The release of videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue harvesting — which led to a contentious House hearing on the organization’s use of taxpayer dollars — has put the spotlight on its president, Cecile Richards, Fox News reports.
For Republicans, Richards is not just a hearing witness on a heated topic — but a potent political foe. Hardly one to hide her leanings, Richards’ history is firmly rooted in Democratic politics – a fact touched on during the hearing, with one prominent Republican on the panel pointing out that Planned Parenthood uses its political arm to almost exclusively back Democrats, who in turn support the group’s continued taxpayer funding.
The daughter of the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, Richards has been involved in Democratic politics since her teenage years. At age 15, according to The Dallas Morning News, she helped her mother elect Roe v. Wade lawyer Sarah Weddington to the Texas legislature. In 1996, at the age of 39, she started the Texas Freedom Network, an organization whose mission is to counter the religious right, particularly in the area of public school curricula.
Before taking over Planned Parenthood, she was deputy chief of staff for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. And in 2012, Richards made an impassioned pitch for President Obama’s re-election at the Democratic convention — even invoking her mother, who died in 2006, telling delegates that she knew Obama and wanted him to succeed politically. “President Obama understands women. He trusts women. And on every issue that matters to us, he stands with women,” she said in her DNC speech.
“She is definitely a Democrat and a pro-abortion insider,” said pro-life activist Lila Rose, the founder of Live Action and an outspoken critic of Planned Parenthood.
According to federal campaign finance records, Richards, 58, personally has contributed nearly $60,000 since 1997, mostly to Democratic candidates and groups including Obama as well as Planned Parenthood’s political arm, the Action Fund. According to a report by Chaffetz, over the past five years, Planned Parenthood has given the Planned Parenthood Action Fund more than $21 million in grants. During Tuesday’s hearing, Richards stressed that the Action Fund remains a “totally separate corporation” that receives no federal taxpayer support. According to the campaign finance watchdog, Planned Parenthood also spent $6.6 million lobbying the federal government from 2010 to 2014, pressing lawmakers to support contraception and abortion rights during heated budget and health care debates.