Former Planned Parenthood executive slams Alabama abortion restrictions: 'Women are watching'

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Former Planned Parenthood president and CEO Cecile Richards has a message for politicians cheering the passage of the Alabama Human Life Protection Act: “Women are watching.”

“This week we watched what happens when government doesn’t represent or respond to us,” Richards said in a statement to Yahoo News. “Twenty-five white men voted to take away the right to safe and legal abortion women have had for more than 40 years. But women are watching. Women are organizing like never before, women are taking action, and women will decide the direction of our country in 2020.”

On Wednesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law the most restrictive abortion bill in the United States. It includes a near total ban on abortions, allows for no exceptions for victims of rape and incest, and would punish doctors who perform the procedure with life in prison.

Richards served as the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood for 12 years before stepping down in 2018. Since then, she has co-founded Supermajority, an organization focused on mobilizing women ahead of the 2020 election, and remains an avid supporter of the pro-choice movement.

On Thursday, Richards joined thousands of women who shared their abortion stories on Twitter using the hashtag #YouKnowMe. “I had an abortion,” Richards wrote. “It was the right decision for me, and it wasn’t a hard one. My husband and I were working more than full time and had three kids already. I was fortunate that, at the time, accessing abortion in TX was not the nightmare it is now.”

“For me, sharing my story has been powerful,” she continued. “I meet people all the time who tell me it inspired them to talk about their abortions. But the fact is, we shouldn't have to share our most personal experiences simply to try to generate a measure of empathy from politicians.”

In a May 13 interview with the Yahoo News show “Through Her Eyes,” Richards expressed concern that state legislatures were challenging the legal right to have an abortion, which was established in 1973 through the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. “Many states now are essentially assuming with the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court that it will be a state-by-state decision whether abortion remains safe and legal in the U.S.,” she said. “And therefore, we’re seeing states from Alabama to Georgia to Ohio pass laws that essentially completely fly in the face of the Roe decision.”

Richards insisted that new state laws with more stringent abortion restrictions will only put more women at risk as they seek abortions through any means necessary. “Not only is it a terrible health care policy, it will put women in danger and already does,” Richards said. “It’s not that abortion will go away in the United States. It would simply go underground. It would become illegal again.”

Staci Fox, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, has said the organization will take legal action to stop Alabama’s new law.

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