This explanation has been met with reasonable skepticism for a number of reasons. For one, the organization has faced increasing pressure from antiabortion activists to cut all ties to Planned Parenthood. For two, Karen Handel, the Foundation’s senior vice president for public policy, is antiabortion. During her failed 2010 gubernatorial campaign, she publicly stated, “I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood.” That’s not to mention, as sociologist Gayle Sulik, author of “Pink Ribbon Blues,” told me, “If Komen held its corporate partners to that standard, we’d see a lot fewer pink-ribboned products on the market.”
Regardless of whether the Komen Foundation pulled grants “because they caved to anti-choice pressure or because of the political leanings of their VP,” says activist Jessica Valenti, founder of Feministing.com, “the result is the same — women’s health and lives are going to suffer as a result.” That’s especially true for low-income women who are most dependent on Planned Parenthood’s services.
No matter how much anti-choicers wish otherwise, it’s not feasible to create an approach to women’s health that separates good girl concerns from bad girl concerns. For instance, many women land in gynocologist’s offices seeking contraceptive services and cervical-cancer screenings, and doctors use that opportunity to teach the art of breast self-exam. As noted in my previous post on the Santorums’ pregnancy troubles, even the world of the hated abortion provider and the much-vaunted obstetrician can’t be so easily separated, as the latter is often called upon to have knowledge of pregnancy termination in case of a medical emergency.
In the end, the grant money is less important than the symbolism of Komen buying into the conservative myth of good-girl health care vs. bad-girl health care. In reality, women’s health care can only work if it’s comprehensive health care. Komen has already been under serious scrutiny by those who argue that the organization cares more about shoring up their image than making real progress in the fight for women’s health, and with this move today, they proved their critics right.
As noted in comments, http://www.charitynavigator.org/ can help you find alternatives if you’d prefer that your charitable contributions not go to an organization that believes in gender subordination, and I also agree that donations to your local clinics are a good idea. (As, of course, in a donation to your local Planned Parenthood; in the name of the Komen Foundation even better.) More good suggestions here.