Now that the controversy has died down over the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer foundation, let’s assess the lessons. Readers will recall that Komen had been lobbied for a number of years by concerned pro-lifers, and the foundation finally agreed that offering grants to Planned Parenthood didn’t forward its mission.
An announcement that Komen would henceforth cut off those grants brought two divergent responses: pro-lifers were jubilant, and Planned Parenthood and its supporters were enraged. After a relentless 48-hour media jihad, Komen promised to reconsider all grants on a case by case basis—including those to Planned Parenthood. The board member suspected of having influenced the initial change of policy, Karen Handel, tendered her resignation. "I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it. I openly acknowledge my role in the matter and continue to believe our decision was the best one for Komen's future and the women we serve."
CEO Nancy G. Brinker admitted, “We have made mistakes in how we have handled recent decisions and take full accountability for what has resulted, but we cannot take our eye off the ball when it comes to our mission.” She mentioned “the need to distance Komen from controversy,” but perhaps didn’t fully grasp that it’s simply too late. Komen is now a symbol of the extreme divisiveness that accompanies legalized abortion, and it may well be the undoing of this noble charity.
Previously, the Pink Ribbon campaign was relatively uncontroversial—at least to the bulk of Americans unconcerned about the wide number of studies linking breast cancer to abortion and hormone-based birth control methods. Few families were untouched by this sort of tragedy and it was reasonably safe to support a search for a cure. Pink was ubiquitous, and most didn’t mind.
No more. Despite all the protests to the contrary, Komen is now a bellwether for people’s opinion about “abortion rights.” Pro-lifers are absolutely justified in withholding support, for there is no guarantee about what will happen in the case of future grants to Planned Parenthood. Komen may actually never give them another dime, but it won’t matter. Having shied from standing by its new policy (which didn’t last 72 hours) there is no firm principle guiding its donations. “Case by case” isn’t enough for serious pro-lifers, and their enthusiastic support withered to wavering disappointment.
But what about Planned Parenthood supporters who crowed over their victory? Technically, it wasn’t a victory. There is still no guarantee that any money will go to the nation’s leading abortion supplier; the success they claimed was actually just the collapsed bravado of a group that works very hard to help women. Unfortunately, we’ve learned that if such help threatens in any way to impact the sexual license of women, then it must be demolished. Promiscuity is sacrosanct, despite its myriad harms, and Komen—and all others—have been duly warned.
The supreme irony is that pro-abortion women won’t visibly support Komen either. Pink will no longer be a mindless accessory, a nod to an unimpeachable cause. Supporters of Planned Parenthood are fiercely angry that Komen tried to buck the tide, and they’ll withhold their support as well.
The “Race for the Cure” will lose its community support, large buildings will no longer be bathed in that rosy glow, and Komen’s kitchy couture will be a thing of the past. Rather than having to explain what qualified support stands behind each pink ribbon, women will just pass.
So in that sense, it is a victory for Planned Parenthood, which is a tragedy for women everywhere.