Support Planned Parenthood, and nobody gets hurt.
That is the message the pro-life community says the abortion giant sent when the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation decided last month to stop funding Planned Parenthood for breast cancer prevention.
That move sparked a firestorm as Planned Parenthood immediately waged an intense public relations campaign that included hundreds of thousands of emails and messages on social media lambasting Komen, which subsequently reversed course and announced Feb. 3 that it would restore about $750,000 in funding to Planned Parenthood.
Caving to pressure
Komen, which has turned breast cancer awareness into a national cause, issued a statement apologizing for the controversy, and vowed that it had not intended to wade into “anyone’s politics.”
“Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer,” said Komen in a Feb. 3 statement, which claimed that the original decision was meant to conform with a policy to not award funding to organizations under investigation. Planned Parenthood is the subject of a congressional probe, initiated by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., to determine whether the organization uses public funds to pay for abortions, which is legally prohibited.
Komen said it would amend its grant criteria to say that investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature, and not political.
“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities,” the statement said. A Komen spokeswoman told The Associated Press that Komen wanted to maintain “a positive relationship” with Planned Parenthood.
The controversy was widely covered by mainstream media outlets that many pro-life activists, even some news columnists, saw as one-sided in favor of Planned Parenthood.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote that the mainstream coverage, with its emphasis on the outrage from pro-choice individuals, would lead people to believe that millions of people who oppose Planned Parenthood and abortion “simply do not exist.” The Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute set up a website — istandwithkomen.com — urging supporters to sign a petition with the intent of buttressing Komen’s decision to strip the funding.
After Komen reversed course, C-Fam posted a statement on the website that what had happened was “nothing short of a Mafia shakedown” by an organization that had been “aided and abetted” by the secular press.
“It was little more than a hostage-taking by an abortion bully,” C-Fam said. “Planned Parenthood told the Komen Foundation, ‘Either you give us money or we will destroy you.’”
The American Life League also compared Planned Parenthood’s public relations campaign with a protection racket.
“Hell hath no fury like Planned Parenthood scorned,” said Rita Diller, national director for the American Life League’s Stop Planned Parenthood Initiative.
“The attack on Komen has made it abundantly clear that Planned Parenthood doesn’t care who it destroys in the process of getting its way,” Diller said.
Forgetting the vulnerable
Charles C. Camosy, assistant professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University in New York City, told Our Sunday Visitor that Planned Parenthood tried to “destroy one of the most important enemies of breast cancer in the world.
“This is quite revealing about where their priorities actually lie,” said Camosy, who added that it would be “naive” to deny that abortion politics had played a role in the recent controversy.
Komen had recently added pro-life leaders, such as senior vice president Karen Handel, who vowed to defund Planned Parenthood when she ran for governor of Georgia in 2010. The original decision to strip funding also prompted threats of resignation from Komen board members sympathetic to Planned Parenthood, according to published reports. Handel announced her resignation from Komen on Feb. 7, citing attacks on the organization from pro-choice supporters.
“Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone’s political beliefs or ideology,” she wrote. “Rather, both were based on Komen’s mission and how to better serve women, as well as a realization of the need to distance Komen from controversy.”
“When you pull back and look at the big picture, however, we shouldn’t find this shocking. Politics heavily influences grant-making in many contexts,” said Camosy, who noted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recent decision to strip anti-human traffic grant funding from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops because of the bishops’ refusal to refer trafficking victims to abortion services.
“Unfortunately, it is the most vulnerable — child sex slaves and women with cancer in these two cases — who suffer as a result of our toxic right/left political games,” Camosy said.
Lila Rose, founder and president of Live Action, which has conducted a series of highly publicized undercover investigations into Planned Parenthood operations, told OSV that she was “deeply disappointed” with Komen’s reversal.
“For years, the pro-life movement have encouraged Komen to sever all ties to Planned Parenthood, as they are the largest abortion provider in the U.S., under both federal and state investigation, and have been documented covering up child sex abuse and sex trafficking,” Rose said.
“The Susan G. Komen Foundation is the most influential breast cancer foundation in America and should distance themselves from an organization that cares more about abortion than women’s health and well-being,” Rose said.
Planned Parenthood said on its website that Komen’s funding provided breast cancer screening and education at 19 clinics located in rural and underserved communities. Planned Parenthood asked supporters to contact Komen and to contribute money to “defend access to care” and to promote women’s health.
Social media blitz
Almost immediately, pro-choice supporters began posting critical statements on social media, including Komen’s official Facebook page. A group of Democratic U.S. senators also penned a letter to Komen, urging the board of directors to reconsider the original decision, saying that the move threatened to “reduce access to necessary, life-saving services.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is pro-choice, vowed to donate $250,000 to Planned Parenthood, which raised about $4 million in three days, according to published reports.
However, Planned Parenthood opponents also took to the Web, donating to Komen and using social media in an attempt to fortify its decision. Many pro-lifers expressed dismay on Komen’s Facebook page after it restored the funding.
“What a cowardly decision! Your foundation totally caved to the pressures of [Planned Parenthood] supporters,” wrote one person. Another said: “If you think PP isn’t political, you haven’t been paying attention these past few days.”
Brian Fraga writes from Massachusetts.