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Planned Parenthood leader Cockrum stepping down after 15 years

January 25, 2017
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(IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc. is searching for a new president and CEO to succeed Betty Cockrum.

Cockrum told IBJ she plans to retire in June after 15 years leading the organization, which operates 19 women’s health clinics that provide abortions as well as general health screenings, Pap tests, contraceptives and other services.

The change in leadership comes as Planned Parenthood is facing increased opposition around the country and the possibility of decreased government funding.

Over the years, abortion opponents have launched numerous legislative and legal challenges against Planned Parenthood in Indiana and nationally. In one high-profile case, Indiana attempted to block Medicaid recipients from receiving services from Planned Parenthood because the organization offers abortions. Planned Parenthood won that case in 2013.

On Sunday, hundreds of activists marched down Meridian Street in downtown Indianapolis to protest abortion.

Yet supporters of Planned Parenthood have turned out to support the organization, including thousands who rallied at the Indiana Statehouse on Saturday in support of women’s rights and against demeaning statements about women by President Donald Trump during his campaign.

"It’s been a roller coaster ride,” Cockrum, 63, told IBJ. “The extraordinary abiding support is significant, and that’s more true today than ever.”

In a classified ad, Planned Parenthood said the next president and CEO “must boldly take on the challenge and opportunity to shape public policy as well as to engage new advocates who will continue the fight for reproductive choice and justice.”

The organization has 170 employees and an annual budget of $16 million. It is based on South Meridian Street downtown, and operates 17 clinics in Indiana and two in Kentucky.

The organization provided services to more than 55,000 patients in 2015, including more then 5,200 abortions. But in recent years, visits to Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana have fallen sharply, due to more options for women’s services and less frequent need for Pap tests. That prompted it to close six health centers last year.

In an interview with IBJ in September, Cockrum said the job was “physically exhausting and mentally exhausting.”

“There were those mornings where I would think, ‘OK, I’m just going to get up and do this again,’” she said in the interview. “Whatever this day brings, I’m going to get up and face it and do the best I can.”

Cockrum was state budget director for the late Gov. Frank O’Bannon. Her previous positions include commissioner of the Indiana Department of Administration, director of financial and administrative services with the Indiana Department of Commerce, and city controller for Bloomington.

 

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