“My Apology for Texas Having Produced Both Cecile Richards and Sarah Weddington”
by Donna Garner
First, let me apologize as a Texan for having produced Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood (salary -- $400,000 per year). Cecile Richards is a curse upon our country and upon the 54,559,615 little babies who have been killed through abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973.
I also want to apologize as a Texas for having produced Sarah Weddington who successfully argued Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court with Ann Richards standing by her side as her legislative office manager.
I went to college with Sarah Weddington and found her to be a rebellious liberal even at that time. While Sarah was at law school, she got pregnant out of wedlock with Ron Weddington and went to Mexico where she had an illegal abortion. She and Ron married and were divorced within six years and had no children. On 5.2.11, Sarah was dismissed from her job at the U. of Texas where she had taught in the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies for 23 years.
Following is the story of Cecile Richards’ life as told in today’s Dallas Morning News by Scott Parks. Please take the time to read the background on Texas Freedom Network – founded by Cecile Richards -- that I posted in italics within Parks’ article:
Texas-born leader of Planned Parenthood is driven by those who would roll back abortion rights
By SCOTT K. PARKS
Published: 08 June 2012 03:34 PM
SAN DIEGO — The new face of American feminism looked tired as she delivered a keynote speech to 1,500 abortion-rights supporters hovering over plates of baked chicken at a fundraising gala.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, had just endured 20 hours of airport grief to fly from New York City to San Diego. Still, after her speech, she patiently posed for photographs and chatted with admirers until they all drifted out of the hotel ballroom and into the night.
“She is so incredible,” one young woman gushed while awaiting her photo op.
The abortion war, now 40 years old, is escalating during the 2012 election year. Richards bounces from city to city, raising money and lambasting social conservatives who advocate eliminating Planned Parenthood because some of its 800 clinics perform abortions.
This is what drives her: the fight against those who would turn back the clock on abortion rights.
“Women make responsible and complicated decisions every day about having children and not having children,” she said. “It’s a woman’s decision. I cannot presume to make that decision for any woman.”
Richards, who turns 55 this summer, has been a hell-raiser since high school: a student protester in her teens; in her 20s, an itinerant union organizer; in her 30s, a campaign strategist for her mother, late Texas Gov. Ann Richards; a foe of the religious right in her 40s; in her 50s, a leading abortion rights advocate who earns $400,000 a year as Planned Parenthood president.
Anyone traveling with her quickly learns that many women, particularly young ones grappling with contraception issues, consider her a role model and heroine. But her brand of progressive politics is anathema to conservative women.
Dianne Edmondson, executive director of the Republican National Coalition for Life, calls Richards a symbol of “radical feminism,” and wonders how a mother of three could support abortion.
“The first thing I would ask her is how, as a mother, she can justify helping facilitate the dismemberment of unborn children,” said Edmondson, a GOP leader in Denton County.
Richards is used to the criticism and dramatic portrayals of abortion. But for her, the most important thing is helping women maintain control over their own bodies.
“I’m not gonna say these things don’t hurt, but you can’t let it get to you,” she said.
Until last February, Richards was primarily known as the daughter of the legendary Gov. Richards, who died in 2006. Then, the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced it would stop funding grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening.
Planned Parenthood supporters, including many Komen volunteers, went nuts. To them, it seemed Komen leadership had tried to inject politics into women’s health programs in a way that resembled the Republican Party’s anti-abortion agenda. Richards emerged as their loudest voice, but she studiously avoided condemning Komen.
Instead, in myriad interviews, she focused feminist anger on the anti-abortion forces who pressured Komen to kill the grants. And she pounded home the message that 97 percent of the 3 million women who come to Planned Parenthood each year are not seeking abortions.
“My issue was not with Komen,” Richards told The Dallas Morning News. “The same people yelling at women outside our health centers were the same folks urging boycotts of their walks and turning the screws on them, finally pushing them over the edge.”
Within days, Komen was hemorrhaging from the self-inflicted wound. Nancy Brinker, its founder, admitted the mistake and pledged to renew the grants to Planned Parenthood.
“For me, if there was a moment of satisfaction, it was that these folks playing politics with women’s health now understand you can’t do that anymore,” Richards told The News.
On the night of Komen’s capitulation, Planned Parenthood’s national staff and board members ate dinner at the D.C. Coast Restaurant on K Street in Washington, D.C.
“It was the first time I ever saw Cecile tired,” recalled Cecilia Boone, a Dallas philanthropist who serves as national board chairwoman. “The Komen event allowed us to move the conversation from abortion to women’s health care. The organization, under Cecile’s leadership, is working at such a high level.”
New York life
Richards and her husband, Kirk Adams, have been married 27 years. He is a lifelong labor union organizer and has risen to executive vice president of Service Employees International Union, or SEIU. Like his wife, he spends a lot of time on the road.
The couple share an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan across from Central Park, which provides a soothing antidote for the intensity of their professional demands. She often runs in the park. He walks.
“During the week, there are very few days when we are both around,” he said. “But we do a good job of being together.”
It’s just the two of them now. Their twins, Hannah and Daniel, are away at college. Older daughter Lily works as press secretary for Tim Kaine, a U.S. Senate candidate in Virginia and the state’s former governor.
Richards has become adept at cooking for two, Adams said.
“She makes a killer coffee cake.”
Adams said his wife is particularly appealing to young women because she knows who she is and understands her place in the world — things they want for themselves someday.
“A friend once said she’s equally adept in the boardroom and the barrio. She’s gone through a long journey to achieve that kind of confidence.”
Hugh Largey, a Catholic anti-abortion activist, stood on a sidewalk outside the San Diego hotel where Richards was speaking at the Planned Parenthood gala. A man of 65 with a wry sense of humor, Largey held a simple sign that said, “Poor Cecile. She can’t hep it. She was born with a silver forceps in her mouth.” A dozen other protesters stood on the sidewalk holding signs with photos of aborted fetuses.
The sly reference to Ann Richards’ 1988 Democratic National Convention speech — making fun of George H.W. Bush’s patrician background, saying he “was born with a silver foot in his mouth” — provided a stark contrast to the other protesters holding large, disturbing photos of aborted fetuses.
Inside the hotel, Richards waited backstage for her turn at the microphone as banquet diners finished dessert. They all watched a video of her mother addressing the annual gala a decade ago, and a smile crossed her face.
The speech was vintage Ann Richards, the camera on a close-up shot of her weathered face issuing a drawling excoriation of anti-abortion conservatives and a riveting plea to protect Roe v. Wade at all costs.
As the video on a fleet of giant monitors faded to black, the daughter walked into the spotlight to a standing ovation. A slim 5-10, she resembled a cross between a model and a long-distance runner in a short red jacket, black skirt and black high heels.
“I never followed my mother on stage,” she said in a raspy voice. “There’s a reason.”
For an instant, the mother-daughter juxtaposition revealed that Cecile Richards may not have chosen to spend her life fighting powerful forces. Maybe it was her destiny, shaped by the politics that dominated her family life.
Shortly after her birth in Waco, she and her parents moved to Dallas. Their small home on Lovers Lane in University Park soon became a tiny island of liberalism surrounded by a conservative ocean. They pledged themselves to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, labor unions, civil rights and what eventually would be called women’s liberation.
David Richards, her father, was a civil rights lawyer who also took on clients in organized labor. He worked in a firm that included Oscar Mauzy, who later became a state senator and Texas Supreme Court justice.
Ann Richards was a housewife. Brothers Dan and Clark came along in 1959 and 1962. Little sister Ellen arrived in 1964. Their neighborhood school, University Park Elementary, was a four-block walk from home. The family attended the Unitarian church on Preston Road, where free-thinkers were welcome.
“There was a lot of activity,” Cecile Richards recalled. “We didn’t know any other way to be. We kind of grew up as a clump. When things quieted down too much, my mother would throw a dinner party for 25.”
Moving to Austin
The family moved to Austin in 1969 and found a more hospitable environment for progressive Democrats. Cecile was sent home from junior high school for wearing a black armband to protest the Vietnam War. In high school, the drill team rejected her because she was too tall.
“I could only imagine that she would have wanted to join the drill team so she could infiltrate it and bring it down,” said her brother Clark.
Not quite 15 years old, Cecile joined her mother to campaign for a young Austin lawyer, Sarah Weddington, who was running for state representative in 1972. They advocated radical ideas such as equal access to credit for women. Weddington won the race.
In January 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark opinion in Roe v. Wade, thecase that legalized abortion. Weddington was the attorney who successfully argued the case before the high court. And Ann Richards became her legislative office manager at the state Capitol.
Today, Cecile Richards laughs at the irony.
“I know it’s crazy that now I’m president of Planned Parenthood,” she said. “That’s just how the world works.”
Richards escaped Texas after high school to attend Brown University, an Ivy League school in Rhode Island. She majored in history. But her passion was protest.
She joined the Clamshell Alliance, an anti-nuclear group that fought, unsuccessfully, the construction of the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire. She joined protests against apartheid, and urged Brown to dump its investments in South Africa.
“It’s not like college got in the way of her organizing,” her brother Dan told The Newsrecently.
The year 1980 loomed large for Richards. She graduated from Brown and her mother got sober. Unfortunately, her parents’ marriage also began dissolving. She headed off to Guatemala to learn Spanish. She would need it for her chosen profession.
Love and picket lines
Richards remembers “living in my car” during her days as a union organizer for women garment workers in the Rio Grande Valley — a grueling first job after college. It didn’t take her long to find a better job in New Orleans.
Working for United Labor Unions, she cajoled low-wage hotel workers to join the union and fight for better pay and benefits. On Memorial Day 1982, she met Adams, an Irish Catholic organizer from Massachusetts. She became his boss.
“I got interested in my boss pretty quickly,” he recalled. Their professional efforts in New Orleans met with limited success, but romance blossomed.
The couple moved to Houston in 1983 and began organizing nursing home workers for the SEIU. Eventually, they migrated to Tyler to recruit new members and form new locals. This time, Adams said, they won 21 of 23 union elections and established a meaningful footprint in East Texas.
“The essence of an organizer is to agitate, engage people and move them to action. Cecile got pretty good at it,” Adams said.
Finally, they got married at Ann Richards’ Austin home in June 1985. They drove to Beaumont the next day to walk a picket line with striking workers.
Before long, they left Texas and moved to Los Angeles, where Richards focused on organizing the mostly Hispanic workforce that cleans high-rise office buildings. The campaign was called Justice for Janitors.
“I was arrested two times during those days — maybe three times — for sitting in buildings to bring attention to our movement through civil disobedience,” she recalled.
Their first child, Lily, was born in 1987.
Ann Richards became a star at the 1988 Democratic National Convention when she skewered the elder Bush with the “silver foot” comment. The subsequent notoriety helped propel her decision to run for governor of Texas in 1990.
Richards and Adams left Los Angeles and moved to Austin to join her mother’s campaign.
“It was a big deal,” Cecile Richards recalled. “Mom didn’t have a husband with a bunch of money to help her and she needed us. Yes, in retrospect, we uprooted our lives and we would do it again. Family comes first.”
The Richards family experienced a banner year in 1990. Cecile gave birth to the twins. And Texans elected Ann Richards governor. But the euphoria lasted only four years. In 1994, George W. Bush handily defeated her for re-election. The story read like political poetry — the son avenging the “silver foot” slight against his father.
“Sure, it hurt. But we moved on,” Cecile Richards said. “And it was time to find the next thing.”
By then, she was 38 years old with three young children. She had watched closely as Bush allied himself with a coalition of conservative Christian groups during the campaign. She concluded that they were now trying to position Democrats and other opponents as anti-religious.
In response, she founded the Texas Freedom Network, a tax-exempt watchdog over an increasingly conservative state government. She became particularly alarmed about the religious right’s takeover of the State Board of Education, an elected body that adopts curriculum guidelines and textbooks for public schools.
Richards and her friends took to the road to raise money and educate people about what they saw as the dangers of “just say no” abstinence-only sex education. She believed that teenagers will have sex and need to have it safely.
She preached about the “bad science” of injecting Bible stories about Earth’s creation into curriculum alongside evolution. And she went to the Legislature to fight so-called voucher plans that let students transfer to private schools and pay tuition with public funds.
[The following are excerpts taken from my 4.20.12 article entitled “Texas Freedom Network Has ‘Lost Face’ in Texas” -- http://educationviews.org/2012/04/20/texas-freedom-network-has-lost...
WHO AND WHAT TFN REALLY IS
Please take a look at the organizations that support Texas Freedom Network, and this should tell you everything you need to know about their true intent:
Planned Parenthood; the Human Rights Campaign (largest homosexual organization in the U. S.); the ACLU Texas; Alliance for Clean Texas; People for the American Way; Center for Public Policy Priorities; Equality Texas; NARAL Pro-Choice; Sierra Club; Freedom From Religion Foundation; Stand Down Texas; Texas Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates (TAPPA); Texas Impact; The Texas Observer; MECha (who wants to eliminate the border with Mexico entirely and honor Mexican revolutionary war hero Ernesto Zapata and Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara); the Center for Inquiry (CFI) who fought to make the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional.
Do we want Texas Freedom Network to influence Texas’ education standards, textbooks, and curriculum?
Let’s consider the answer to that question:
Dan Quinn is the Communications Director for Texas Freedom Network (TFN). Dan “outed” himself in an article in the Austin American-Statesman (6.3.01 -- http://www.statesman.com/specialreports/content/specialreports/gays... ).
Cecile Richards founded Texas Freedom Network in 1995. She is now the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. When Cecile left for Washington, D. C., Samantha Smoot took Cecile's place.
When Samantha left for Washington, D. C. in 2005, she went to work for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest homosexual organization in the country.
Another far, leftwing organization has recently been added to the TFN alliance: MEChA.
Now we have Texas Freedom Network, Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Campaign (largest homosexual organization in the country), and MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) all speaking as one voice. Who is MEChA?
On 3.25.10, The Daily Texan reported:
"A UT-based group called Save Our History, an alliance between University Democrats, a Chicano civil rights group called MEChA and the Texas Freedom Network, a nonprofit that works to combat the radical right voice in education, staged a march and press conference on March 10. Garrett Mize, a member of the Texas Freedom Network and the coalition, said the group plans to continue its activism and hopes to expand its membership in preparation for the May meetings."
MEChA wants to eliminate the border with Mexico entirely. They honor Mexican revolutionary war hero Ernesto Zapata and Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara.
MEChA has held rallies to pressure the University of Texas not to celebrate Texas Independence Day on campus, and they advocate for “La Reconquista” or the retaking of the Southwestern states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah) to form an independent nation called “Aztlan.” (http://188.8.131.52/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=16439)
What parent in his right mind would want the TFN alliance to have any influence whatsover over what impressionable and vulnerable public school students are taught?
“I drove and she spoke to any group that would invite her,” recalled Harriett Peppel, a friend from Austin. “I watched her get better and better at political organizing. There was no limit to her energy.”
Richards served as executive director of TFN for three years and then moved to Washington D.C., where her husband had gone to work for the AFL-CIO. She worked on women’s issues with Jane Fonda and the Ted Turner Foundation; served as deputy chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi; then helped found America Votes, a national organization dedicated to progressive causes.
Richards acknowledges that friends and colleagues across the country often encourage her to run for office.
“She always sees a clear path ahead,” Pelosi said. “Therefore, people follow her. People are drawn to her. I have entertained the idea that wouldn’t it be wonderful if she ran for governor of Texas.”
Not a chance, Richards said.
“I really have a lot of respect for people who do it, but it’s just not my thing,” she said. “To me, public office was never how I could make the most change in the world. And that is what I’m addicted to.”
In many ways, Richards is the modern iteration of famous American women who lived a century ago: Margaret Sanger, the nurse who founded Planned Parenthood, and Mother Jones, the radical labor organizer who co-founded International Workers of the World.
Their missionary zeal did not square with the give-and-take compromises of electoral politics.
“With Cecile, there is no gray area,” said her brother Dan. “There is only right and wrong.”
IN THE KNOW: 10 things about Cecile Richards
1. Time magazine named her to its list of The 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2011 and 2012.
2. She is currently reading The Passage of Power, the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s biography of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
3. She has visited the White House four times since President Barack Obama took office.
4. She prefers active vacations, such as hiking the Inca Trail in Peru and rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. The word “leisure” is not in her dictionary, she said.
5. She and Kirk Adams were married by a Catholic priest in Austin. She now considers herself “a Unitarian in spirit.”
6. Security measures prevent her from opening her own mail at Planned Parenthood.
7. Running the New York City Marathon is on her bucket list.
8. Her two brothers, Dan and Clark, and her father, David, practice law together in Austin.
9. She became president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America in February 2006. Seven months later, her mother, former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, died of cancer at 73.
10. One of her hobbies is baking pies. It helps her relax. Pecan and lemon meringue are her best.
Cecile Richards: Her life in brief
Born: July 15, 1957, in Waco
Raised: Dallas and Austin
Education: Bachelor’s degree in history from Brown University
Career: Labor union organizer; political organizer for her mother, Gov. Ann Richards; founder of Texas Freedom Network; staffer for Ted Turner Foundation; staffer for U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi; president of Planned Parenthood.
Personal: Resides in Manhattan with husband Kirk Adams, executive vice president of Service Employees International Union; three children.