Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards Stepping Down Part One:

Leaving a Legacy of More Than 3.5 Million Lost Lives

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRLC Director of Education & Research

Editor’s note. When this story was first written this morning, PPFA President Cecile Richards was still being cagey about whether she was going to retire. As recently as last night, Richards “dodged questions” about her retirement when she appeared on The Daily Show. Now she has sent an email to PPFA donors that she is resigning.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, what can we say about her “legacy” as President of the largest abortion provider in the United States?

PPFA's Cecille Richards

PPFA President Cecile Richards

As we discussed on Wednesday, PPFA President Cecile Richards is about to retire, according to Buzzfeed. As recently as last night, however, Richards “dodged questions” about her retirement when she appeared on The Daily Show. If she is about to step down, what can we say about her “legacy” as President of the largest abortion provider in the United States?

When Richards took over the presidency of Planned Parenthood in February of 2006, PPFA’s most recent annual for 2005-2006 reported over 3 million clients, 264,943 abortions (for the year 2005), and revenues in the range of $902.8 million dollars

The group’s most recent annual report for 2016-2017 shows the number of clients served has fallen to around 2.4 million, and there has been an enormous drop off in some of the group’s signature services.

But abortions and revenues? Way up, reaching new heights, making the organization more powerful – and more dangerous – than ever.

Revenues today for this “non-profit” reach nearly $1.5 billion.

And PPFA affiliates began to perform more than three hundred thousand abortions a year during her tenure. Her bloody legacy is that of more than 3.5 million lives lost since she took office.

Clients and Non-Abortion Services

Planned Parenthood saw 3,061,364 clients in 2005. While Planned Parenthood doesn’t give an exact number in its 2016-2017 annual report, it gives what appears to be an estimate of 2.4 million. This would represent a drop of more than 20% over Richards’ 12 year term.

Key services, ones for which Planned Parenthood says women depend on them, also feel under her watch. Any time anyone challenges the group’s funding, Richards and Planned Parenthood cite “Cancer screenings.” But these screenings have dropped by more than two-thirds on Richard’s watch, from 2,011,637 in 2005 to just 660,777 in 2016

Even contraception Planned Parenthood’s signature product, fell while Richards occupied the chief executive’s chair. At 3,728,549 in 2005 before Richards took over, the number of contraceptive “services” peaked at 3,989,474 in 2006, her first year. A decade later, the number dropped to 2,701,866.

Total services similarly fell over Richards’ tenure, going from 10,588,360 her first year (2006) down to 9,537,592 in 2016. Services actually peaked at 11,238,414 in 2009, a sign that the fall off was even more substantial.

Remarkably, though, revenues were up during this time frame, telling us something about Ms. Richards’ business acumen and objectives. A key part of increased revenues was abortion.

Managing an abortion empire

In 2005, PPPFA reported 264,943 abortions, the highest reported number in its almost ninety year history. Under Richards, the number quickly grew. With Richards at the helm, the number of abortions quickly broke the 300,000 barrier, hitting 305,310 in 2007 and staying up over 320,000 every year since 2008.

Given that abortions in the U.S. as a whole fell by more than 300,000 during Richard’s reign at Planned Parenthood, it is all the more remarkable that PPFA still performed 321,384 abortions in 2016.

Planned Parenthood’s “share” of the country’s abortions went from around 22% in 2005, before Richards took over, to about 35% in her latest year. In other words from just over one in five abortions to more than one out of every three abortions, a testimony to Richards’ success in cornering the abortion market and cementing PPFA’s place as the country’s largest abortion chain.

This is an even more remarkable achievement than it seems, given the consolidation within the organizational infrastructure.

There were 116 affiliates and “more than 860 local health centers” (clinics) in 2006, the year that Richards took over. By 2017, Planned Parenthood was reporting just 56 affiliates and 661 local health centers (CNBC, 1/24/18).

Richards has presided over a time when richer, more powerful, more politically active affiliates gobbled up smaller, weaker ones. Expensive middle management was jettisoned and many smaller non-abortion performing clinics were closed.

In their place, affiliates across the country have invested in giant, modern, shiny new mega-clinics that can handle high abortion patient volume. Just a brief count finds more than three dozen such clinics, usually 10,000 square feet or more, have sprung g up during Richards’ tenure. They spread across the country from places like Denver, New Orleans, Portland, OR, Houston, Memphis, Kalamazoo, MI, Sarasota, Fayetteville, NC, Worcester, MA, St. Paul, MN, West Hollywood, CA, and Queens, NY, to name just a few.

Abortion is a featured service at these locations. Meanwhile Planned Parenthood has closed many of those smaller store fronts that offered only services such as contraceptives or cancer screenings.

This is the very definition of “leaner and meaner.”

An exceptionally wealthy “non-profit”

Receiving hundreds of millions in tax dollars for its “services” and being able to tap into some of the nation’s wealthiest donors, Planned Parenthood has always been one of the nation’s richest “non-profits.” Under Richards’ leadership, Planned Parenthood has grown ever richer and more powerful.

In the last year before Richards assumed the presidency, Planned Parenthood’s total revenues were $882 million (fiscal year ending June 30, 2005). Its most recent annual report now puts revenues at nearly a billion and a half dollars a year ($1,459,600,000.00 for fiscal year ending June 30, 2017.)

This means that during just the twelve years Richards was at the helm, revenues for Planned Parenthood rose by nearly two thirds (65.5%), even while clinics were closing and services were shrinking.

Richards accomplished this, as noted above, by pruning weak affiliates, closing lightly used clinics, getting rid of expensive middle management, and focusing big ticket items like abortion.

Most Planned Parenthood affiliates do not publish their abortion prices, but with the cost of an average first trimester surgical abortion in the U.S. approaching $500, the money that they can get from a single abortion dwarfs what they might get for a packet of pills or even an STD test. When one understands that these other services, as well as pregnancy testing, bloodwork, etc., are also often bundled and sold along with these abortions, the financial benefit of these abortions, surgical or chemical, to Planned Parenthood’s bottom line, is obvious.

Planned Parenthood, with Cecile Richards leading the media campaign, also used abortion to generate a growing number of donations to the organization. When videos surfaced on Richards’ watch showing Planned Parenthood executives dickering over compensation for aborted baby body parts, Richards took the opportunity to play the victim card. She claimed the videos were “heavily edited,” so as to claim that the group was being unfair attacked, to call for political and financial support.

She made similar appeals when funding for the organization was being challenged in Congress or in the states.

Those appeals paid off, big time. Not only has government funding stayed stable, at about a half billion dollars a year, but private contributions have soared. At $215.8 million in 2005 before Richards took office, private giving regularly topped $300 million before shooting up to $532.7 million in fiscal year ending June 30, 2017.

An exceptionally wealthy “non-profit,” revenues at Planned Parenthood exceed the annual gross domestic product of some of the nations which have seats at the United Nations. While “non-profits” by definition cannot have profits, it is worth noting that during Richards’s tenure, “excess revenue over expenses” often ran between $50 million and $150 million on the group’s yearend balance sheet.

Various news media outlets have noted that Richards’ annual salary is about $500,000 a year, though Planned Parenthood 2015 Form 990 showed Richards receiving $957,952 in total pay and benefits from various Planned Parenthood entities. (Richards heads not only PPFA but also the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.) Given their return over the years, this is money that Planned Parenthood probably finds well spent.

If they were able to speak, the 3.5 million babies who lost their lives under Cecile Richards’s reign of terror would beg to differ.

On Monday, in Part Two, Dr. O’Bannon will discuss how Richards took Planned Parenthood, which bills itself as a “reproductive health care” organization, in a more political direction than it had ever gone before.