Today the Susan G. Komen foundation issued a statement indicating that they will continue to fund existing grants to Planned Parenthood and preserve Planned Parenthood’s right to apply for grants in the future. Numerous mainstream media outlets are gleefully reporting that the Komen foundation has reversed its previous decision to defund Planned Parenthood. However, a close reading of the statement indicates that this is not necessarily the case. Furthermore, commentators would be foolish to describe this week’s events as either a win for Planned Parenthood or as a setback for the pro-life movement.
First the Komen foundation had always planned to fund the Planned Parenthood grants that it had already approved. Furthermore, today’s statement did not award or guarantee any new grants to Planned Parenthood. They just simply stated that Planned Parenthood is eligible to apply for grants in the future. Of course the future funding decisions of the foundation will certainly be of interest to pro-lifers.
The important lesson that most of the mainstream media is missing is that the Susan G. Komen foundation, like many charities, obtains support from an ideologically diverse group of donors. As such, their decision to defund Planned Parenthood was very courageous and to be frank – probably inconsistent with their own self-interest. Relatively few people were aware of Komen foundation’s support for Planned Parenthood. Furthermore, the Komen foundation’s support for Planned Parenthood hurt their reputation among only a very small number of committed pro-life activists.
Charities are always interested in obtaining more supporters. As such, a public decision to cut Planned Parenthood funding and the resulting media backlash was almost certainly going to do more harm than good. If a charity creates a critical mass of new enemies, common sense suggests they are going to engage in some public relations to either mollify them or possibly regain their support. That is certainly how one could read the Komen foundation’s statement. Again, they are not awarding any new grants to Planned Parenthood; they are simply stating that Planned Parenthood is eligible for future grants.
When the Komen foundation’s decision was announced earlier this week, Planned Parenthood quickly resorted to their typical brass-knuckle tactics in an attempt to get the decision changed. They used their formidable spin machine to attack, insult, and publicly question the motives of the Komen foundation. All of this is unsurprising, since, during the debate on health-care reform, Planned Parenthood was quite willing to kill the bill rather than allow for minor abortion restrictions. Later, Planned Parenthood wanted President Obama and their Democratic allies to shut down the government instead of passing a budget that reduced federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
In recent years pro-lifers have done a good job damaging the credibility and reputation of Planned Parenthood. This work has to continue. Just a short while ago, it would have been unthinkable for a group like the Komen foundation to sever its ties with Planned Parenthood. However, the fact that Planned Parenthood may no longer receive any future grants from such a popular charity is evidence of pro-life progress.
— Michael New is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan–Dearborn and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.