephone: 508-990-6795

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

With Joseph Carringer Relax, clear out energetic and emotional stagnation and connect with your major energy centers. Joseph provides a meditative journey that reconnects the mind with the...

Cost: $45

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
Lower Level
6 Chestnut Street
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-867-3969
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Back, neck, and/or sciatica pain? Svaroopa yoga is well known for relieving pain and releasing tension throughout your entire body. Classes begin and end with a guided awareness and include...

Cost: $18

Where:
Body Love Wellness Center
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Sponsor: Bliss Through Yoga
Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice
Website »

More information

Celebrating The Summer Solstice And Kicking Off Summer Season! We have a Marvelous line up of different intuitive/healing/wellness services to sample from as you enjoy a fun refreshing day for...

Cost: Special $25 and $60

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles RD Unit #A
Our Yellow Banner is in Window
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags