St. Louis Planned Parenthood President Yamelsie Rodriguez to step down
Updated at 1:25 p.m. Feb. 2 with comments from Rodriguez
Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, has announced she will step down from her position at the end of this month.
Rodriguez has led the regional organization since 2019 and has guided its efforts as access to abortion dwindled and then ended in Missouri.
“Missouri has been such a great school and an incubator for bold and innovative approaches to provide, protect and expand access to sexual and reproductive health care,” she said.
Rodriguez did not give a reason for her departure or elaborate on her plans but said she would “continue to be in a prominent leadership role with the Planned Parenthood ecosystem.” The organization’s general counsel, Richard Muniz, will serve as CEO until Planned Parenthood chooses a permanent replacement.
“We are incredibly thankful to have had Yamelsie’s leadership over the last five years,” board President Sheila Greenbaum said in a press release. “Under her leadership, we’ve grown stronger than ever, with more patients and supporters than ever before in our history. We are poised to move from strength to strength.”
Rodriguez took the job as Planned Parenthood was in a court battle against Missouri health officials, who had declined to renew the license for what was then the state’s last standing abortion provider. A state board eventually ruled that the state was wrong to deny the renewal and the clinic could stay open.
“I reflect on just being ready and prepared and seeing how Missouri was just chipping away what little access was left for abortion in the state,” Rodriguez said. “And our goal then, and our goal now, was to always have a backup plan.”
During Rodriguez’s tenure, Planned Parenthood completed the organization’s new facility in Fairview Heights, an accomplishment she called “her biggest dream.” Leaders built the Metro East clinic to serve more patients, including those seeking abortions, as Missouri's lawmakers further restricted abortion rights in the state.
Missouri banned the procedure after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022 struck down Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion for more than a half-century. Since the decision, demand for procedures at the Metro East clinic has increased, and Planned Parenthood extended its hours to accommodate the surge in patients coming from Missouri and other states that outlawed abortions.
Under Rodriguez, the organization also created programs to offer health care to transgender patients and opened a new clinic in Rolla.
Her departure comes as abortion rights advocates in Missouri push for a ballot initiative to restore access to the procedure.
One such effort backed by the group Missourians for Constitutional Freedom would allow access to abortions up to the point of fetal viability, or when a fetus can survive outside the body. Experts usually place this point at 20 to 24 weeks.
Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri publicly supports the initiative. The organization’s leaders have in the past been critical of measures that restrict access to abortion based on viability limits, calling viability a political construct instead of a medical definition.
The issue has divided some abortion rights groups, but Rodriguez said that her departure was not related to the ballot initiative.
“The truth is, it has absolutely nothing to do with that,” she said. Rodriguez said she had informed the organization’s board of her plans months before Planned Parenthood threw its support behind the ballot measure.