The Susan G. Komen Foundation, an organization dedicated since 1982 to fighting, and one day curing, breast cancer, decided to extricate itself from the culture wars by discontinuing grants to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortions. The grants Komen had been making amounted to $650,000 last year, funding some 19 local Planned Parenthood programs that offered manual breast exams but only referrals for mammograms performed elsewhere.
The reality is that Planned Parenthood—with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion—does little in the way of screening for breast cancer. But the organization is very much in the business of selling abortions-more than 300,000 in 2010, according to Planned Parenthood. At an average cost of $500, according to various sources including Planned Parenthood’s website, that translates to about $164 million of revenue per year.
So how did Planned Parenthood and its loyal allies in politics and the media react to Komen’s efforts to be neutral in the controversy over abortion?
Faced with even the tiniest depletion in the massive river of funds Planned Parenthood receives yearly, the behemoth mobilized its enormous cultural, media, financial and political apparatus to attack the Komen Foundation in the press, on TV and through social media.
The organization’s allies demonized the charity, attempting to depict the nation’s most prominent anti-breast cancer organization as a bedfellow of religious extremists. A Facebook page was set up to “Defund the Komen Foundation.” In short, Planned Parenthood took breast-cancer victims as hostages.
Komen’s leaders had good reason to believe their organization could disintegrate under Planned Parenthood’s assault. On Friday the charity issued a statement “apologizing to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.” The statement assured Planned Parenthood’s supporters that, like any other organization, it is eligible to apply for grants in the future.
Among Komen’s reasons for discontinuing grants to Planned Parenthood was its policy of avoiding entanglements with entities under government investigation. Planned Parenthood has been and is under congressional and criminal investigation (by attorneys general, local prosecutors and various regulatory agencies in Arizona, Indiana, Alabama, Kansas and Texas) for allegations including failure to report criminal child sex abuse, misuse of health-care and family-planning funds, and failure to comply with parental-involvement laws regarding abortions.
Planned Parenthood is very far from the uncontroversial organization the Susan G. Komen Foundation aspires to be. According to its most recent annual report, for 2010, Planned Parenthood sells abortions to nine out of every 10 pregnant women who come to its clinics. And it’s known throughout the country as an implacable and aggressive opponent of any meaningful restrictions on deliberate feticide.
Planned Parenthood has spent millions fighting even those legislative initiatives that command extremely wide public support, such as laws requiring parental notification and informed consent for abortions, and those banning late-term abortions when the child developing in the womb is fully viable. Planned Parenthood even opposes a bill recently introduced in Congress to ban abortions for the purpose of sex selection.
It is easy to see why Komen might not wish to be associated with Planned Parenthood. Fighting breast cancer is something all Americans can and do agree on; promoting and performing abortions is something that divides us bitterly.
While Planned Parenthood’s target in the Komen case was new, its tactics are not. In the past two years, we have seen the abortion giant (and the politicians it funds) hold for ransom a diverse array of hostages.
In 2010, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress risked and narrowly averted the rejection of their signature health-care law in order to block the inclusion of provisions (such as the 1970s Hyde Amendment) that prevent federal abortion funding. At the 11th hour, a handful of “pro-life” Democrats capitulated, giving Mr. Obama and Planned Parenthood their victory.
Last year, in April, Mr. Obama risked a government shutdown over language in a resolution that would have defunded Planned Parenthood at the federal level. At the last moment, congressional Republicans gave way and allowed the federal money to keep flowing.
Also in 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services threatened to withhold billions of dollars in Medicaid funds from those states such as Indiana that prohibit state funding of Planned Parenthood and other entities that provide elective abortions. Planned Parenthood strongly opposed Indiana’s attempt to cut off its funding and celebrated the federal government’s intervention. Indiana is currently litigating the matter in federal court.
Most recently, after intense lobbying, the Department of Health and Human Services did the bidding of Planned Parenthood by imposing a mandate on virtually all employers to provide insurance coverage (without cost-sharing) for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations and contraceptives. This threatens to force many religiously affiliated charitable institutions out of the business of providing education, health care and social services to the poor.
Breast-cancer victims are only the latest hostages taken by Planned Parenthood. Unless the organization is finally held to account, they will surely not be the last.
Robert P. George, a member of EPPC’s board of directors,is professor of jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University. EPPC Fellow Carter Snead is professor of law and was recently appointed director of the Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame.