The Potluck

Minnesota state representative to become CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States

By: - September 7, 2022 12:33 pm

Screenshot of Rep. Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota Heights, announcing her new role as Planned Parenthood North Central States CEO in a video.

Minnesota Rep. Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota Heights, will be the next CEO of Minnesota’s Planned Parenthood affiliate, the organization announced Wednesday.

Planned Parenthood North Central States oversees centers in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and the Dakotas. The two-term legislator is also running for reelection this November. 

Planned Parenthood said in a release that Richardson will oversee health care operations and “will not oversee political work or lobbying while she holds her legislative seat.”

“Our mission is more important than ever before. The new Post-Roe world means that we can’t operate in the same way as we have for the last 50 years,” Richardson said in a release. “We have to be focused on serving patients across our region, and serving people from states that have banned abortion, by thinking about access regionally. I can’t wait to get to work.”

Fifteen states have banned abortion so far, including the Dakotas.

South Dakota has banned abortion. North Dakota passed a so-called trigger law that was supposed to go into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned, but it was blocked by a judge last month. North Dakota’s only abortion clinic left Fargo and moved across the Red River into Moorhead, Minn., after Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Planned Parenthood North Central States is currently providing abortion in Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.

Republicans are already criticizing Richardson’s new dual role as a lawmaker and CEO of an organization deeply enmeshed in politics. 

Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch, tweeted that the appointment follows a pattern of lawmakers working at organizations that benefit from legislation.

“So, nothing different with non-profiteers rewarding their partners in the Democrat legislative caucus for financial and political gains,” Koran tweeted.

Minnesota lawmakers, who are only part-time legislators, frequently face potential conflicts-of-interest.  Rep. Cedric Frazier, DFL-New Hope, pushed bills to change the state’s teacher licensing system while working as a lawyer for the teachers union. 

Republican lawmakers with business ties are often involved in important regulatory policy. Majority Leader Jeremy Miller’s family ties to a deer farm came under scrutiny following his involvement in chronic wasting disease legislation. Former Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, has an insurance business and has been involved in key insurance legislation. 

Lawmakers often say they are merely offering hard-to-find expertise about arcane subjects and not benefiting personally. 

Richardson is also the CEO of Wayside Recovery Center, a non-profit addiction and mental health care organization.

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues. For two years she was also a corps member with Report for America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms and news deserts. She lives in St. Paul and likes to knit and watch documentaries in her free time.