Friday, February 03, 2012

This is gonna be long, sorry

I actually have a couple of things to write of which I can't even bring myself to because I am at work and don't want to be a blubbering idiot, but I will try and get out early next week. I always feel better after I write things down, but this is a big one and I don't really know how to deal with it just yet.

So, first, another kinda serious subject that has lit the Internet on fire this week: Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood. If you have been living under a rock, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Foundation has, for maybe seven years, participated in a partnership with Planned Parenthood whereby they give some money (around $500,000 annually) specifically to support a program that gives mammograms and other early-screening breast cancer services to mostly low-income women.

Someone earlier this year (I think, I am not sure) a Congressman from Florida launched an investigation into Planned Parenthood, ostensibly investigating claims that PP is using Federal Money to provide abortions, which would be a violation of Federal Law (I will reserve comment on the reasonableness of that law), and of the terms of whatever grants that PP gets from the Federal Government.

Also this year, the Komen Foundation initiated a policy dealing with charitable organizations that they support - specifically, that they will suspend aid to any organization that is under local, State or Federal investigation. As a result of this, they pulled their funding of PP because of this investigation.

So first, the "I don't knows". I don't know whether or not there were any other organizations that also lost funding from SGK as a result of this policy. I don't know whether this policy was the result of a normal risk assessment, or whether it was a specific act intended for only this one program. There seems to be an assumption that Komen did this to send a specific message to PP, but I don't know that to be is possible that the news story broke because PP took it as an affront to their pro-Choice charter. I also don't know (although I suspect that it may be) whether or not the Congressional investigation is a legitimate exercise, or a witch hunt. Much of the outrage has been built under the assumption that it is, but I don't actually know that to be true.

Some additional background. I have been to Planned Parenthood as a client, and I know/knew a number of girls for whom the PP clinic was a key health care provider. Even as a teenager, it was pretty obvious that they have an agenda, and that the organization is dominated by their status as the most visible pro-Choice health care provider...but it is grossly misleading and unfair to call it an "abortion business" as I have seen a number of "news" outlets do in recent days. And it is impossible to deny their role as a health care provider, especially to women with few (or no) other options.

And I have always (basically) been pro-Choice. I believe in parental notification. I believe that the decision point should be pretty early in a pregnancy. I believe in a number of things that might be considered restrictions on abortion...but fundamentally I believe that it is a medical procedure that should be safe and should be available.

So, with all of that said...I just can't seem to get myself all worked up about the Komen foundation's decision. First of all, the policy is totally reasonable...if they have to ask people to give them money, which they do, then they simply can't take the risk of giving it to a charity for some period of time after they hear that the charity is under investigation. We are innocent until proven guilty in court...but not in the court of potential donor's minds. Just hypothetically, imagine that this investigation turns out to be real, and in 9 months, Planned Parenthood is exposed to have done all kinds of bad stuff, and the CEO gets sent to jail (no, I don't expect that to happen...but just go with it.) How does the SGK foundation then respond to a potential donor who asks "Why did you sent them $500k after you knew that they were accused of wrongdoing?"

Or, change the facts entirely...imagine the CEO of Charity Y has been arrested for beating his wife, but remains in his job while the case goes to trial. Could the SGK foundation justify continuing to send that charity money before a verdict was reached? Legally, sure...and maybe even ethically. But eventually, they answer to donors, who don't care about the legalities, they care about the emotional reasons that they give. If the Foundation feels like the best way to fulfill its mission is to cut this funding, then so be it...that is ultimately their responsibility.

To that end, I was sort of surprised to see that they even gave PP money in the first place. Understanding that the specific program is firmly within the goals of the SGK, there is no denying that PP is a controversial organization...partly because of what they do, and partly because an additional part of their goals is to be a very vocal, very visible proponent of pro-Choice causes and legislation. It would undeniably turn off a certain segment of potential donors.

Could I get worked up about a sham Congressional investigation? Sure...and this wouldn't be the only one...Congress does that sort of shit regularly. But most of the anger I have seen has been directed at SGK, including lots of threats to withold donations (which strikes me as cutting off funding from women's health care, which is what we are angry at them for in the first place.) I just can't really blame them, though. I understand why a massive charity would choose to not opine on the validity of an investigation and just take them all as "serious".

And finally, I feel like the rhetoric around the impact of all of this has been a little blown out of proportion. I have read in a couple of places about how this is impacting "millions of women's lives". Really? It is $500,000...not to say that is insignificant, but it is not going to impact "millions" of people. Additionally, the money will then eventually be re-allocated somewhere else within the Komen foundation to another of its assumedly noble causes...possibly something very similar. And further, out of Planned Parenthood's total budget of just about $1 billion, this represents one half of one tenth of one percent. In other words, a rounding error. Planned Parenthood ran a surplus in its most recent year of something like $60 million...meaning that they could provide the same program, with the result being that their annual surplus falls to $59.5 million...not exactly a crippling loss.

So, in the end, as much as it smells funny to have what appears to be a Congressman in Florida cutting funding for breast cancer prevention, it is hard to see where this will actually have a material impact on anyone. And if you really do think that the SGK does good work in achieving its primary goals (good enough that it caused you to donate), then I can't really believe that this, on its own, changes that. 

Alright, this is already way too long, and I KNOW that many of you disagree with me, so have at it.


Anonymous said...

Accidentally Me said...

Obviously because of my scathing criticism...:-)

laurwilk said...

While I certainly understand the controversy surrounding this issue, I'm mostly just happy that people are thinking about where they are putting their money and why. And I'm happy that Komen and PP are thinking about their goals, values, and missions.

In the same vein, I'm happy that Americans (mostly women) are really vocal about these issues and have come to fully understand and embrace their impact on politics.

Ultimately, we need more of this kind of thing. We're (obviously referring to society as a whole, not you and I) sheep these days and it irritates the hell out of me.

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

Please read this:

It was written last fall before any of this bullshit erupted and is filled with reasons why the Komen foundation should be questioned (it has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood).

I don't disagree with the things you've mentioned here. In fact, you're right - SGK has every right in the world not to do business with Planned Parenthood if it means staying true to their mission, their ability to fundraise, their partnerships, etc.

For me, it was the way in which they went about this business. Line up the hiring of a politically motivated pro-life executive, the new enactment of this new policy and the subsequent yanking of funds, not to mention the fact that SGK refused to meet with PP leadership to discuss (it was an announcement, not a discussion - way to treat an organization you've partnered with for 7 years), and it all grossly stinks.

Oh, and that new policy that allowed Komen to yank funding? Planned Parenthood was the only organization among thousands of grant recipients that was affected (I think a Komen official admitted as much yesterday).

There is very clear reason to be angry with the Komen organization, though as you said, it's not necessarily only because they yanked the funding (and ate their words and reversed that decision - karma is a bitch!).

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

Hahaha - love that the girls know how to call for their big sister! That's hilarious!

I know I'm a sick sonofabitch, but I don't mind the middle of the night tears and call for help. It's one of the very vulnerable moments for a toddler (who is otherwise Mr Independent) and I cherish being a part of it.

Kari said...

On a positive note - I think that this was a huge fundraiser for PP -- lots of people sending money now! As a Cdn...I find many things in this story truly baffling (although if the current gov't shows its true colours, I might be singing a different song!)

Tammy said...

So how many other "supporters" are going to stop supporting PP because of the publicity surrounding Komen pullng their support? Sure, your logic is great if it is JUST Komen, but wait a few days/months/years and others will stop pulling their support too.
I believe in PP. I went there in my early 20s for birth control since I had no health insurance and a crappy job as a waitress. I believe I paid $10 / month for pills and maybe $20 for the exam. If I would have gone to the doctor it would have been many times that amount.
I am also going to say that I am 100% pro choice. Not because I believe in abortion (whatever that means...why would anyone believe in abortion anyways?) but I believe that politians need to stay out of my uterus. My body, my rules.
I don't agree with anyone directing their anger at Komen (their money, their choice), but I seriously hate the attacks on PP. An organization that is just trying to offer a bit of support to women that need it.
Anyways...the only reason I commented is because I know you love to have others comment when they don't 100% agree with you so there you go. I would say I am at about 60% agree / 40% disagree.

Anonymous said...

So I don't usually comment anonymously, and I am sorry for that. Ordinarily I like to stand behind my words with my name. Unfortunately I feel it is a necessary safety precaution.

I am in the medical field. I have performed abortions. I have performed "early term" and "late term" abortions. Let me just say, NO ONE expects to find themselves in a position to be getting a pregnancy termination at a more advanced gestational age. It is a serious, life altering decision, and women definitely act with appropriate seriousness and thoughtfulness. The situations these women were in when they sought this. And here are some facts about abortion in the U.S.:
-50% of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended
- 1 in 3 women will have an abortion
- 90% of abortions are performed before 12 weeks gestational age
- 62% of abortions are performed before 9 weeks

I understand why people do not agree with various aspects of these procedures, although I personally will go to my grave supporting the safe & legal access to these procedures. (Did you know, that before Roe v. Wade, hospitals had entire floors dedicated to treating the infections that a multitude of women would get from unsafe abortions provided "back alley?" - we're talking units as big as modern labor and delivery & postpartum floors. Thankfully, because abortion is legal and provided in safe ways, these are no longer necessary.)

I'm actually, truthfully surprised, given how "hands off my decisions/money & taxes/etc" you have been on this blog in the past, that you are in support of abortion restrictions. Legitimately, I am curious about how you make the distinction?

I don't disagree that SGK has the right to decide who to fund and who not to fund. That is certainly their prerogative. Just as I think it is the donors' choice to shift their support from one organization to another. I think that what happened this week was less "withdrawing" of financial support (as you said) and more "transferring" financial support to a different healthcare providing organization (PP), that matched these particular donor's personal beliefs.

I think it's useful to remember that greater than 90% of the care PP provides is NOT abortion care - it is primary and preventive care. Period. And second, having some professional knowledge of PP, trust me when I tell you that federal funds are not used to provide abortions. This type of accounting is common place is healthcare and scientific fields, where there are all kinds of crazy delineations drawn between funding sources, so it is followed appropriately (to my knowledge and experience, which is limited to practices in two states, so I understand it might be different elsewhere).

Just my two (four?) cents.

Accidentally Me said...

Anon...I'll happily talk further about my thoughts on abortion if you want, but I am not gonna do it here, and that was not my intention in this post.

If you think this post was oughta see what that one would look like;-)