Correction

My earlier characterization of Susan G. Komen for the Cure as having cut off funding to Planned Parenthood out of “cowardice” appears to have assumed too much goodwill on the breast cancer megacharity’s part. Today over at The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg reports credible evidence that Komen’s policy to refuse funds to any organization “under investigation” was adopted explicitly to provide an excuse for defunding Planned Parenthood.

The decision to create a rule that would cut funding to Planned Parenthood, according to these sources, was driven by the organization’s new senior vice president for public policy, Karen Handel, a former gubernatorial candidate from Georgia who is staunchly anti-abortion and who has said that since she is “pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood.” (The Komen grants to Planned Parenthood did not pay for abortion or contraception services, only cancer detection, according to all parties involved.)

Meanwhile, Mother Jones reports that the same ban on funding to organizations “under investigation” would, if applied fairly, endanger a multimillion dollar research grant to Penn State’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center—since Penn State is under investigation by the Department of Education, following the recent child abuse scandal in Penn State’s football program. Oops? ◼

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The cowardice of Susan G. Komen

So yesterday a friend pointed this out on Facebook:

The nation’s leading breast-cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates — creating a bitter rift, linked to the abortion debate, between two iconic organizations that have assisted millions of women.

The change will mean a cutoff of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, mainly for breast exams.

Planned Parenthood says the move results from Komen bowing to pressure from anti-abortion activists. Komen says the key reason is that Planned Parenthood is under investigation in Congress—a probe launched by a conservative Republican who was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.

Komen cites a new policy to the effect that they have to cut off ties to organizations that are “under investigation.” There’s also some possible influence from a new, anti-abortion Vice President for Public Policy at the cancer charity. But what this boils down to is cowardice.

Susan G. Komen for the cure is an immensely well-regarded organization, with influence and visibility many other charities can only dream of—they’re part of a movement that got NFL players to wear pink, for crying out loud. Faced with controversy trumped up around one of their partner organizations—and a partnership that specifically works to provide breast cancer screenings to women who can’t afford them—Komen could have cashed in on some of that goodwill capital to say “We know Planned Parenthood does good and important work, and we’re standing by them even though some ideologues in Congress are out to get them.”

That would’ve been a little risky, but it also would’ve demonstrated that Komen’s priority is womens’ health, not political gamesmanship.

Instead, Komen decided they’d rather cut services to poor women than risk even a little “controversy.” That’s straight-up cowardice, as I said last night on Twitter. It’s capitulation to political bullies, and it gives the lie to anything Komen might say about the importance they place on fighting and treating cancer.

I’m still getting retweet notifications from my little blast of online indignation; I’m far from the only person who finds this reprehensible. Let me suggest a way we can help Planned Parenthood make up the lost funding, and let Susan G. Komen know exactly how we feel about it: Send Planned Parenthood a donation, and when you get the e-mail confirming it, forward that message to news@komen.org, Komen’s PR contact address. [Edit: When you forward that e-mail, make sure you first delete any personal information that you don’t want Komen to have! I’ve just sent mine.]

Further edit: I am advised by Balloon Juice (via Dan Savage) that Planned Parenthood has established a fund specifically for donations to cover the breast exams Komen is no longer funding. So that’s probably your best bet; I’ve updated the donation link above accordingly.

Still further edit: You can also help make up the funding to Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screening by buying John Scalzi’s e-books, if you buy before 8 Feb. ◼

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Testimony from the front lines, Exhibit A.

Over at The Hairpin, which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite blogs, Dolores P. explains why she is training to become an abortion provider. And, wow. It’s incredible from start to finish, but her accounts of specific patients’ stories will blow you away:

Couple days later one of our patients was a soldier from Afghanistan. Hey, I was just reading about you guys.

No contraception around (she was stationed pretty far out) meant that she got pregnant. “Regulations require that a woman be flown home within two weeks of the time she finds out she’s pregnant, a particular stigma for unmarried women that ends any future career advancement.” Ends any future career advancement. For my patient, that meant that she had to figure out how to make it back to the states on her own. Even if she had chosen to “go straight,” it wouldn’tve been much better: “Servicewomen who make the decision to have an abortion must first seek approval from their commanding officer to take leave from their military duty and return to the United States or a country where abortion is legal.” (Guttmacher.) Ask your boss if you can please take off a while for your abortion. And no matter what, she had to pay for it all herself. So even though she knew she was pregnant almost immediately, it took eight weeks to make arrangements, travel plans and raise all the money. That means by the time she walked in our door, she was beginning her second trimester, which is a way more expensive and invasive procedure. She also had to spend eight more weeks than she had to miserably pregnant. In Afghanistan. [Hyperlink sic.]

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is trying to eliminate Federal funding for Planned Parenthood, 100 percent of which goes towards services that help avoid abortions. You should go do something about that right now.

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Abortion ≠ slavery

Ta-Nehisi Coates explains why equating the ongoing campaign against legal abortion with the abolition movement—a favorite analogy of anti-abortion folks—is not just historically silly, but actually rather racist:

The analogy necessarily holds that the enslaved were the equivalent of embryos–helpless, voiceless beings in need of saviors. In this view of American history, the saviors, much like the pro-life movement, are white. In fact, African-Americans, unlike, say, zygotes, were always quite outspoken on their fitness for self-determination. Indeed, from the Cimaroons to Equiano to Nat Turner to Harriet Tubman to the 54th regiment, slaves were quite vociferous on the matter of their enslavement. It is simply impossible to imagine the end of slavery without the action of slaves themselves.

Coates is eye-opening as always: equating abortion with slavery turns out to be another facet of U.S. conservatives’ bizarre notion that civil rights are bestowed by majority vote, not (in the words of certain historical documents they may have forgotten to read) inalienable. I recommend reading the whole thing.

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The benefit of the doubt

Regarding Sunday’s shooting of abortion-providing doctor George Tiller, in the lobby of his church, by a professed pro-lifer, Slacktivist says it best, reflecting on a similar shooting, and the similar responses it elicited, in 1994:

These were groups that routinely spoke of abortion as “murder” or “mass-murder,” and that routinely spoke of legalized abortion as an “American Holocaust.” They had, for years, been using precisely the same rhetoric and making exactly the same arguments that Paul Hill was now using to attempt to justify his [1994] double homicide.

Those groups’ condemnations of Paul Hill then — like their condemnations of [Tiller’s alleged killer] Scott Roeder now — ring hollow. Such condemnations seem to be self-refuting. How can they condemn men like Hill or Roeder just for taking their own arguments seriously?

Thought experiment: if anti-abortion groups were Muslim and said the things they said, and a professed Muslim followed through and shot someone, would it even occur to the American political classes to take said groups’ word that they never meant to call for actual violence?

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Self-defeating pro-lifers

Anti-abortion groups are using the economic downturn as the basis for an argument to pull government funding of Planned Parenthood. William Saletan points out how insane this is, if you want to reduce the number of abortions:

If you define pro-life as preventing abortions, Planned Parenthood is the most effective pro-life organization in the history of the world. … What Planned Parenthood does, more comprehensively than anyone else, is to distribute the means and knowledge to control your risk of getting pregnant when you don’t want to be pregnant. And those two things, combined with pressure to exercise that control assiduously, are the surest way to prevent abortions.

Via the Daily Dish.

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