It’s a big win, to be sure, but for pro-choice advocates, the fight is hardly over. This is not the first time that Susan G. Komen has come under pressure from anti-abortion groups to pull its funding from Planned Parenthood. Many groups cite the fact that Planned Parenthood-sponsored mammograms and biopsies are not provided in-house, but are actually referrals. Others, better at getting to the point, cite their refusal to work with an organization that provides abortions. Particularly staunch churches and religious schools have gone as far as to boycott Komen-sponsored breast cancer awareness walks and runs for their continued funding of Planned Parenthood.
Faced with this continued backlash, a few staffers within Komen, according to the Los Angeles Times, began meeting in private to discuss how to deal with the Planned Parenthood backlash. In the end, they decided to continue funding to avoid any controversy.
This very astute decision clearly did not impact Susan G. Komen’s senior vice president of public policy, Karen Handel, a staunch pro-lifer. She had formerly run as the Republican nominee for governor in 2010, ironically losing because she was not considered pro-life enough. Handel, along with a number of anti-abortion supporters at Susan G. Komen, saw the government’s investigation of Planned Parenthood in September as a golden opportunity. The investigation in question, started by Rep. Cliff Sterns (R-Fla.), operated under the belief that Planned Parenthood illegally uses public funds to pay for abortions.
Despite the fact that Komen Chief Executive Nancy Brinker claimed that the decision to pull Planned Parenthood funding had unanimous support in the Susan G. Komen foundation, the rush of Komen resignations following the announcement speaks otherwise.
This controversy can be a learning experience for Susan G. Komen. A women’s health organization needs to know exactly where it stands when it comes to the controversial topic of abortion rights. When half of Komen is continuing to pressure the organization to drop funding for Planned Parenthood and the other half is willing to quit over the same issue, this is clearly something that will come up again.