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Former Head Of Planned Parenthood Says Decades of Progress Crushed With New Texas Abortion Law

In this Jan. 21, 2017 photo, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Cecile Richards speak to the crowd during the women's march rally in Washington. Richards and two other women of the nation's most influential activists are launching a new organization that aims to harness the political power of women to influence elections and shape local and national policy priorities. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Jose Luis Magana
Cecile Richards speaking to the crowd during the women's march rally in Washington in 2017.

Texas native Cecile Richards has worked for reproductive health care and rights her entire career.

The former President of Planned Parenthood of America said she’s concerned about what Texas’s new legislation could mean for the country. The new law stops doctors from performing abortions once fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which is around six weeks and often before people know they're pregnant.

“All of us who have worked in this area for a long, long time, have hoped that this day would never come, but here it is,” Richards said. “This is a cruel and unconstitutional law.”

The law was passed on what would've been her mom's birthday, former Texas Gov. Ann Richards.

“I just thought how upsetting it was, to think that all the things that we’ve fought for in Texas," she said. " Building our democracy, better access to opportunities for everyone, that really in one day it just crushed decades and decades of progress in the state.”

Richards is in Dallas to speak at Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas’ annual Dallas Awards on Thursday. The event raises funds for the organization’s health and education services.

She has a message for people: You’re not alone.

“The worst thing could happen is that people's rights are taken away, and it's silent,” Richards said. “I know people are afraid. And so it’s even more important to speak up and speak out, because you can't ever know how much that helps people who are really struggling right now.”

She’s anticipating more lawsuits like those against the doctor in San Antonio who provided an abortion outside the six-week timeframe outlined by the new law.

She's also watching the Supreme Court case coming up in December. The court is set to hear arguments about Mississippi’s abortion laws, which could challenge Roe v. Wade.

But Richards said it goes beyond litigation.

“What’s on my mind is that every day in Texas now, millions of people wake up who have lost this right to make their own decision about pregnancy,” Richards said. “And that is unconscionable.”

Got a tip? Email Elena Rivera at You can follow Elena on Twitter @elenaiswriting.

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Elena Rivera is the health reporter at KERA. Before moving to Dallas, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region.