The Komen Controversy: Your Take

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 6 2012 @ 10:44am

Via Dan Savage, a video response from a former Komen supporter that's about as powerful as you can get:

by Chris Bodenner

The inbox is flooded with reactions to the controversy:

Komen did not reverse its decision "after a serious backlash from pro-choicers." They reversed their decision after serious backlash from women. Go check out the responses from women (and men) on Facebook, HuffPo, etc. Politicians, business, and pundits from both sides of the aisle vociferously protested as well. Women and men on both sides of the abortion issue were outraged. Because for us, this is not about abortion; it’s about women’s access to affordable health care.

Another reader:

An awful lot of people either know someone who has had breast cancer, died from it, or has had it themselves, and they see Planned Parenthood as being one of the few national organizations (if not the only one) that is providing cancer screening to a lot of women who don't have health insurance or can't afford to go to a regular doctor. This issue is tied into our shaky economy, and for most people, having health insurance is dependent upon having a job.  

I also think that because of the race/walk for the cure, a lot of people have made a personal investment in Komen, in an "we're all in this together" event.  The board's decision suddenly did not feel like we were not all in this together.


Daniel Foster claims that Planned Parenthood "besmirched Komen's good name". Pardon me, but Komen besmirched its own name.

They did so by bringing pro-life politics into an organization whose purported mission is to help fight breast cancer. Worse, they insulted everyone's intelligence by trying to pretend that there was nothing political about it by trying to pretend that it was nothing more than a policy change. Never mind that the policy in question just happened to impact the funding of just one of the 2,000 organizations they fund, nor that it just happened to come in the wake of the hiring of a VP of Policy, Karen Handel, who just happened to be a staunch pro-life advocate who ran a gubernatorial campaign where she attempted to get elected on a "defund Planned Parenthood" platform. Are we also expected to ignore the fact that even before the story broke, a top executive at Komen resigned in protest? 

Foster asserts that Planned Parenthood is complaining that Komen had the audacity to stop giving them free money. He seems to forget that Komen, itself, is a recipient of free money provided by its donors and sponsors. As a donor, I have every right and expectation that I will be informed about how my money is being spent and to know which policies are determining those disbursements. As such, I had every right and reason to know about Komen's attempts to stop funding Planned Parenthood, and every right to take that as a signal that my charitable donations could be better spent elsewhere. And since Komen clearly thought that they could obscure the matter behind the smokescreen of policy, I'm grateful that the media and Foster's so-called "Planned Parenthood set" went out of their way to let me know what was happening.

Another points to a double standard:

Komen's rule said that funding would be cut to any entity under investigation by state or federal authorities, yet they declined to cut their $7.5 million grant to Penn State despite an ongoing investigation by the Department of Education. Even if the intent wasn't to narrowly focus on the much-demonized Planned Parenthood, the effect has been to present a partisan and skewed application of the rule, making a mockery of claims to the contrary. Actions speak louder than spin, after all.

Another reader:

I lost my mother to breast cancer five-and-a-half-years ago. She had great health insurance, got close to the best care possible, and she died. That's cancer. In the years since, my family has participated in Komen events. We thought that we were supporting scientific research and public health programs. Perhaps we were naive, but we never once thought about politics.

And now we do. I, and many people, felt personally betrayed by Komen's decision because we suddenly had to think of them as a political entity. Overnight their goal no longer seemed to be about ending breast cancer and to provide screening services to the largest number of people; the goal seemed about those things only if they didn't agitate pro-life groups.

I admit that's a crude and unfair way to put it. I assume that the people involved with the decision honestly believed that they were acting in the best interests of their organization. But the best interests of the organization are not the same thing as the best interests of women's health.