Friday, February 3, 2012
Komen v Planned Parenthood: Endgame
Hopefully, these are my last words on the subject of the Susan G. Komen foundation. Today, bowing to the pressure brought on by Facebook and Twitter and in the face of regular media attention, the Susan G. Komen people have backed down on their determination to defund Planned Parenthood. While this is good news, I suppose, I have a couple of problems with Komen that remain.
First, the funding shift isn't much of a shift. They are not saying that they will now fund Planned Parenthood but are saying instead that Planned Parenthood can continue to apply for funding. This is probably as much as Komen could do right now. The shift is mostly a shift in rhetoric, a backing down, but it's all about saving face and saving their collective asses. My guess is that this wasn't going to die down quickly and that their foundation would suffer from increased scrutiny and questions about its political agenda.
Second, Komen didn't see the light on this. Instead, they saw the green. The change comes because they were losing money and they stood to lose a lot more money. Further, their reputation was pretty badly bruised by all this and, to rescue that reputation, to at least put in place the idea that the organization is apolitical, they made the change in their funding strategy. It's not a brave thing that Komen has done. It's not exactly cowardly, but chasing money is never exactly noble either.
There has been no change in management, so this is not really a change of the collective mind at Komen. Looking at the people who run this charity (and make enormous amounts of money doing it) we see that this is a very right-wing organization. I can imagine that those folks on the right side of the aisle would point out that Planned Parenthood is a very left-wing organization. I don't think that's a particularly well-kept secret anywhere in the United States and beyond. Planned Parenthood has positioned itself as a political entity throughout the long battle for choice. Komen was working to pass itself off as non-political. That facade has been stripped away. None of this is to say that a right-wing organization can't do good work. I'm all for the funding of breast cancer screenings through organizations run from the right, the left, or even the center. Komen can still do tremendously good work for the good of women (and men by extension) regardless of their political agenda.
That said, I'll still be confining my giving to Planned Parenthood. I have no interest in supporting Komen because I can see that part of the agenda of their board is to deny people the right of choice and the right to all the other services provided by Planned Parenthood. There are plenty of groups fighting to destroy Planned Parenthood without me funding them. Komen has announced itself as a group that has, as one of its goals, the destruction of Planned Parenthood, and as another goal, a ban on safe, legal abortions in this country and beyond.
Just as my charitable donation to Planned Parenthood will, in part, support abortions in this country, donations to Komen will, in part, oppose a woman's right to choose, low cost contraception, and other services provided by Planned Parenthood. This is the way it is and it's just what was have to be thinking about when we send money to these organizations. We have to consider what we believe.
I believe in having legal, safe, affordable, and compassionate abortion services available in this country. I believe in a woman's right to choose. I believe in contraception and providing medical services to low-income (or no-income) women as well as to those with greater means. Because I believe in these things, I give money to Planned Parenthood.
I further believe in people having other choices. If you prefer to give your money to Komen knowing what they stand for, then have at it. Just know what you're doing before giving your green to the big pink.
And this is the last I think I'll talk about this for a while. I'm glad that it all happened because I know better what the Komen people are about, I've become more involved with supporting Planned Parenthood, I've seen the power of social media taking on a corporate juggernaut, and the world seems a better, more hopeful place to me than it did a week ago. All this because some bullies tried to stick it to some other people. You don't often see bullies wearing pink, but it's the 21st century. Anything is possible.
Posted by Brian G. Fay