Remember when anti-choicers got LifeWay Christian Resources to pull its pink-covered Here’s Hope Breast Cancer Bibles from Walmart and other stores because one dollar of every sale went to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation? The antis were upset that the wealthy and influential breast-cancer charity made grants to Planned Parenthood for breast exams and mammograms for low-income women. And remember when Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, told his flock to stop raising money for Komen because someday in the future it might endorse stem cell research? Crazy, right?
The anti-choice movement can be so clumsy, and so weird, we forget that it is also smart and strategic and busy busy busy. Because while you were shaking your head over pink Bibles and stem-cell futurology, Komen was hiring Karen Handel as senior vice president for public policy. Handel is not your typical philanthropy administrator. She is a Republican pol, a former Georgia secretary of state, who ran in the 2010 gubernatorial primary, with endorsements from Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and anti-immigrant finger-pointing Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. At that time she described herself as “staunchly and unequivocally pro-life,” opposed to stem cell research and a fan of crisis pregnancy centers—places that have repeatedly been shown to use scare tactics and misinformation to dissuade women from seeking abortions. She vowed to eliminate from the state budget pass-through grants to Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screenings. Interestingly, she had previously supported these grants, using the exact arguments defenders of Komen’s PP grants are making now: PP is the only organization capable of doing the work—reaching low-income women, for whom the PP clinic is often the only medical care the get—and the grant money does not fund abortions. Handel’s turnaround shows you how quickly the anti-choicers have claimed formerly neutral turf: in only a few years a relationship deemed normal and good—in Georgia!—and the only existing way of providing needed services was branded with the mark of the beast.
Planned Parenthood says Komen grants totaled around $680,000 in 2011 and $580,000 the year before, accounting for around 170,000 of the 4 million breast exams it has given in the last five years. It’s pretty shocking that Komen would deprive of services women it has itself admitted have no other way of getting them. As Jodi Jacobson reports on RH Reality Check, in 2011 Komen itself acknowledged PP’s essential role in breast care:
While Komen Affiliates provide funds to pay for screening, education and treatment programs in dozens of communities, in some areas, the only place that poor, uninsured or under-insured women can receive these services are through programs run by Planned Parenthood.”