Why Susan G. Komen Yanked Planned Parenthood’s Funding
Pro-“life” activists are like cancer: they’re ubiquitous, heartbreakingly detrimental to women’s health, and often go undetected until their damage is irreversible .
Which is why it’s so mind-blowing that one of the country’s most powerful and well-known cancer charities has teamed up with pro-life activists to deny women lifesaving breast cancer screenings.
Ugh. F’real? I’d be irate if I wasn’t so used to this bullshit.
When news first broke that the Susan G Koman foundation yanked breast cancer screening funding from Planned Parenthood, people were dumbfounded. Huh/What/Why/How? What were they thinking? Why would they do that? How could anyone have a problem with Planned Parenthood providing breast cancer screenings? But to understand how something like this could happen, you have to understand the pro-life movement, which is at the heart of the split.
I’ve worked in the reproductive rights field for over ten years and I’m pretty familiar with the motives of pro-life activists. I’ve spent thousands of hours studying their materials, debating them, dodging their attacks, and, yes, secretly helping them get abortions and birth control behind their community’s back (it happens more than you think). I know a thing or two about the true motive of the anti-choice movement, and I promise you this:
It has absolutely nothing to do with saving babies or helping women. Nothing.
The core of the anti-abortion movement’s mission is to maintain and increase the negative consequences of sex, mostly for women. Let me repeat that: they want sex to have as many repercussions as possible. Their main enemy isn’t abortion, it’s any type of sexuality that doesn’t conform to their impossibly narrow standards of acceptability (within the confines of heterosexual, Christian marriage, and only for the sake of procreation). It’s the fact that scientific advancements and increasingly progressive social policies have made it more difficult to control women’s sexuality through the fear of STDs, HIV, or unwanted pregnancies. They view those natural by-products of sex as punishments that sluts deserve for daring to feel entitled to sexual pleasure (like real human beings, with rights and everything!). They long for the days where the consequences of sex were totally unavoidable and used to oppress and constrain women, confine them to the home, keep them financially and socially dependent on men, enforce chastity and compliance to gender norms, and rob them of their sexuality, and therefore, humanity.
If pro-life activists really cared about public health and stopping abortion and saving the precious widdle babies, if they were truly pro-life, then they would support policies and scientific advancements that prevent abortion and, you know, actually save lives. They would promote the use of contraceptives, and fight to make them as cheap and accessible as possible. They would support evidence-based sex education that includes medically-accurate information on birth control and STD prevention. They would support the widespread distribution of condoms. They would support HIV/AIDS research. They would support the HPV vaccine, which guards against an STD that causes cancer. They would support financial assistance for women who cannot afford pre and postnatal care. They would support organizations like Planned Parenthood. But they don’t. They virulently oppose all of these things with a vicious, fiery passion because it’s not about the babies and it’s not about health - it’s about the sex and the women who have it. They hate sex more than they love people. They hate sex more than they care about stopping abortion. They are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad people with disturbingly uncalibrated moral compasses, and the Komen/Planned Parenthood breakup is just another typical, calculated step in their war on women. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore.
So how did it all happen? Well obviously, for reasons detailed above, anti-choice activists despise Planned Parenthood, because it represents everything they oppose: it’s an organization dedicated to providing low-to-no cost reproductive health care and education which enables typically marginalized people to live sexually free and healthy lives. Eliminating Planned Parenthood is the main goal of the pro-life movement, and one of their primary tactics is to mercilessly terrorize any company, person, or organization who supports, helps, works for, or collaborates with Planned Parenthood. Enter Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Komen has been coordinating with Planned Parenthood to bring breast exams, cancer screening, and education and awareness to low-income women since 2005, and as long as this partnership has existed, anti-choice groups have been bullying Komen to sever it (though Komen enthusiastically defended its work with Planned Parenthood as recently as 2011). You would hope that even the most pro-life organization would support a Planned Parenthood/Komen partnership that does nothing but expand access to breast cancer screening for the most at-risk women, but that’s simply too logical and too compassionate for a group of people who truly believe they’re entitled to grab the reigns on your uterus.
The truth is anti-choice organizations want to prevent Planned Parenthood from providing breast exams because doing so removes a universally defensible and morally unambiguous service from Planned Parenthood’s list of other more controversial offerings, therefore helping to validate the asinine anti-choice lie that Planned Parenthood is all about Teh Abortionz. As it stands, abortion only accounts for THREE PERCENT of Planned Parenthood’s total services, and many Planned Parenthood medical centers (and some entire affiliates) don’t even offer abortion, but these people have never been big fans of the truth. Pro-lifers hate Planned Parenthood so much they want it to exclusively provide abortions, because that would make its detractors legitimate baby-saving angels, rather than hysterical, anti-sex, anti-woman, anti-science dingleberries. Morally proselytizing and being right trumps any concern for public health.
Basically, they hate Planned Parenthood more than they hate cancer. And they care about being a pain in Planned Parenthood’s ass more than saving people’s lives.
So what we have here is the very expected result of an extended, relentless, calculated attack on Komen and Planned Parenthood’s partnership, not to mention the infiltration of the organization’s upper-management by anti-choice activists and politicians. The split isn’t new or sudden: this is Komen finally caving to anti-choice bullies, some of whom actually hold influential positions on its senior staff and board.
(I’m also not entirely surprised about Komen’s decision because I’ve never considered them to be a shining example of responsible philanthropy to begin with. Considering that, even after years of frantic donation-seeking and walk-for-the-curing and pink-ribboning everything in sight, cancer rates have risen, only 24% of Komen funds actually go to research, they spend more than a million dollars in donor money each year suing small charities who use the phrase “For the Cure,” and frequently partner with companies who don’t exactly prioritize health, one has to wonder if Komen is more committed to their own pocketbooks than they are to actually stomping out breast cancer. And Komen’s CEO earns a salary that is nearly double that of the average oncologist. But I digress.)
Komen, of course, is denying what is almost offensively obvious to everyone else, claiming that Planned Parenthood’s funding elimination is merely the result of a recently adapted policy which prohibits administering grants to organizations that are under investigation by local, state, or federal authorities. And because Planned Parenthood is currently the victim of a baseless “Congressional inquiry" by Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), a conservative republican who’s being enthusiastically fellated by powerful anti-choice extremists, it’s now conveniently ineligible for Komen funds under this new protocol. However, Stearns’ investigation has been widely discredited as a wasteful, retaliatory, politically-motivated witch hunt inspired by yet another failed attempt at defunding Planned Parenthood earlier last year, and is expected to yield no evidence of wrongdoing. And it’s important to distinguish that this inquiry is not equivalent to a legal or criminal investigation - any Congressperson can up and launch such an investigation, no matter how unfounded their suspicions or dubious their motives may be.
One can hope that once Stearn’s inquiry is dismissed, funds to Planned Parenthood would be restored. But if Komen maintains this new policy (which seems to exclusively affect Planned Parenthood), I expect they’ll continue to encounter the same roadblock. As we know all too well, the next political attack on Planned Parenthood is likely around the corner. Not because Planned Parenthood actually does anything that legitimately warrants these investigations, mind you, but because there is no shortage of politicians eager to waste taxpayer dollars by pandering to anti-choice terrorists and making a big, dick-swinging show out of waging a frivolous, ideological war against an organization that affords poor and underserved communities the same ability to manage the consequences of sex that rich people have always had.
The silver lining in all of this, thin as it may be, is that hopefully people will grow more skeptical of “pinkwashing" and the Breast Cancer Industrial Complex, which folks have historically been frustratingly hesitant to scrutinize. This whole clusterfuck has also significantly increased awareness of Planned Parenthood’s lesser-known services, and maybe women will be reminded to stay on top of their breast health, whether they go to a Planned Parenthood medical center or not.
Final analysis: everyone involved in the removal of Planned Parenthood’s breast exam funding should be ashamed of yourselves. Anti-choice activists, we expect this from you. You have never cared about women’s health. In fact, you actively campaign against it. You’re ridiculous, Megratron2000 assholes, we’ve covered that, shut up and go home. But for a organization that claims their entire purpose is saving women’s lives to not only side with such decidedly anti-women, anti-life forces, but actually yank critical services from the hands of the most vulnerable women in America is abhorrent. Susan G. Komen for the
Cure Politically Motivated Witholding of Funds for Lifesaving Breast Exams, you thought this was a minor, defensible decision that would fly under the radar without much of a sniffle. You thought you’d get a nice pat on the back from anti-choice organizations and maybe a few more donations, and nobody else would really care. But you’re already finding out how devastatingly wrong you were.
Because here’s the bottom line:
When you fuck with Planned Parenthood, you fuck with a passionate and dedicated and MASSIVE family. You fuck with the 1 in 4 American women who have depended on Planned Parenthood for medical care in their lifetime. You fuck with the five million women, men, and teens who receive healthcare and education from 800 Planned Parenthood medical centers every year. You fuck with the doctors, nurses, clinicians, sex educators, cancer educators, nutrition counselors, midwives, teen advocates, patients, donors, supporters, politicians, activists, clinic escorts, and volunteers who work for, go to, and defend Planned Parenthood, and know exactly how critical and amazing it is.
When you fuck with Planned Parenthood, when you fuck with access to cancer screening, you fuck with all of us.
And you’ve made a huge mistake.
UPDATED: KAREN HANDEL RESIGNS: “…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.” (emphasis mine)
Right. So…caving to anti-choice bullies who’ve hounded Komen from the second they collaborated with Planned Parenthood, just like I said. And how, exactly, is refusing to stand up for a partner organization that does great work for women’s health not political or idealogical? What part were we wrong about again?
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