Sometimes it seems like the forces opposed to Planned Parenthood are really engaged in some super genius reverse psychology aimed at increasing individual donations to the organization. Of course it’s just wishful thinking on my part but that’s exactly what happened when anti-choice lawmakers in Congress tried to de-fund Planned Parenthood in early 2011; the organization received more than $2M in donations. Now, it’s the Susan G. Komen Foundation that is raising goo-gobs of money for Planned Parenthood while taking a hit to their own reputation, to boot.
By now you’ve probably heard the story but here’s the short of it: breast cancer research and awareness foundation, Susan G. Komen, decided to cancel about $700,000 in funds to Planned Parenthood health centers for breast and cervical cancer screenings. According to the Komen Foundation, it pulled support from Planned Parenthood because of an internal Komen Foundation policy forbidding the granting of funds to organizations under investigation. While this sounds like a reasonable rule to follow, Planned Parenthood leadership, the media, and supporters saw right through the smokescreen and called Komen Foundation out on their shenanigans.
First, Planned Parenthood is almost always “under investigation”, not because they’re breaking laws, but because there are high-ranking officials who love to find new reasons to drag the organization before one congressional investigative committee or another. It’s telling that for all of the investigation of Planned Parenthood, the organization continues to operate without sanction, without criminal or civil penalties and without being forced to shut its doors. It appears that “under investigation” doesn’t carry much weight at all. Second, anti-choice forces have been working for years to pressure those that support Planned Parenthood into pulling their support from the organization. Since they have been so utterly unsuccessful in bringing Planned Parenthood down directly, they go for the backdoor approach – leaning on everyone from the companies that remove trash from Planned Parenthood health centers to huge, influential nonprofits like the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Finally, the Komen Foundation can’t even apply its own policy consistently. As Mother Jones reports, the Komen Foundation seems to have no qualms funding $7.5 million-worth of cancer research at Penn State’s Hershey Medical Center while Penn State is currently under investigation related to a child sex abuse scandal. Perhaps you’ve heard about it?
What’s so infuriating is that the Komen Foundation and anti-choice forces are not above playing politics with women’s health. Planned Parenthood serves our nation’s most needy women, providing basic healthcare along with dreaded contraception counseling and abortion care. According to the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society, screenings for breast and cervical cancer are crucial in detecting symptoms early on, resulting in better treatment and reduced instances of death. In a recent statement, Planned Parenthood reports providing more than four million clinical breast exams nationwide. It’s easy to see how many low-income women will be affected by the Komen Foundation’s decision to cave to anti-choice pressure.
As a pro-choice woman and woman’s health advocate, it is so frustrating that people cannot separate their feelings about abortion and contraception from all of the other valuable, lifesaving healthcare that Planned Parenthood provides. The fact of the matter is that women are not able to get affordable health care in their neighborhoods from many places other than the local Planned Parenthood. I can raise my hand as someone who has taken advantage of many of their services when I was a broke student and I know you probably have too since one in five American women has been to Planned Parenthood.
The good news is that there has been an outpouring of support for Planned Parenthood. Individual and group donations to Planned Parenthood have spiked since the news broke and Mike Bloomberg, New York City’s billionaire mayor, has pledged $250,000 of his own money to support Planned Parenthood’s cancer screening efforts. On the flip side, it’s terrible that the Komen Foundation let itself get bullied this way because ultimately, no matter how many people step up to fill the gap left by their abandonment of Planned Parenthood, women’s health will still suffer. A top Komen executive is resigning; supporters are pulling their donations, unsubscribing from email lists, and dropping affiliations. Many dedicated to the cause of finding a cure for breast cancer have been forced to choose between Komen and Planned Parenthood and that doesn’t help anyone at the end of the day. It’s not too late for the Komen Foundation to listen to the voices of its very own base and do the right thing. Patching things up with Planned Parenthood would not only be a win for both organizations, but for the millions of women they serve.