Former Planned Parenthood Leader Cecile Richards Reveals Brain Cancer Diagnosis

Richards, who has continued to work on abortion rights issues since stepping down in 2018, says she is doing well as she undergoes treatment.

Cecile Richards, who boldly led Planned Parenthood through years of political and judicial assaults on the right to abortion, revealed in an interview Sunday that she’s battling brain cancer.

Richards, 66, who was Planned Parenthood’s president from 2006 to 2018, shared details of her diagnosis in a profile in The Cut. For the past six months, she divulged, she’s been undergoing treatment for an incurable glioblastoma, which has a median survival rate of 15 months.

Though the cancer has affected her motor skills, speech and ability to write, she says her doctors have been encouraged by her continued strength.

“I am sleeping. I’m eating. I’m having fun. I’m working. It’s like Pinocchio — I’m a real boy, and that feels really good,” Richards said. “Because six months ago I didn’t know that this was possible.”

For treatment, Richards, the daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who died of esophageal cancer in 2006, is undergoing semiweekly infusions as part of a clinical trial.

Richards has remained active in advocacy for reproductive rights since ending her tenure as Planned Parenthood’s president, she told The Cut. She’s continued to work throughout her diagnosis, including on a bot she co-created called Charley, which helps people in need of abortions figure out how to get one. And in 2019, she co-founded the women’s political action group Supermajority.

“I have been one of the really privileged few that could do what I thought needed doing. And so whatever comes next, I have that,” Richards said, reflecting on the years she spent convincing Democrats that abortion was a winning issue for voters.

That’s something the party’s well aware of today. Since the fall of Roe v. Wade in 2022, voters across the country, including in deep-red states, have voted to protect abortion rights. Despite that, lawmakers in more than a dozen states have enacted complete bans on the procedure without Roe’s protections in place.

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