GOP races for a cure for Komen Foundation blunder
A shock ran through women of every political persuasion when the Komen for the Cure Foundation announced it was terminating its long support for Planned Parenthood. The proffered reason was because Planned Parenthood’s use of federal funds was under investigation by a congressional committee.
Many women, for whom Komen’s pink ribbons signified Planned Parenthood more than the foundation, rebelled against the decision. Pink ribbons were torn up, or even burned. Hundreds of thousands of dollars that would have gone to the Komen Foundation were sent directly to Planned Parenthood. Thousands of email and twitter messages in support of Planned Parenthood flooded the Komen Foundation offices.
After a few days of waning contributions and disgruntled supporters, the Komen Foundation capitulated and restored Planned Parenthood’s eligibility for funding.
In defense of the attempt to cut Planned Parenthood funding, Foundation administrators claimed they were required to do so by the new policy against funding organizations that are under investigation by state or federal agencies.
The “investigation” of Planned Parenthood’s use of government funding by Florida GOP Rep. Cliff Sterns, The New York Times editorialized, “is nothing more than a political witch hunt, stirred up by Republican leaders and by a right-wing antichoice group, Americans United for Life ... The inquiry is part of the Republican campaign to stigmatize Planned Parenthood and end financial support for its invaluable network of clinics. Abortions make up only about 3 percent of its work, but most of this crowd also objects to its leading role in providing access to contraception.”
No money from either the federal government or the Komen Foundation for the Cure goes into the three percent of the Planned Parenthood budget that provides abortion services to poor women.
The Komen foundation lost more credibility when it became apparent that the plan to cut funding for Planned Parenthood was a long-term goal of foundation leaders, despite their claim of neutrality on the abortion issue. The final decision came after long-time GOP anti-abortion activist and former Georgia Secretary of State, Karen Handel, was hired as Komen’s Vice President for Policy.
Handel wrote the new policy excluding organizations under investigation by state or federal agencies from receiving Komen Foundation funds. As the facts emerged, it became increasingly apparent that the policy was crafted only to sever the close bond between Planned Parenthood and the Komen Foundation.
The congressional inquiry into how the Komen Foundation spends its money, The New York Times said, is “just a flimsy fig leaf” to cover to the right wing plan to cut ties between Komen and Planned Parenthood.
Although the Komen Foundation hopes to solve its public relations crisis by restoring Planned Parentood’s eligibility to apply for grants — though with no certainty of being awarded one — it is unlikely this is the end of the matter for some Republicans.
In a Huffington Post report, Joanne Bamberger predicted, “This is a story that isn’t going away anytime soon, even though I’m sure Komen never thought in a million years that women would react as viscerally as they have ... The Komen Foundation is probably finished, because they misjudged their constituency. Not understanding the motivations of supporters is a death knell for any organization.”
The same can be said of politicians. Not understanding their constituents can be the death of tone-deaf ideologues. Women opposed to curtailing family planning and other critical services Planned Parenthood brings to low-income women could become a decisive voting block in November.
Colorado’s Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Congressman Scott Tipton in the 3rd Congressional District, who voted multiple times to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, should not escape the consequences of undermining an organization revered for its outstanding service to women.
They may experience those consequences in November when the women of Colorado hold them accountable.