Friday, February 03, 2012

Planned Parenthood for the win

Poster by Darcy Burner, candidate for the United States Congress, representing Washington state.


What an exceptionally interesting week it has been. News on the women's healthcare front has been coming at us thick and fast, so I thought I'd put together an up-to-the-minute summary of all things Planned Parenthood and Komen for the Cure (reserving the right to further update things later today, of course):

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he will personally give $250,000 to Planned Parenthood, stating "Politics have no place in health care...breast cancer screening saves lives, and hundreds of thousands of women rely on Planned Parenthood for access to care. We should be helping women access that care, not placing barriers in their way." Bravo for this, Mayor Bloomberg.

MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell interviewed Komen founder and ambassador Nancy Brinker; Brinker called the storm of outrage (about Komen's defunding of Planned Parenthood's cancer screenings) "a mischaracterization", and essentially prevaricated, dodged, and lied her way through the segment. To her credit, Mitchell--herself a breast cancer survivor--did not let her off the hook, despite having had personal ties to the organization that included fundraising and participating in the race. Brinker said, "...all I can tell you is that the responses we're getting are very, very favorable. People who have bothered to read the material, who have bothered to understand the issues -- again, we work for a mission, every day of our lives." [Brinker surely isn't referring to Komen's Facebook page, where on Wednesday evening, comments were already in the thousands, with negative reactions far outnumbering the handful of anti-choice-based positive ones.]

Writing at The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg reveals some nasty truths that completely lay waste to Brinker's (and other Komen execs') claims that the defunding of Planned Parenthood had nothing to do with anti-choice politics: "...three sources with direct knowledge of the Komen decision-making process told me that the rule was adopted in order to create an excuse to cut off Planned Parenthood."

This "no investigations, or no grants" rule at Komen would only seem to apply to Planned Parenthood (aka the Religious Right's much-wanted quarry and the House Republicans' favorite punching bag). Certainly it does not apply to Penn State, currently under federal investigation for a horrific child-rape scandal: Komen awarded the university a generous 5-year $7.5 million grant in 2008 and has made absolutely no efforts to defund the school in the months since the investigation was launched. Are we to deduce that Komen must really, really love football, given that it has one set of rules for an athletic institution that covers up the rape and abuse of children by its employees, and a completely different set for a program that provides access to cancer screening for low-income women? You tell me.

A growing number of Komen leaders are already resigning in protest of Tuesday's announcement.

Hollywood is running the other way, too. Kudos to Ellen Barkin and Rosanne Barr, who've been especially vocal in their outrage.

And the Komen "brand"? As one who studied advertising, I can tell you this much: it's going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to recover from this. Salon's Joan Walsh predicted this on Tuesday and tweeted "The Komen Foundation just destroyed its brand, and it's going to be very, very sorry." In the hours since, the arrogant digging-in--and outright lying--by founder Nancy Brinker and anti-choice mouthpiece Karen Handel have all but dealt a death blow to the Pink Menace. (Amazingly, Handel tweeted, and then deleted, a boastful "cry me a river" message, referring to how she felt about Planned Parenthood's dismay at being defunded.) Every PR expert will tell you the same thing: when you screw up so publicly and undeniably, you've got to get out there immediately and admit it, apologize, and make a very public effort to put things right. That's obviously not what Brinker and Handel are doing, so one can assume they're perfectly fine with their respective parts in the complete destruction of the country's largest breast cancer charity. Well-done, ladies! Well-done.

But there's some really good news to report, too.

In a stunning feat of timing, Léa Pool's acclaimed indie movie, Pink Ribbons, which exposes the dark side of Komen's pink-ribbon marketing crusade--many of the details of which I wrote about on Wednesday--and which is set to premiere in theatres today (!), will likely have a far bigger audience than I imagine its creators dreamed possible.

And Planned Parenthood, amazingly, received $400,000 in donations (in addition to Mayor Bloomberg's pledge) within the first twenty-four hours after Komen's defunding announcement; gifts small and large continue to pour in.

And best of all, a significant portion of our busy, distracted, stressed-out populace has finally had its eyes opened to the harmful and extremist politics of the Religious Wrong Right, and it clearly doesn't like what it sees. Here's hoping that energy continues to build--who knows, we who've been banging the single-payer drum for years may be able to parlay America's newly-adopted "keep politics out of healthcare!" philosophy into another moral step forward and upward for the nation: keeping the profit motive out of healthcare, too.

A girl can dream.


UPDATE: Komen just issued a statement apologizing and announcing they are reversing their decision to defund Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood for the WIN, indeed!

Even so, if Komen are committed to saving lives as opposed to injecting extremist anti-choice politics into women's healthcare, there is something else they must do, something very important: fire Karen Handel, along with everyone else in the organization who's responsible for this week's disgusting display of anti-choice bullying. As Cynematic at MOMocrats says, A uterus is not a football.

UPDATE 2: In response to the apology letter, Kaili Joy Gray at Daily Kos makes some important points:
Sorry, but to me, this looks like more damage control. If Komen is really sorry and really changing its criteria and really continuing to fund Planned Parenthood's cancer screening and prevention programs, why doesn't it say so in big, bold letters?

This just looks like a further attempt to try to save Komen's battered image. Is that enough for you?

Want to support a real pro-women organization that really does focus on women's health care, not politics?

UPDATE 3: It seems Komen has also stopped funding stem-cell research. *Sigh* This little defunding move was quietly enacted in November, 2011. At this point, I don't think anyone doubts that Komen's leadership is infested with anti-choice, anti-science extremists, but oh dear, what nasty pink icing on the already-damaged cake this is. From Care2:

In addition to pulling funds from Planned Parenthood for The Susan G. Komen Foundation also decided to stop funding embryonic stem cell research centers making it fully transparent the organization has evolved from non-political non-profit to a partisan advocacy organization.

That means the loss of $3.75 million to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, $4.5 million to the University of Kansas Medical Center, $1 million to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, $1 million to the Society for Women’s Health Research, and $600,000 to Yale University. That’s a loss of nearly $12 million dollars in research money to eradicate breast cancer this year alone.

This is a new position for the organization which had previously supported all sorts of scientific research targeted at finding a cure for breast cancer and saving women’s lives. It’s new position is that the organization will categorically no longer support any embryonic stem cell research.


  1. That's great news from Bloomberg. I am a Brit, but it would be great to see the Americans have a legitimate third part candidate, and Mr. Bloomberg could certainly afford it!

  2. Ugh. Except Bloomberg would be anything but a third party candidate. He's an aristocrat. He has a personal army in the NYPD that he deploys to abuse citizens. That's not the kind of third party candidate we need.

    The whole system needs to be brought down. The Dem-Repub system is thoroughly corrupt. Both parties are beholden to huge corporate interests. And Bloomberg is no different.

  3. Green World, Lisa is right. As I wrote in the post, I'm very pleased that he donated that quarter-mil to Planned Parenthood. Bravo for that! But he's been an absolute nightmare in terms of leadership in NYC--dishonest, fascistic, and two-faced. Google 'Bloomberg and Occupy' to see what I mean.

    We need more than two parties, and we need to get the money out of our politics. Until that happens, American government will always be bought-and-paid-for, and not bought-and-paid-for by the people, of course: by the oil companies and other polluters, the job-offshoring companies, the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry; the private-prison-builders, and of course, the defense contractors.

    Stay tuned: things are sure to get interesting over here.