Planned Parenthood Wins the Komen Showdown

Remember last week's Komen kerfuffle? (OK, it was more than a kerfuffle, but I love that word.) Katha Pollitt, among others, noticed that the breast-cancer-awareness group's apology for dropping Planned Parenthood from its future grantees was at best ambiguous. She too sees this as a clear win for Planned Parenthood:

We hear so much anti-choice propaganda, we may not always remember that, actually, Planned Parenthood is not sketchy and controversial out there in mainstream America. It is beloved. Beloved. Note the relief- and gratitude-saturated testimonies like the ones collected practically overnight by the social media activist Deanna Zandt at the Tumblr site Planned Parenthood Saved Me. And it is beloved most of all by women who care a lot about women’s health—among whom Komen volunteers figure prominently. Breast cancer activism began as a feminist cause, after all: the initial impetus, back when Komen was founded in 1982, was the silence and shame surrounding the disease, the lack of research funding and the general sexism pervading treatment. Those are all feminist issues, and were structured as such in public discourse at the time. It was like Our Bodies, Ourselves in action.

Komen miscalculated by thinking its base cares only about breast cancer: in fact, those women in pink t-shirts and sneakers, raising their thousands upon thousands of dollars a year for breast cancer research, understand quite well that women’s health means more than tumor-free breasts. 

As I wrote last week, I think this is indeed a slam-dunk for Planned Parenthood. The people who hate them will never fund them, but a lot of women who are grateful to them for the services they provide are going to stop being half-ashamed of it. After I wrote that, I heard from half a dozen women who said that Komen was permanently off their giving list, and Planned Parenthood would be getting a double contribution for years to come. That included my mother, who has been giving to Komen for two decades. My mom is one of those white-haired ladies with large glasses who checks off your name when you vote, raises money for the library, volunteers to tutor kids in math, has been on every civic board in two Ohio counties, knows the zoning code by heart (because she wrote parts of it), and comes home from her meetings only to change before heading out for another fundraiser. If Komen has lost my mom, Komen has lost a lot of civic ladies much less committed than she is.