Feb 05

Some big media writers are using strong language to criticize the strongarm tactics Planned Parenthood used on the Komen foundation last week.

Take a look at just three pieces…

In this WSJ piece, James Taranto calls it ‘totalitarian feminism.’

In breaking ties with Planned Parenthood, Komen made the same mistake: It failed to understand it was dealing with intolerant fanatics…

Further, Komen offered a rationale for its decision–a new policy denying grants to groups under governmental investigation–that seemed disingenuous and provided a point of attack for Planned Parenthood and its allies. “I’m reminded of the McCarthy era, where somebody said: ‘Oh,’ a congressman stands up, a senator, ‘I’m investigating this organization and therefore people should stop funding them,’ ” Politico quotes Sen. Barbara Boxer as saying on MSNBC.

Here’s an important point almost no one else in major media is making:

In truth, Komen was under no obligation to fund Planned Parenthood. Its decision not to do so was not punitive and did not even appear to be. The episode is reminiscent of George Orwell far more than Joe McCarthy. Komen’s actual aim was to extricate itself from the divisive national battle over abortion by severing its connection with a leading combatant.

The conservative Media Research Center notes that CNN “aired a pretty one-sided piece including statements from Planned Parenthood’s president Cecile Richards…No supporter of Komen’s position or critic of Planned Parenthood was included. Even more appalling than that lack of balance, though, was CNN’s echoing the charge of “right-wing ‘bullying,’ ” while the network was participating in Planned Parenthood’s effort to bully Komen.

The Ministry of Information–sorry, the New York Times–editorializes:

“With its roster of corporate sponsors and the pink ribbons that lend a halo to almost any kind of product you can think of, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation has a longstanding reputation as a staunch protector of women’s health. That reputation suffered a grievous, perhaps mortal, wound this week from the news that Komen, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, decided to betray that mission. It threw itself into the middle of one of America’s nastiest political battles, on the side of hard-right forces working to demonize Planned Parenthood and undermine women’s health and freedom.
The truth is that Komen blundered into a political battle by supporting Planned Parenthood in the first place and was attempting to back out of it quietly.”

The Times’s view exemplifies feminism’s gradual transformation into a totalitarian ideology. Totalitarianism politicizes everything, so that neutrality is betrayal–in this case, neutrality on abortion is portrayed as opposition to “women’s health.” As we wrote last year, this is also why purportedly pro-choice feminists can hate Sarah Palin and her daughter for choosing not to abort their children.

Komen would have been better off approaching the matter straightforwardly, by announcing that it wished to opt out of the abortion debate and would not support groups that take a position on either side of the issue, including Planned Parenthood. This would not have averted the smear campaign that followed, for Planned Parenthood and its supporters have internalized the notion that abortion is health, and are determined that everyone else internalize it too. But an honest position would have been easier to defend. No one would have been able to dent Komen’s integrity.

Speaking of honesty, and the New York Times, Ross Douthat has this good column.

IN the most recent Gallup poll on abortion, as many Americans described themselves as pro-life as called themselves pro-choice. A combined 58 percent of Americans stated that abortion should either be “illegal in all circumstances” or “legal in only a few circumstances.” These results do not vary appreciably by gender: in the first Gallup poll to show a slight pro-life majority, conducted in May 2009, half of American women described themselves as pro-life.

But if you’ve followed the media frenzy surrounding the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation’s decision — which it backpedaled from, with an apology, after a wave of frankly brutal coverage — to discontinue about $700,000 in funding for Planned Parenthood, you would think all these millions of anti-abortion Americans simply do not exist.

From the nightly news shows to print and online media, the coverage’s tone alternated between wonder and outrage — wonder that anyone could possibly find Planned Parenthood even remotely controversial and outrage that the Komen foundation had “politicized” the cause of women’s health.

“That ubiquitous pink ribbon … is sporting a black eye today,” Claire Shipman announced on ABC News Thursday, while Diane Sawyer nodded along. On MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell dressed down the Komen foundation’s founder, Nancy Brinker: “I have to tell you,” Mitchell said, “this is shocking to a lot of your longtime supporters. … How could this have taken place?” In story after story, journalists explicitly passed judgment on Komen for creating a controversy where none need ever have existed.

Conservative complaints about media bias are sometimes overdrawn. But on the abortion issue, the press’s prejudices are often absolute, its biases blatant and its blinders impenetrable. In many newsrooms and television studios across the country, Planned Parenthood is regarded as the equivalent of, well, the Komen foundation: an apolitical, high-minded and humanitarian institution whose work no rational person — and certainly no self-respecting woman — could possibly question or oppose.

But of course millions of Americans — including, yes, millions of American women — do oppose Planned Parenthood. They oppose the 300,000-plus abortions it performs every year (making it the largest abortion provider in the country), and they oppose its tireless opposition to even modest limits on abortion.

Both sides of the abortion debate ‘should find the anti-komen backlash disgusting,’ says Daniel Foster at NRO’s The Corner. Like the other two pieces above, this one is worth reading all the way through, following its links and its logic.

The Komen Foundation is a private organization. Planned Parenthood is ostensibly a private organization as well, but one with the highest of public profiles, a maximally polarizing mission, and a conduit of taxpayer dollars. If either of the two should be wary of politicizing its decision-making process, it should be PP, no? And yet Komen is getting hammered for a practical organizational decision (for the zillionth time: PP does not provide mammography) while pro-choice auxiliaries are gleefully fomenting the rage.

Will Wilkinson, who is pro legal abortion and probably the libertarian with whom I agree least often, gets it exactly right on this score, observing that there is more than a little gangsterism in the response from the PP set:

“You know, I’m not a big fan of Komen’s brandification of breast cancer, I dislike seeing pink ribbons plastered over everything, and I think Planned Parenthood is real swell, abortions and all. So I’m not especially inclined to come to Komen’s aid. But I’ll be damned if this doesn’t look a bit like PP throwing it’s weight around, knocking a few pieces of china off the shelves, sending a message to its other donors: “Nice foundation you got there. Wouldn’t want anything to, you know, happen to it.”

Look, the beauty of free speech is that, if you’re inclined to do so, you can write a check to PP in an act of solidarity, or write a check to Komen as an expression of moral approval. That’s all fine. But there’s something quite a bit different, something creepy and not a little despicable, about the Planned Parenthood set’s besmirching Komen’s good name across a thousand platforms for having the audacity to stop giving them free money. And I don’t care why that decision was made, frankly.

Look at it this way…

Imagine I volunteered to run a cub scout troop, and for years, when the annual soapbox derby came near, I knew I could count on Joe’s Deli as good for a hundred dollar donation. If one year Old Man Joe decided he didn’t want to donate any more — because he didn’t like the design of our racer, or because he thought his hundred bucks was better spent on a little league team, or because he disapproved of the scouts’ stance on gays — what on earth would justify me going on public access TV to grill Old Man Joe on why he hates kids? What would justify me hacking the Joe’s Deli web site or maliciously editing Old Man Joe’s Wikipedia page? What would justify me goading a handful of my city councilman into standing up at the next town meeting and publicly calling on Old Man Joe to reinstate his donation?

Nothing. Nothing would justify that. Nothing at all.

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Feb 05

It has been deeply revealing and we have learned much.

First of all, that the relationship existed. After all the years of doubt or uncertainty by many contributors to the Pink Ribbon campaign over whether the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure donated some of those funds to Planned Parenthood, it’s all out there now. So there will never be another Pink October or any other fundraising campaign in which ubiquitous pink ribbons  and the Komen logo of the breast cancer awareness giant will not be associated with Planned Parenthood, the abortion giant.

Second, we saw the full weight of Planned Parenthood’s power and fury. On a hair trigger, they and their supporters fired off relentless rounds of volleys through a vast social media network. And they either pressured or cajoled nearly two dozen US senators to leap into the fire and lobby on their behalf, all on practically no notice.

Senators Frank Lautenberg, Patty Murray and 20 other Democrats have prepared a letter, obtained by Reuters, saying Komen’s move “threatens to reduce access to necessary, life-savings services. We urge Komen to reconsider its decision.”

They certainly didn’t take the time to research the veracity of their claim about access and services, and anything else pertaining to the truth of the matter.

“It would be tragic if any woman, let alone thousands of women, lost access to these potentially life-saving screenings because of a politically motivated attack,” said the letter, which was due to be sent later on Thursday.

It all worked, and fast, which is a big lesson for the pro-life movement. Whatever else Planned Parenthood is, it is highly successful in everything it does nationally, at the local level and highest levels of government obviously up to the White House itself. And it is highly successful as a force to be reckoned with because it is relentless in applying pressure and mobilizing rapid response forces that frame a message, make it go viral and then make it stick. They make it clear that there will be consequences to non-compliance with their demands, and they follow through.

This, with another tenor but no less tenacity, is a model for the pro-life or any movement to notice and consider. Leave aside PP’s bullying for another post…

Social activism can change policies and laws when people unite behind a cause with a fervent commitment, make a clear statement meant to ’stick’, mobilize a network through social media, make a sustained effort to make the message go viral, and refuse to go away or back down. And make it clear there will be consequences to the response or lack of one.

The movement should be unapologetically forceful, but unassailably positive and relentlessly determined. And it helps when it’s an election year.

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Feb 04

First, the backoff happened with head-spinning swiftness. Second, it’s still unclear what the statement by the breast cancer awareness foundation really meant.

The uncertainty is not for lack of news stories.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation has reversed its decision to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and apologized “to the American public” for its handling of the issue.

A statement from founder and CEO Nancy Brinker and the Susan G. Komen Board of Directors says the foundation will immediately get in touch with its network and key supporters “to refocus our attention on our mission and get back to doing our work.”

“The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen,” the statement says.

“We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.”

Komen touched off an uproar by announcing that it had adopted criteria excluding Planned Parenthood from grants because it was under government investigation, notably a probe launched in Congress at the urging of anti-abortion groups.

They leave aside the reasons for those investigations, as most articles did, which is a glaring omission. Congress and state governing bodies don’t enter into these things frivolously, especially when it comes to Planned Parenthood.

However…

In its statement, Komen now says it will change the criteria so it won’t apply to such investigations.

“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants,” the statement says.

It was a desperate measure to batten down the hatches against the storm.

But officials across the organization said they were still reeling from the fallout of what many described as a public relations fiasco created by Komen’s leadership.

“I felt like we were eaten alive,” said Logan Hood, executive director of Komen’s Aspen affiliate in Colorado. “We had no advance warning..?.?. We were sent into battle without armor.”

And they were criticized for that, too.

The situation has been a “total embarrassment” for Komen, said Tom Madden, chief executive of TransMedia Group, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based public relations ad crisis management company. “There should have been a lot of thought through that kind of decision, and it sounds to me like the ramifications and pressures they were under were not anticipated, which was a failure of planning. I can’t believe an organization like Komen wasn’t aware of what was going on.”

Reversing themselves is a sign that Komen is not a “thoughtful, contemplative organization,” Madden added. “This does not strike a chord that this is an organization that knows where it’s going and what it’s doing.”

Komen may have alienated both supporters and detractors in switching its position, Madden said. “They should have anticipated that,” he said. “Anticipation is a big part of crisis management. If you’re going to avoid a crisis, you have to vividly plan for it.”…

“I don’t think there’s been any permanent damage,” Madden said. “I think there’s going to be some anger on both sides, but that will dissipate eventually. The organization at its heart is very worthwhile. However, they must take aggressive action to really do a thorough and transparent analysis of what is best for women with breast cancer.”

Yes. Which begins with understanding some of the causes can be prevented.

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Oct 23

They’ve been evident lately on most major league baseball and football teams. And their advertising. They’re so ubiquitous, those pink ribbons are seemingly on most products in the stores right now.

So I’m grocery shopping and every aisle features food products that have somehow worked the pink ribbon onto its packaging. In fact, nearly every aisle I turn the cart into has a special display of these products to catch shoppers’ attention. Caught mine, because I write about this every year at this time. And interview people on radio in between Octobers…

I stop at one display and really look at it. ‘Okay, I’ll pay the attention you ask for. What is it you’re promoting?’ I think…

The signs all say the same thing. ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’. I looked at that and wondered, what does that mean?

Okay, we’re aware. But being aware of this dreaded disease is just the beginning, as it is with any form of cancer or any other affliction.

What needs an awareness campaign is the link of breast cancer to abortion.

A microbiologist says there are so many published studies confirming the link between induced abortion and breast cancer that he plans to publish one every day on his blog until he’s mentioned them all. It will take Dr. Gerard Nadal so many weeks to cover them all, the blogging will continue until early next year.

Nadal, who has a has a PhD in Molecular Microbiology from St John’s University in New York, has spent 16 years teaching science, most recently at Manhattan College.

He will report on one abortion-breast cancer study daily until he has exhausted all of the abortion-breast cancer studies and he anticipates he may be reporting on these studies as late as January or February of 2011.

“Today begins the inexorable presentation of the scientific literature on the abortion/breast cancer link,” Nadal writes. “Women’s lives depend on us getting the truth out to them. In short order we’ll generate plenty of pros armed with the simple truth of science!”

Yes, let’s have awareness.

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Oct 12

The title for this post occurred to me before hearing or reading it anywhere. But seeing it written in an article linked below is what this is about in the first place….we’re seeing the same thing. They’re just about everywhere. And though mostly in the form of the emblematic pink ribbon, the campaign has also subsumed the color itself into the cause of promoting breast cancer awareness to the point where professional sports have turned out even more uniforms, hats, helmets, gloves, shoes, bats, and towels in (or accented by) the bright and vivid color pink. So is it working?

The answer depends on the intent in the first place, but it’s at least working on us in some way. I don’t know why but the image of neighborhood homes and properties TP’d and draped in white comes to mind, now that America as the extended neighborhood has been decked out and draped in pink. Many of the news sites I visit online have a pink ribbon on their banner logos, and the list goes on to food and drink manufacturers issuing special packaging for the month, merchandising featuring the ribbon and promising a percentage of the proceeds go for the ‘fight against breast cancer’, and so on…

More than one story is out there in print professing we have reached awareness fatigue.

Medical sociologist Gayle A. Sulik, author of the new book “Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health” (Oxford University Press), calls it “the rise of pink October.”

(see…it’s just too obvious)

“Pink ribbon paraphernalia saturate shopping malls, billboards, magazines, television and other entertainment venues,” she writes on her Web site. “The pervasiveness of the pink ribbon campaign leads many people to believe that the fight against breast cancer is progressing, when in truth it’s barely begun.”

Now this is something different. Critical analysis.

Pink activities are hardly restricted to October, but they are particularly prominent during the month: billboards promoting breast cancer awareness; media coverage of the latest advances in breast cancer detection and treatment; and races, walks, climbs and other events for breast cancer survivors that provide emotional uplift, a sense of community and an opportunity to raise money for the cause…

So how can the pink ribbon be objectionable? Among the first salvos against the pink ribbon was a 2001 article in Harper’s magazine entitled “Welcome to Cancerland,” written by the well-known feminist author Barbara Ehrenreich. Herself a breast cancer patient, Ms. Ehrenreich delivered a scathing attack on the kitsch and sentimentality that she believed pervaded breast cancer activism.

Others added to Ms. Ehrenreich’s arguments, notably the San Francisco-based group Breast Cancer Action, which in 2002 initiated a “Think Before You Pink” campaign. The organization’s main concern was that pharmaceutical companies that manufactured breast cancer treatments, plus other industries that promoted the pink ribbon for publicity purposes, produced toxic waste that poisoned the earth — and actually promoted breast cancer. Rather than being used to study the causes of breast cancer and how to prevent the disease, a large proportion of pink money, the group argued, has been used to pay for local screening and treatment programs and research into new, expensive biological agents that have had little impact on women’s survival from breast cancer.

It’s been used for more than that, and this part only begins to touch on it…

Ms. Sulik closely examines what she calls the “financial incentives that keep the war on breast cancer profitable.” She reports that the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which annually sponsors over 125 annual Races for the Cure and more than a dozen three-day, 60-mile walks, has close to 200 corporate partners, including many drug companies. These associations, she warns, are a potential conflict of interest…

As is the relationship between Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood, which I’ve written about before. It’s an odd and troubling relationship…

And one that contributors would want to know about…Pro-Life Wisconsin is out with some facts we should know.

“October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“Pro-life citizens who are interested in fighting this deadly disease should be aware that Susan G. Komen for the Cure has a policy of explicitly allowing its state affiliates to give monetary grants to abortion-providing facilities…

“Not all state affiliates give grants to Planned Parenthood using the 75 percent of the funds that they raise in a state. However, each state affiliate must forward at least 25 percent of funds raised in their state to the Komen National office. These funds are under the discretion of a board that refuses to disassociate itself from Planned Parenthood…”

In March 2009, the Komen Foundation issued a letter about their relationship with Planned Parenthood, explaining their position and addressing concerns. They sound reasonable and comprehensive in representing their mission and their coverage. They claim that in some of the poorer areas, women can only obtain screening services through Planned Parenthood clinics, and state that they’ve been “assured that Planned Parenthood uses these funds only for breast health education, screening and treatment programs.” Supporters are asked to accept that assurance by Planned Parenthood.

But the letter raises a red flag for me when it addresses criticism that Komen for the Cure’s grants to Planned Parenthood are inappropriate because of the abortion-breast cancer link, the claim that women who have had abortions have a higher incidence of breast cancer. Komen refutes the claim as unsupported and contends there’s “no conclusive link between breast cancer and induced abortion…”

Not true. They have selectively ignored this evidence for years. In spite of the great work some organizations are doing on behalf of women’s health and well-being, the politics of the abortion movement still invade it on a fundamental level, and they don’t belong there.

Support breast cancer prevention of the soundest foundation for the whole health and dignity of women.

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