The drama continues to deepen.
When the board of directors of the Susan G. Komen Foundation decided to halt funding to notorious abortion provider Planned Parenthood, abortion activists launched an informal investigation. Something sinister was happening here; some pro-life plague had to have infiltrated Komen. They pinned their attention on Komen’s relatively new VP, Karen Handel, an admittedly pro-life former Republican candidate for the governor of Georgia. They pointed out that the announcement of Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns’ investigation into Planned Parenthood preceded Komen’s revision of its grant eligibility criteria, which now excludes any organization under investigation by local, state or national government. From that, they concluded that Komen tweaked its criteria precisely to exclude Planned Parenthood. Komen made the rule to exclude under-investigation organizations just because Planned Parenthood was under investigation.
Now, critics of Komen’s decision bring up almost gleefully the resignation of Komen’s top public health official, Mollie Williams. While Williams herself has not said whether her resignation was a reaction to Komen’s decision, National Journal reports that her former senior communications adviser says she left because she just couldn’t stay at an organization that would bow to pressure from the anti-abortion right. Further confirmation that Komen’s decision was politically motivated!
OK, I say. Let’s say it was. Let’s say Komen decided to drop funding to PP because they didn’t want a penny of the money they work so creatively to raise to go to an organization that also provides abortions. Komen officials knew Komen grant money was earmarked by Planned Parenthood expressly for cancer screenings, but they also knew that any dollar Planned Parenthood didn’t have to come up with itself for a cancer screening was a dollar the organization could put toward an abortion instead. Komen officials didn’t want to make abortion any easier or more available than it already is.
So what? Does that lessen the nobility of Komen’s mission to fight breast cancer? Komen did have something to gain by bowing to pro-life pressure — credibility as an organization exclusively dedicated to the eradication of breast cancer and as an organization uniquely poised to receive donations from pro-choice and pro-life donors who, alike, want to eliminate a silent killer of women.
Do the very same folks who say that cancer doesn’t care whether you’re pro-choice or pro-life care whether a cancer-fighting organization is pro-choice or pro-life? Apparently, they do. Even liberal senators want in on the act of criticizing Komen: The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reports that two dozen senators have written a letter to Komen’s directors to ask them to reconsider the Planned Parenthood decision. If all these critics were pleading with Komen just to ensure that the women who in the past have turned to Planned Parenthood for Komen-funded cancer screenings will still have access to those services some other way, then I would understand. But they’re not; they’re explicitly pleading with Komen to fund Planned Parenthood, as though PP is the only organization that can use Komen’s money to provide low-income women with life-saving services.
This decision has caused a stir for one reason and one reason only: It has revealed that it is possible to advocate for “women’s health” without advocating for “abortion rights.” Do abortion rights activists now want to admit by their disowning of Komen that they don’t actually care about other aspects of women’s health? Or might they admit that an organization focused solely on the prevention and treatment of breast cancer need not donate to an organization that is far less focused in its mission — and even promotes procedures that some consider harmful to women — to prove its “women’s health” credentials?