The news media, blogosphere, and (of course) posturing politicians all have some new and exciting news to howl about: Susan G. Komen for the Cure has ended its financial partnership with Planned Parenthood. The story, only a few days old now, has provoked vitriolic responses from the masses, or at least from masses of Democrats, feminists, and pro-choice advocates. The assumption fueling the hue and cry, in spite of denials from Komen, is that the charity has collapsed under political pressure from pro-life groups who criticized the partnership with a program that provides abortions. Responses have ranged from denunciations from members of Congress, calls to arms by political commentators, and withdrawn support on the part of every day people.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Komen did terminate its partnership with Planned Parenthood as a result of abortion controversy (and frankly it is hard to imagine that isn’t the case). Surely those voicing their strong negative reactions to this decision can see the hypocrisy in their response. Yes, Planned Parenthood does so much more than provide abortions. Yes, in fact, abortion services are only a very small portion of the many wonderful services being provided by Planned Parenthood. Yes, this move may very well make it harder for some poor women to receive cancer screenings (although that appears to be more scare tactic than fact). So, yes, I can understand frustration over Komen’s decision to generalize a small portion of Planned Parenthood’s activities into the entire identity of the program.
But Planned Parenthood was only a small part of what Komen did. In the past two years, Komen gave $1.25 million in grants to Planned Parenthood. Extrapolating from those numbers, that is roughly $7.5 million dollars since the partnership began in 2005. When you consider that Komen has donated more than $1.9 billion dollars to breast cancer related causes since its 1982, the portion of funds that had been dedicated to Planned Parenthood were less than 4%. In other words, to condemn the entirety Susan G. Komen for the Cure for a single politically driven action is no different than Komen condemning all of Planned Parenthood for a single politically charged service. Just as Komen’s move is likely to inadvertently effect, for the worse, the health of many women who might have received help from Planned Parenthood totally unrelated to abortion, going to war against and boycotting Komen is bound adversely effect the health of the same women protestors self-deludedly purport to represent. It is the height of hypocrisy.
One blogger, joining loudly in the politically fashionable rage against the machine (the heartless breast cancer fighting machine), has argued that to claim to be pro-life and be against Planned Parenthood is oxymoronic. Any such oxymoron isn’t truly concerned about life but about propping up a worthless self-image. In truth, the whole battle–and contestants on both sides–are actually only interested in projecting their own values into the public sphere for the purpose of triumphing over another’s values. If either party were primarily concerned about women’s health, they would realize that Komen is a fantastic tool for saving lives, that Planned Parenthood is also a fantastic tool for saving lives, that neither is perfect, and that condemning either outright on the basis of their imperfection is nonsensical. Mostly they need to realize that lambasting any organization that has dedicated nearly two billion dollars to preserving women’s lives is not feminism. It’s partisanship, an ugly, self-interested, doctrinaire contest in which their are no winners. Ever.