There’s been a lot of bad juju surrounding the Susan G. Komen Foundation and its decision to de-fund Planned Parenthood. The Komen Foundation’s ill-advised decision created a public furor that the organization had not anticipated, resulting in an enhanced image for Planned Parenthood and a black mark on the Komen Foundation’s reputation. In spite of CEO and founder Nancy Brinkers attempt to spin the bullshit every which way, the public outcry only grew.
First, Brinker insisted that it cut funding because Planned Parenthood was under investigation. While it is true that Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) instigated an ‘inquiry’ into Planned Parenthood, everyone knows it is because Planned Parenthood is the prime target of a GOP that is owned and operated by the Christian right. Fact is, Planned Parenthood isn’t under investigation by any authorities and is not banned from accepting grants from any state. When that excuse didn’t fly, Brinker moved to Plan B and insisted that the grants were cut because Planned Parenthood was not performing the breast exams itself, but rather providing referrals. The fact is that Planned Parenthood performs about 750,000 breast exams a year to women who otherwise could not afford them.
Nothing that Brinker and her spin machine threw against the wall stuck. The end result? Komen reversed its decision and announced that it was reinstating the existing grants to Planned Parenthood, and invited Planned Parenthood to apply for future grants. Of course, the mainstream media failed to read between the lines of Nancy Brinker’s statement, and simply reported that Komen had reinstated Planned Parenthood. Had they done so, they would have seen how unclear it is whether Komen will continue to fund Planned Parenthood down the road, or whether it is simply buying time to find other excuses to cut its funding. The public was still not sufficiently assuaged.
The news that greeted me the other day when I opened up my email was that embattled vice president for public policy, Karen Handel, had resigned. I have to admit that made me happy because I never understood the hiring of Handel to begin with. She is a pro-life Republican lobbyist and a former Georgia secretary of state. She ran for governor in 2010 and, during her failed gubernatorial run, vowed to cut from the Georgia state budget the pass-through grants to Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screenings. Here is part of the text of Handel’s resignation letter to Nancy Brinker:
“…the decision to update our granting model was made before I joined Komen, and the controversy related to Planned Parenthood has long been a concern to the organization. Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone’s political beliefs or ideology. 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. I believe that Komen, like any other nonprofit organization, has the right and the responsibility to set criteria and highest standards for how and to whom it grants.”
How to better serve women? Really? How does cutting funding to this 95-year-old organization better serve women when it is the only resource for many low-income black and Latina women, Native American women, the uninsured and the under insured? That would make the Komen Foundation a resource for only wealthy white women. Interestingly enough, when I searched Komen Foundation advertising, that’s exactly what I saw. I’m not saying there were no photos of women of color, but the vast majority of what I saw on the web are indeed wealthy-looking white women adorned in pink.
The stink of the GOP
As the shit continued to hit the fan, it was revealed that Ari Fleischer, former Press Secretary to George W. Bush and outspoken critic of Planned Parenthood, personally interviewed candidates for Handel’s position and grilled them on how they would handle the controversy over the foundation’s relationship with Planned Parenthood. I don’t remember any controversy until the GOP took back control in the House and made it uncomfortably close in the Senate, and decided to ramp up its war on women. The centerpiece of that war turned out to be Planned Parenthood.
Susan Komen For the Cure has the GOP’s stink all over it. Handel wasn’t the only pro-life conservative involved with Komen. Nancy Brinker, the founder and CEO, is also pro-life and a major donor to the GOP, having given to Rick Santorum, Mark Foley (remember the sexually suggestive messages to former congressional pages?) and Pete Sessions, to name a few. According to RH Reality Check, the conservative cancer has metastasized to the foundation’s board:
Sitting on Komen’s Advocacy Alliance Board is Jane Abraham, the General Chairman of the virulently anti-choice and anti-science Susan B. Anthony List and of its Political Action Committee. Among other involvements, Abraham helps direct the Nuturing Network, a global network of crisis pregnancy centers, organizations widely known for spreading ideology, misinformation and lies to women facing unintended pregnancy and to use both intimidation and coercion in the course of doing so. Also on the board of Nuturing Network is Maureen Scalia, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, no hero to women’s rights and health.
The GOP has spread misinformation about Planned Parenthood in its effort to destroy the organization. It states that it is using government money to perform abortions, but that is a lie. The following graphic shows where Planned Parenthood gets its funding and exactly how it’s spent:
Planned Parenthood spends only 3% of its funding on abortion services. It spends 35% on contraception, 34% on testing and treatment of sexually-transmitted diseases, 17% on cancer screning and prevention, 10% on other women’s health services, and the final 1% is undefined. While the crux of the GOP’s attack on Planned Parenthood is related to abortion, it should be noted that they are also waging war on contraception now. What choice will women have by the time they are finished?
A letter from Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Donna Diana DeGette (D-CO) to Rep. Cliff Stearns called the investigations into Planned Parenthood unfounded and a waste of taxpayer dollars, stating:
We are aware of no predicate that would justify this sweeping and invasive request to Planned Parenthood. The HHS Inspector General and state Medicaid programs regularly audit Planned Parenthood and report publicly on their findings. These audits have not identified any pattern of misuse of federal funds, illegal activity, or other abuse that would justify a broad and invasive congressional investigation.
This year, House Republicans have voted twice to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding. You strongly supported these efforts, stating that “defunding Planned Parenthood should be a fiscal and moral priority for Congress.” You also unfairly smeared the organization when you claimed that Planned Parenthood is “willing to use public funds to commit a federal crime” and is “willing to ignore the law in promoting its services.”
Don’t let Komen off the hook
That an organization supposedly dedicated to science and curing women’s cancer is playing footsie with the anti-choice, anti-women GOP is nothing short of disgusting. Reversal notwithstanding, the fact that Komen for the Cure would cut funding for so many women in need flies in the face of it’s mission. Handel’s resignation is not enough. Eve Ellis, a member of Komen’s board for six years, has called for a complete purging of the foundation. She states that Nancy Brinker should resign and the entire board should be replaced.
Until this happens and unless the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation divorces itself from the business of anti-choice, anti-women GOP politics, it should not be let off the hook.