At first, it appeared that Planned Parenthood was the loser in the dispute over funding breast cancer exams. Then, it appeared that Planned Parenthood was the winner, receiving huge donations from supporters furious over the fact that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation had cut off funding for Planned Parenthood amid concerns that the latter was "under investigation" for allegedly funneling federal monies to pay for abortions.
But there may be no real winner here. And the loser may be women's health.
On paper, the controversy has waned, largely due to a speedy reaction from backers of Planned Parenthood, which indeed provides abortions services but which also—and primarily—offers affordable healthcare for women. The Susan G. Komen foundation, which had been giving grants to Planned Parenthood, announced last week it would halt such grants because the women's healthcare provider was "under investigation" by Congress for misuse of funds. The merits of that justification are overwhelmed by the naivete of it; any crank in Congress can start an investigation into anything. Congressional oversight has become increasingly partisan and agenda-driven in recent years (with a few notable exceptions, including GOP Sen. Charles Grassley, who has conducted aggressive inquiries on important but non-attention getting matters regardless of which party has controlled the White House). But for the most part, using the status of "under investigation" as a barometer of anything is laughable.
Then, the Susan G. Komen foundation (whose senior vice president for public policy, Karen Handel, is anti-abortion) changed its story, saying it cut off funds because Planned Parenthood does not perform the breast exams itself, but merely refers women to places where the procedures are done. A lot of Planned Parenthood supporters didn't buy that flip flop, and threatened to sever ties with the Komen group while increasing donations to Planned Parenthood. The Susan G. Komen foundation then reversed its decision entirely, announcing Friday it would not ban Planned Parenthood from funding.
That sounds as though the fight is over (and that both groups might benefit from the increased attention). But disturbingly, a wedge campaign against women has been started, and is not likely to subside.
The undercurrent of the face-off was that there are two kinds of women—good girls, who have breasts that may become infected with cancer, and bad girls, who have sex. The women who have breasts are allowed to be worried about getting a deadly disease, and so are festooned with pink ribbons and given both cash for research and sympathy if they become ill. Women with cancer get to be treated as victims in need of financial and emotional support. The bad women who have sex are treated as though they are getting what they deserve if they become pregnant or get a sexually transmitted disease.
The bad women, the ones who have sex, are apparently meant to be punished. They can acquire birth control only in shame. And while abortion is still legal, the bad women who have sex must be forced to go through with unwanted pregnancies or endure a great deal of trouble and expense to get an abortion. The insult to women—that if females were forced to think about what they are doing before having an abortion, the exercise would surely make them change their minds—is overwhelming. Women who believe abortion is wrong won't have one. Making it harder for them to get an abortion won't make a difference. Women—devout Catholics and others—who don't believe in birth control won't use it. Refusing to cover birth control as basic women's health, or defunding organizations that supply birth control, won't mean anything to those women.
But for those women who have sex and want to do so responsibly—avoiding unwanted pregnancy and staying STD-free—birth control and sexual healthcare is critical. Planned Parenthood has been a go-to place for such healthcare for many women, particularly young females with low incomes and zero or inadequate health insurance.
The battle between Planned Parenthood and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation may be technically over. But the effort to divide women over basic healthcare is in full force.