One of America’s most effective, successful and respected charitable institutions has damaged itself seriously but not necessarily irreparably.
The leaders of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation injected their movement into one of the country’s most divisive issues: abortion. Polls show that the American people are equally divided between pro-choice and pro-life, as advocates for the two sides call themselves. The Cure’s officials managed to offend both of them within one fateful week.
Nancy G. Brinker, the chief operating officer of the Cure, famous for its campaign against breast cancer, announced that it would halt its partnership with Planned Parenthood, another effective, successful and respected charitable institution and stop giving it about $700,000 a year to finance counseling and arrangements for breast examinations and educational programs in its nationwide network.
An explosion erupted. Some officials of the Cure resigned in anger. Some of its affiliates demanded exemption from the new policy. Boycotts began against corporations that had financed its pink-ribbon road races. Outraged criticism went viral on the Internet. Many contributors said they would stop giving to the Cure. Donations to Planned Parenthood surged by nearly $3 million, including a $250,000 matching grant from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Ms. Brinker, sensing her blunder, quickly reversed course and apologized to everyone. She announced that the funding of Planned Parenthood would be restored, at least for the present. Her move, naturally, stirred outrage that she had caved in to the pro-choice advocates.
Certain facts should be kept in mind in judging the matter: The campaign against breast cancer must go on.
Planned Parenthood, while it does facilitate abortion where deemed appropriate, keeps its actions to detect and combat breast cancer meticulously separate.
The niggling complaint that Planned Parenthood does not perform mammograms is nonsense. Neither do family doctors. They all refer patients to clinics that actually do the mammograms.
The Republican congressman whose investigation of Planned Parenthood was one of the reasons given for the decision to halt the funding should be disregarded. The organization scrupulously avoids using any federal money for abortions.
The recent resignation of Karen Handel, Komen’s senior vice president for public policy, should help the charity get back on track. Ms. Handel ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for governor of Georgia on a platform that included a pledge to halt all state funding of Plannned Parentood operations. In her campaign blog, she wrote: “Since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood.” She acknowledged that she took part in the defunding decision, and several former Komen employees have said that she was a driving force behind it.
To retrieve its broad popularity and public participation, the Cure must stand by its latest decision and, as earlier, keep clear of the national disagreement over abortion.
The Cure, as well as the federal and state governments and the public as a whole, should treat the question of abortion as a matter not for politics, but for a woman and her family and her doctor to determine.