Sunday, February 05, 2012

Politicizing Choice

After the re-ignition of political/cultural wars this week and inane comments by conservatives on talk shows this morning, I have to vent.

This week the Susan G. Komen Foundation walked into a self-inflicted firestorm by withdrawing its limited financial support to Planned Parenthood to provide breast cancer screening and referrals for mammograms. They then threw gasoline on the fire with an obviously unbelievable rational.

After being hit with scathing attacks on social media, Komen partially retreated. Several Conservatives whined this morning that this was somehow an attack on a private organization's right to spend their money the way they want.

That is not the way I see it. No one is arguing that Komen can't choose to fund Planned Parenthood or not (a cynic might say they have choices). The objection was to Komen's choice to attack Planned Parenthood over providing abortions (which is about 3% of Planned Parenthood's budget) at the expense of decreasing women's access to other health care such as mammograms.

No one forced Komen to make monetary grants to Planned Parenthood, although they have for many years. No one would have made a big issue if Komen had quietly stopped making grants to Planned Parenthood and used that money to provide mammograms some other way. The problem was that Komen tied their decision to a political decision to attack Planned Parenthood and indirectly abortion. And then denied that is what they did.

Komen's initial defense was that they had made a decision to not make grants to organizations that were under investigation and Planned Parenthood was under investigation. Bull crap. The investigation that sparked the defunding is one started in the House by a Republican Representative. Komen can't hide the fact that they made a political/cultural decision by hiding behind a politically based investigation. Add to that several reports of organizations under actual legal investigation that are still being funded by Komen. The defunding was clearly a political decision aimed directly at and only at Planned Parenthood and Komen's claims otherwise were unbelievable.

But to the spark that ignited my outrage, conservative claims that by some logic the attack on Komen is some extension of liberal, Democrat, Obama, whatever, attacks on personal freedom. They claimed that the attacks on Komen were attacks on Komen's right to make their own decisions. They even tried to tie Komen's problems to the Catholic insurance debate (to be discussed later).

Komen was free to make grants to Planned Parenthood or not. They did. Presumably they monitored those grants to make sure the the money was used properly and effectively. Now Komen is free to withdraw all those grants. Most people are not questioning that. But many people were outraged that an organization that asks for donations to provide better health care options to women chose to make a political statement that decreased options. Komen's choice was not based on what was best for women's health. None of the money from Komen went to provide abortions. All people were saying was that if Komen decided to not help Planned Parenthood provide mammograms, we can decide to send our donations somewhere else.

So how do conservatives tie my choice to not donate to Komen for any reason I choose, to an attack on personal freedom? I don't get it.  Sometimes I think that personal freedom is something that only applies to conservatives.

If Komen really thought their position was morally defensible, they didn't have to retreat. That is, if they really reversed their decision. What I heard was that Komen said they would allow Planned Parenthood to again apply for grants. We will have to wait and see if they actually make any grants to Planned Parenthood. Again, that is their choice, but now we know that Komen has another agenda besides breast cancer and people will be watching.

I have a suggestion for Komen. Don't fund Planned Parenthood. Start your own clinics and provide women, many with few health care options, access to the same kind of health care provided by Planned Parenthood. They can even choose to not provide abortions, if that is medically possible.


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