In the last couple of days, lots of people – knowing my long-standing connection with the Komen 3-Day Walk for the Cure – have asked me for my reaction to the news that Komen will not be giving further grants to Planned Parenthood. I have been thinking about little else since the news hit; about the implications, and how this act – that like so many I believe to be a terrible misjudgment – should affect my future relationship with Komen.
I am very, very, disappointed in an organization that for years I have believed, and I think with good reason, was a model of a well-run, highly-motivated, group, dedicated completely to doing the right thing in a cause that is so important to so many millions of people. I am also disappointed in its response to the negative reactions of so many of its friends and supporters. I find it very difficult to swallow the contention that this decision had nothing to do with politics. The official statement, that this defunding is the result of an across-the-board decision not to give grants to organizations that are the subject of a governmental investigation, and that Planned Parenthood fits into that category because one Congressman has launched an investigation into its abortion funding, is, to my mind, a pretext. And I am saddened and angered that Komen has yielded to the threats of one end of the political spectrum to the detriment of women’s health. In these last two days, many of my walking colleagues, who I admire and respect, have announced that they are severing all ties with Komen as a result. I cannot, and will not attempt to, argue with that position.
But, I find myself unwilling to take that step. A part of me recognizes that this grave self-inflicted wound results from the organization being in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation. As Wheaton College political science Professor Amy Black put it, “to continue a partnership with Planned Parenthood would have significant political consequences that would harm them. To end the partnership with Planned Parenthood would have significant political consequences that also would cause harm.” I firmly believe that Komen made the completely wrong choice. But I have to recognize the practical dilemma.
I have found myself analogizing the situation to that of my reaction if a very good friend, or a loved one, who I have always found to be good and kind and fair, suddenly did something completely awful and out of character. Would my reaction be to drop them from my life? I hope not. And that is how, for now at least, I see Komen.
What has not changed as a result of this stupid decision, is that Komen is still the best resource we have in the struggle to find a cure for breast cancer. And I cannot walk away from that. I will separately donate to Planned Parenthood to help with its work in providing breast exams and information (apparently they do not do mammography). But the money Komen raises funds the research that has saved the lives of so many women, and will someday kill the monster. And, more than any other cancer charity, the money it raises goes directly to the work that so many of us deeply care about. I cannot ignore that.
I hate what they have done this week. But I love what they have done for 30 years. I am angry and disappointed. But I do not see myself leaving the Komen community.
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