Komen turnabout proves the power of protest

Posted Feb. 06, 2012, at 6:01 p.m.

The swift retreat of the Susan G. Komen foundation Friday from its assault on Planned Parenthood is a timely reminder of the power of protest, especially when its target and purpose are clear and its voices are not only strong but also credible.

The national Komen organization earlier in the week had cut off funding for Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer exams for poor women, using the excuse of a sham congressional investigation into the agency, a minuscule portion of whose work involves abortions. If just declaring an investigation of a charity were accepted as cause for denying funding, then any wing-nut lawmaker could cripple any cause on a whim.

The outrage at Komen’s action crossed lines of gender — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reacted with a $250,000 matching grant to Planned Parenthood on Thursday — but the voices of protest from professional women who swell the ranks of Komen’s supporters were especially heartening. Defending Planned Parenthood is not a matter of self-interest for middle- and upper-income women. They were standing up for the care of those less fortunate, unfashionable as that concept seems in some political circles during this election year.

And while visions of Komen donors turning away in droves undoubtedly shook the breast cancer charity’s leadership, we suspect the rebellion of many local Komen affiliates, including the San Francisco office, were a powerful influence to back off as well.

Watching all this evolve, we couldn’t help but muse on the other protest in the public eye of late: Occupy, whose shotgun approach stands in stark contrast. Perhaps lessons will be learned.

And not only by Occupiers. It remains to be seen whether the Komen organization can recover its good name and reputation among the women it has counted on for support. A political edge rarely is an asset for charities with an apolitical purpose like fighting cancer. If the anger persists, a change in leadership may be necessary.

Ironically, Planned Parenthood is most likely to benefit from all this: A spotlight now shines on the fact that, while it does perform abortions, 97 percent of its work is preventive health care for women and men who have no place else to turn.

San Jose Mercury News (Feb. 6)

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