Blog from President and CEO Mike Fichter: Komen, Planned Parenthood, and a few simple truths about a fall from grace

August 10, 2012

So now the next shoe has dropped in the Komen Race for the Cure – Planned Parenthood funding debacle, this time in the form of Komen president Liz Thompson announcing her resignation and founder Nancy Brinker relinquishing her chief executive role.  Not surprisingly, the Associated Press and others have been quick to create a filter for this latest shakeup that continues to portray Planned Parenthood as the temporarily jilted bride whose purity remains yet offended.  In the AP script, Komen attendance and funding continues to slide as a result of the American public’s angry backlash against the breast cancer research foundation for having the audacity to announce its intent to end grants to Planned Parenthood.  Komen, as the script suggests, has yet to sufficiently atone for its sin.

Nice script if you’re into fiction, but it’s a million miles away from what’s really going on here.  Here are a few simple truths Komen, Planned Parenthood, and a public fall from grace.

Truth #1: Komen numbers are suffering because everyday people, most of whom have never attended a pro-life rally or participated in a Right to Life event, are deeply offended that Komen is sending money to an unpopular organization like Planned Parenthood, an organization that is known for one thing above all else: killing unborn children.  As a result, these folks are declining to participate.  Sound simple?  It is.  There is no well-oiled boycott against Komen by pro-life groups as a whole, there are only headlines and news reports that connect the dots between Komen and Planned Parenthood in a way never before brought to light.    And although Komen may not wish to accept it, these folks will not be wooed back by staff resignations and reassignments, nor will they be fooled by AP storylines that paint Komen and Planned Parenthood as victims.  There is basic common sense in play here:  Planned Parenthood has no reason to withhold its support from Komen when Komen relented on its demands and restored its funding.  In fact, the very opposite should be true – a satisfied Planned Parenthood, if it is as popular as it claims, should be bringing a whole new influx of participants into Komen’s rank, sort of like a Komen version of the Chick-fil-A groundswell, prompted by Planned Parenthood supporters.  But the numbers are dropping, and they’re dropping hard. Than brings us to truth number two.

Truth #2: Planned Parenthood’s grassroots support is razor-thin, therefore it is completely unable to garner the numbers to carry Komen through these rough and choppy waters.  Komen wavered under  Planned Parenthood’s heavy guns of a sympathetic media and high-profile figures, but when the dust cleared away, the ground troops were exposed as a relatively small number of activists, staff, and die-hard progressives.   Indiana is case-in-point: in any given year, tens of thousands of Hoosiers attend pro-life events throughout the state, including over two thousand guests at Evansville’s annual fundraising banquet alone.  Planned Parenthood’s annual fundraiser draws several hundred people who simply can’t generate the type of numbers needed to sustain Komen’s position.  Take away the media, the federal government, the federal courts, and a handful of uber-wealthy donors, and Planned Parenthood is left as a fringe abortion business that relatively few wish to be associated with.

Truth #3: Komen relinquished the high ground.  When Komen decided to end grants for Planned Parenthood based on ongoing congressional investigation of the abortion giant, it briefly planted its flag on a highly defensible ridge.  Planned Parenthood’s failure to do a single mammogram gave further strength to its position, as did the outpouring of thanks by the pro-life community for making its decision.  But then the collapse occurred.  In one of the greatest public relations disasters in recent memory, Komen crumbled after a mere three days and relented to a media-driven mugging carried out by Planned Parenthood and its allies.  How interesting that Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards is reacting to the new Komen shakeup with glowing praise for Thompson and Brinker, sort of like a prison guard thanking a victim for her cooperation after six months of interrogation in a dimly lit cell.

Truth #4:  Every victim, every survivor, and every woman at risk of breast cancer loses as a result of Planned Parenthood’s death grip on Komen.   If Planned Parenthood really cared about women’s health, it would voluntarily decline grant monies from Komen and decline to submit any additional grant proposals, simply for the sake of removing itself as the thorn that is piercing Komen to the bone.  (Let it be noted that not one single pro-life group wants money from Komen, but simply the opportunity for everyone to work for a cure for breast cancer without fear that a portion of the funds they help to raise will flow to Planned Parenthood.) But Planned Parenthood will not and cannot walk away, because the funding flap really isn’t about helping to find a cure for breast cancer, it’s about Planned Parenthood refusing to take its claws out of an organization whose attachment means more than money: it means a pipeline to a brand that Planned Parenthood desperately wants to use as a shield to hide who they really are and what they really do.  Maybe that’s the most glaring truth of all.

What’s next for Komen?  Only time will tell.  But as long as Planned Parenthood is a part of its funding mix, no staff changes, op-eds or advertising campaigns will scrub away the crimson stain of Planned Parenthood from an organization that should have finally broken the leash when it had the chance.

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