Planned Parenthood Scores a P.R. Victory Over Komen   

What Women Really Think
Feb. 1 2012 4:45 PM

Planned Parenthood Scores a P.R. Victory Over Komen   

Susan G. Komen for the cure, which raises millions for breast cancer research, has decided to stop providing funding to Planned Parenthood

Roberta Parkin/Getty Images

As someone who is mildly skeptical of Susan G. Komen for the Cure (for its history of overly  generous compensation for leaders, for its weird legal actions against other cancer groups, for the annoying ubiquity of pink ribbons on everything you buy during October) and outright distrustful of Planned Parenthood, I’ve had the chance to watch their skirmish from afar without feeling too riled one way or the other.

In the end, though, it’s clear that Planned Parenthood’s P.R. machine, well familiar by now with boycotts, is clearly stomping all over Komen, who was not ready for the backlash its received (a backlash aided, no doubt, by the overwhelming liberalness of those in the media who have the opportunity to make their outrage visible). Planned Parenthood will no doubt recoup the money it had received from Komen and it has scored some sympathy and free publicity in the process.


I wish that Komen had done a few things differently. I wish that it had come out right away and said that while it had to cut ties with Planned Parenthood, it had found a corresponding number of free clinics and gynecologists serving women in low-income areas to be the beneficiaries of its largesse. It would have illustrated that Komen was still committed to women’s health care.

And I wish that, if it were going to take the stance of not giving money to Planned Parenthood because of the congressional investigation, that they would have been a little more vocal about the concerns stemming from that investigation. Amanda, I know you referred  called it a “nuisance,” but in reading  the report put together by Americans United for Life, which helped launch the investigation, there are some legitimate concerns. Planned Parenthood offices in California, New Jersey, New York, and Washington state have at various times been audited by state and federal authorizes and discovered to have been overbilling state agencies and committing other improper billing practices. Further, Planned Parenthood has a record of not reporting instances of sexual abuse—and I’m not talking about 16-year-old girls who come in with their 19-year-old boyfriends. The AUL report documents a case in which a 13-year-old girl was raped by an older foster brother and was impregnated—twice. Planned Parenthood is required, if it wants to receive federal funds, to comply with mandatory reporting laws.

Those who are loudly denouncing Komen are getting plenty of attention today. But the Komen foundation would not have acted as it did if it had not been hearing similar complaints from pro-lifers for years. It could not have been a decision that it made lightly. I’m grateful that it listened to the concerns of men and women who told them they would not donate to Komen as long as it had a relationship with the nation’s largest abortion provider.

Because Planned Parenthood can gin up outrage from its supporters at the drop of a hat, and that it will likely come out ahead with this whole affair. It would be nice, however, if once in a while the organization could step back and ask itself why an organization like Komen would sever its ties. There are consequences, or should be, for an organization that continues  to perform more and more abortions—while treating fewer prenatal patients and making fewer adoption referrals—while the nationwide trend has been largely downward since 1990. There should be consequences for an organization whose employees are caught on tape giving inaccurate medical advice or who fail to report anything to authorities when 13- and 14-year-olds show up seeking abortions after being impregnated by men in their 30s and 40s.  About as many Americans are pro-life as are pro-choice, and we will continue to target groups that give their money to Planned Parenthood.

Rachael Larimore is Slate's managing editor.



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