No Good Way Out for Susan G. Komen

“It’s a big message. This is the real deal. It’s not watered-down money.” – Nancy Brinker

Susan Goodman Komen was born in 1943 in Peoria IL (back then she was just Susan Goodman); she died of breast cancer in 1980 at the age of 36. Before Komen’s death, her younger sister, Nancy Goodman Brinker, promised Komen she’d do everything she could to end breast cancer. She founded the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in 1982, and changed the name to “Susan G Komen for the Cure” in 2007.

It is a beautiful story. A bereaved younger sister pledges to take on the giant, and has undoubtedly made a huge impact.

(Side note: we’ve argued in times past that individuals, with their own motivations, can organize and make great impact without using the legislature to mandate participation from everyone. That’s not to say Komen doesn’t advocate for government funding – everybody else does, so why not? But they started privately and remain a private charity.)

Sadly, Komen has made some missteps over this past week, and it will likely cost them. On Tuesday, a spokesman indicated that Komen had stopped paying grants to Planned Parenthood (the notorious baby-killing machine that also provides breast-cancer screening) because they had a policy of not providing grants to organizations under investigation. Planned Parenthood, which I have long considered a criminal enterprise, is under investigation for Medicaid Fraud in Texas and California, fraudulent reporting of illegal abortions in Kansas, and there’s a congressional investigation as well.

On Wednesday, a different spokesperson claimed that the decision was not based on the no-investigations-policy, but because Planned Parenthood didn’t directly provide mammograms. On Friday Komen reversed course completely, changing its policy on providing grants to organizations “under investigation” and agreed to fund the Planned Parenthood grants. Apparently the policy still holds if Planned Parenthood is convicted of anything, but for now the grants will go forward.

The whole thing is one big, giant mess for Komen for the Cure. The response from pro-lifers has been interesting. At first, they hailed the decision, as they do with any decision to take money away from Murder Incorporated. Shortly thereafter – and I mean very shortly – there was some head-scratching going on from pro-lifers. Though anecdotal, there was a rather interesting theme in many of the web comments on Komen stories: “I didn’t even realize that they gave money to Planned Parenthood.”

Pro-lifer ignorance was a good thing for Komen’s funding. Pro-lifers are ardent. We don’t care what great evil you are trying to combat – if you give money to organizations that participate in abortions we will not support you. No worries for the pro-lifers now though. The evil of which they were ignorant had been mitigated. There would be no more transfer of their donations that were meant to fight breast cancer to an organization that fights against the lives of the unborn. But this is not a net positive for Komen funding – it’s a push at best. (And that does not consider the fact that pro-choice forces, who direct a lot of your tax dollars, were angry with the decision.)

Caving to pressure from pro-choice groups, Komen has now riled pro-lifers. I guarantee a drop in funding from pro-lifers. I can’t say how much of the Komen funding came from such sources, but I’d expect the pro-life funding sources to drop by about 90%, maybe more. (I will also note that conservatives tend to far outpace liberals at private charity donations. While conservatives hail it as “we’re generous, they’re not” – it might just as well be a difference of philosophy. Liberals view funding of “charity” and “benevolence” as a government job.)

It gets worse though. Pro-choicers are riled that Komen would even dare pull funding from their favorite chop shop.  They are abated by the reversal, but the investigations still loom. What happens if Texas, California, Kansas (or anybody else) actually rule against Planned Parenthood? Will Komen pull funding as their policy indicates? Such a move would drive away pro-choice funding … and the pro-lifers already aren’t coming back. Will Komen change the policy again to allow Planned Parenthood funding? They would become just another pro-choice, pro-abortion organization. Their message in the fight against breast cancer would be gone forever.

I honestly don’t see any good way out for Komen at this point. The organization that had such a beautiful beginning may well have been mortally wounded, and that is a shame.

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