I committed a cardinal blogging sin Friday morning: I knee-jerked. For the past couple days, I’ve been paying semi-attention to the dust-up prompted by the decision of Susan G. Komen for the Cure to stop funding Planned Parenthood purportedly based on newly adopted guidelines which prohibit it from giving grant money to groups under investigation. (Planned Parenthood is currently under investigation by Congress for misuse of public funds for abortions.)
I’d somewhat followed along with the discussion on Twitter, and read several blog posts about it, including @JennyErikson’s http://thestir.cafemom.com/in_the_news/132407/kudos_to_susan_g_komen and @JasonBWhitman’s http://bigjournalism.com/jwhitman/2012/02/02/nprs-bitter-disappointment-komen-divorces-planned-parenthood/. Both made good points and, after reading Jason’s Friday morning, I happily clicked on the link at the bottom of his piece and donated $50 to Komen. Which was, perhaps, impulsive in and of itself. I just had to replace my furnace last week and am headed to CPAC for five days and four nights next week. My wallet doesn’t exactly overfloweth. Still, having observed the flak Komen was taking for what struck me as a not-unreasonable decision, it felt good — and right — to show my support for their decision. I even tweeted about it: https://twitter.com/#!/SmoosieQ/status/165449173309718528 .
Fast forward about an hour. Shortly after arriving at my office, I saw this tweet from @red_red_head: https://twitter.com/#!/red_red_head/status/165467679120039937 . I couldn’t believe my eyes. I scanned the article and did a quick Google search for confirmation. Komen had caved. And not only had they caved — it seemed to me they had betrayed all those who had donated in support of their decision. I was livid. So, I did the only thing I knew to do: I rattled off an e-mail to Komen founder and CEO Nancy Brinker: https://qwithaview.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/my-letter-to-nancy-brinker-komen/ . I followed this up with an e-mail to the organization and requested a refund of my donation. (So far, I’ve heard nothing back.)
Later, I went back and re-read the statement issued Friday morning by Nancy Brinker, and this piece by Jill Stanek: http://www.jillstanek.com/2012/02/decoding-komens-supposed-cave/ . Hmm. You know, when you read the statement closely, it isn’t clear that Komen’s announcement was, in fact, a “complete reversal” of its earlier decision (as claimed by Planned Parenthood’s President, Cecile Richards, and as characterized in numerous articles published in response to the statement.) As Stanek points out in her follow-up blog: http://www.jillstanek.com/2012/02/did-komen-outfox-the-left/ , whether Komen will withhold future funding remains to be seen. More than anything, what today’s announcement appears to be is a rather inartful attempt to sooth some very ruffled feathers from the P Squared Brigade, and give Komen an out, depending on what, if anything, comes of the current Congressional investigation.
Aside from serving as a cautionary tale on how not to handle PR for a high-profile, multi-billion dollar charity, these events have unleashed a troubling torrent of thoughts in my brain. What’s the answer here? As indicated in my letter to Nancy Brinker, I’m not comfortable donating to Komen knowing they, in turn, are funding Planned Parenthood. Full disclosure: I used to be a client of Planned Parenthood. When I was a student in college and law school, they were my primary health care provider. They were inexpensive and relatively easy to access. I got regular check ups there which included breast exams and pap smears. I know that they do provide these and other services which are a legitimate and necessary part of “women’s healthcare”. Unfortunately, their devotion to abortion advocacy overshadows the good they do. And as someone who is now firmly and unapologetically pro-life, no, I don’t want my money — not my taxpayer dollars, not my charitable contributions — going to fund them.
Though I’m not generally the boycotting type, that sounds like a nice, neat, logical and principled stance to take. Unfortunately, all of the focus on the issue has brought to my attention something I wasn’t aware of previously: There are a LOT of corporate entities and charitable organizations who donate to Planned Parenthood. Ones I am not prepared to sever ties with. Take, for instance, the YMCA. Yes. You read that right. The YMCA is one of several organizations associated with Planned Parenthood, either through donations or joint programs. Not only do I belong to the YMCA (something I could change if need be, though it would be inconvenient), they provide my after school and summer-time child care. And have been lovely to work with the entire time. And then there are the Girl Scouts. I have a lot of problems with the national organization and much of its agenda. Yet, here, on the local level, my daughter has happily participated since she was in Kindergarten, and benefited from that. I haven’t reached the point of boycotting the cookies, either. Much to the dismay of the snugger items in my wardrobe.
The American Cancer Society is also included in the “Dishonorable Mention” section of the official “Boycott List” published by “Life Decisions International”. http://www.lifenews.com/2011/09/12/pro-life-group-lists-companies-backing-planned-parenthood/. Without doing a tremendous amount of digging, I haven’t yet been able to verify the nature of ACS’ involvement with Planned Parenthood, but it wouldn’t at all surprise me to learn that they donate funds much as Komen does — aimed at supporting those cancer screening services which Planned Parenthood does actually provide. Am I going to stop donating to ACS? No. They’re a worthy organization who does a lot of good. In fact, my friends at @FTR__Radio are hosting a “Cancer Sucks” fundraiser for the American Cancer Society starting Monday. And I most certainly will be contributing to that, and would ask that others do so, as well.
So, what I’m wrestling with here is: Can the good ever truly outweigh the bad? I don’t have an answer for that yet. It would be easier if there were a way to guarantee that funds donated to Planned Parenthood for cancer screening or other non-abortion-related services were kept totally separate from funds used for abortion-related services (and for pushing that agenda.) I do realize that the Hyde Amendment, for instance, is designed to bar the use of federal funds for abortions and that P Squared is regularly audited for that purpose. (That’s a key issue behind the current Congressional investigation.) But even then, we’re still talking about supporting an organization which has become so politically driven, pushing an abhorrent agenda, it’s difficult to reconcile.
What if there were an alternative? An organization set up to provide all of the same services Planned Parenthood does aside from abortion-related services? Could Pro-Life forces not do this? In theory, yes. I see two huge problems, though: 1) As I understand it, though funding currently comes from federal grants and private donations, Planned Parenthood receives a significant portion of its revenue from abortion services. ($122.1 million in 2007, according to this article: http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/archive/ldn/2010/may/10050711 ; $137.4 million in 2008, according to this one: http://liveaction.org/blog/data-36-7-of-planned-parenthoods-health-center-income-is-from-abortions/.) Could/would health clinics set up to provide the same services minus abortion-related services survive financially? I don’t have the information or brainpower to adequately answer that question. I have to believe it’s been considered/tried. The bigger stumbling block I see is: 2) The Contraception Conundrum. While not all Pro-Life organizations oppose contraception, many do. And yet, it is difficult to make a persuasive argument for women’s health services (particularly those which are reproductive-related) which do not include contraception as a significant part of the equation. I understand the moral and religious arguments to be made. But I’m trying to be practical here, as well.
One other thing to consider, if there were a viable non-abortion inclusive alternative to Planned Parenthood, I would think it would already exist. I do realize there are numerous health care providers and facilities which provide health services that do not include abortion. But none seem to have the high profile and political clout that P Squared has managed to amass. In short, it’s an uphill battle to say the least. And it doesn’t really answer the uncomfortable question asked. All I have thus far, are somewhat unsettling answers.