Can One Treat Breast Cancer And Perform Abortions?

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 3 2012 @ 2:03pm


The breast cancer foundation responsible for those little pink ribbons has recently caused controversy by withdrawing its financial support for Planned Parenthood – and then promptly restoring it after a furious backlash from pro-choicers. Jeffrey Goldberg, who first reported strong evidence that defunding was probably about abortion, calls the Komen Foundation's reversal "a case study in what not to do in a controversy." Daniel Foster is furious:

Look, the beauty of free speech is that, if you’re inclined to do so, you can write a check to PP in an act of solidarity, or write a check to Komen as an expression of moral approval. That’s all fine. But there’s something quite a bit different, something creepy and not a little despicable, about the Planned Parenthood set’s besmirching Komen’s good name across a thousand platforms for having the audacity to stop giving them free money. And I don’t care why that decision was made, frankly.

Ezra wonders if the decision to restore funding is secure. Before the reversal, Amanda Marcotte explained why Komen's donations were such a priority for pro-choice advocates: 

Breast cancer … can strike the lifelong virgin, the married woman who only has sex for procreation, and the dirty fornicator (i.e. the vast majority of American women) alike. Because of this, anti-choicers have tried to create a rift between women's health advocates who focus on breast cancer and those who focus on reproductive health concerns below the waist. Today, they had a victory with Komen's act of cowardice.

 McArdle, who's pro-choice, defended the original decision:

It is, as Josh Barro noted, absurd to pretend that abortion is somehow incidental to Planned Parenthood's services, and since money is fungible, giving them money is probably helping to fund abortion provision.  Since I think this is a very tough issue on which reasonable people can disagree, I can see why the federal government, and private foundations, would decline to fund their operations. Nor do I think that this is somehow fatal–indeed, the news of the Komen foundation's funding withdrawal was met by an outpouring of donations that, as of this writing, has nearly replaced the lost funds.

Wilkinson expanded on the funding point, though David Dayen's math suggested both Planned Parenthood and Komen would have been hurt.  Dreher, also writing before the reversal, wondered about the controversy's greater significance:

It seems to me that the real political significance of the Komen move could be formalizing a shift that’s been underway for years now: the separation of “women’s issues” from abortion rights. The consensus that to support feminist goals for equal pay, equal treatment, and so forth requires also supporting full abortion rights is breaking down. No wonder old-guard feminist elites are freaking out. Feminists for Life, you may be about to have your moment.

(Photo: Anti-abortion and pro-choice demonstrators argue in front of the Supreme Court during the March for Life January 24, 2011 in Washington, DC.  By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)