Komen v Planned Parenthood



Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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62 Responses

  1. Avatar Michelle says:

    Good post. The Komen Foundation’s “apology” seems to leave open the possibility that, although they’ll fund any current grants they’ve made to Planned Parenthood, future funding possibilities remain open depending on how they decide to rewrite the rules.

    This line, in particular, is nonsense: Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. Please. One Tea Party Congress critter decides to go after Planned Parenthood as part of the Tea Party crusade to end all federal funding to the organization and the Komen Foundation deems the investigation legitimate. I don’t buy it. Neither does anybody else.

    They have, indeed, harmed their brand by taking an action that was purely political in nature. I can’t believe they didn’t anticipate the controversy their decision would engender. What kind of idiots are running the place? And how much do they get paid?Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      People, on the whole, are very bad at foreseeing self-created crises.

      Their response to this has been wildly tone-deaf.  It’s practically a poster child for a self-created crisis situation.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        In my view, it’s not tone-deaf. It reflects a commitment to the previous decisions. They keep repeating that Komen isn’t/wasn’t wrong, and it’s only other people are making a big deal about it.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          Nuance clarification:

          One must always remember that you have two existences, as an organization in the public sphere.  You have your internal existence: your mission, what you want to do, how you go about doing it.  You also have your external existence: who empathizes with your mission, how they support you.

          The public’s understanding of what you do is necessarily different from what you actually do.  Sometimes this is just a case of bad communication, sometimes it is a case of deliberate marketing.

          If you don’t know how the public perceives you, you’re going to screw the pooch.  It doesn’t matter what your internal mission actually is.

          Komen had a public perception as being supportive of women’s health.  Not just cancer, although that is their focus and their internal mission.  People donate to Komen, and run “Think Pink” campaigns because of the public perception, not the internal mission.

          Screwing with your public perception is wildly dangerous.

          Now, you could say that this isn’t tone-deafness, it’s just them doing what they’ve always had as their internal mission.  But it overlooks the fact that they (ought) to know more about the people who give them money and what their motivations are and what their belief systems are than they obviously do.  In that sense, it *is* tone deafness.  They don’t understand that their public perception != their internal mission, and this is why they just screwed the pooch.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          I think Still is right.  When I read this press release, it sounds like they are trying to very consciously to both say they are sorry to one group, and they’re not sorry to another.  But at this point, I’m not really sure what they could do without being crushing from one side or the other.

          It was a really, really bad idea for this kind of charitable non-profit to go down the road they did.  I’m not entirely sure how they now disentangle themselves from a hot-button, vitriolic issue that was on no way related to their core mission.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            Once the reactor core starts to melt down, the options are very limited.

            My best guess?  The only way to recover from this gracefully would have been for someone very high up to admit this was political, admit that it wasn’t in the best interests of the organization, and resign to start their own organization that was explicitly declared to be a pro-life women’s health organization.

            Of course, that was not going to happen.Report

      • Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

        They’ve certainly ended up infuriating both supporters and opponents of Planned Parenthood, making enemies of both.Report

  2. Avatar Stillwater says:

    From what I can gather, it’s not just bad leadership and poor public relations. It’s that they’ve lobbied Congress to reject legislation which would advance the cause of women and done so for very self-serving reasons (to keep the charity dollars funneling thru their organization) – and they’ve adopted a very Christain-fundamentalist line on other things, from stem cell research to defunding PP because it provides abortion services.

    Komen isn’t suffering right now just because it’s management is inept. It’s because their increasingly run by Fundies.

    Maybe that’s a new slogan in there for em: Fundies for the Cure.


  3. This entire thing has been a disaster from the start.

    My only consolation is that all the people who insisted Komen’s decision really, secretly was about abortion donated a bunch of money, which Komen will now give to Planned Parenthood.

    Just one more datapoint for my political essentialism theory.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      I’m not sure I follow you. Karen Handel referred to people protesting the PP defunding as a ‘pro-abortion group’. No one on the planet is pro-abortion. I’m not sure how to construe that in any way except as hostile to the choice community.Report

      • Okay, so it’s hostile. That doesn’t mean the Komen Foundation withdrew funding because of abortion. Even if you assume they did, they have now reversed that position and are again funding abortion.

        The weak version of political essentialism is that, even if you’re right about the deep hopes and dreams and secret yearnings of the person in question, he or she or it is so completely bereft of principle that, when you need him or her or it to actually be there for you, those are precisely the situations in which he or she or it will not be there for you.

        Whatever Komen’s real, true, secret politics are, a bunch of people just gave money to a group that is helping to pay for abortions specifically because they believed it was opposed to paying for abortions. Whoops!Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          You’ve presented an irrefutable theory there. Nicely done.Report

          • I’m not saying I hold the weak version. I hold the strong version myself, which is that the Komen Foundation doesn’t give a crap about abortion, which you can tell by noting that they never said they did. People (and organizations) don’t tell nearly as many lies as we think they do.

            The weak version is easier to prove, but less satisfying.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              which is that the Komen Foundation doesn’t give a crap about abortion

              Well, I guess we have to disagree about that. I think you’re reversing the story here, and interpreting evidence in light of your theory.

              The decision to defund was made by newly apponted VP Handel who’s a pro-life Christian. And the pretext for the defunding was that they can’t give funds to institutions currently under investigation, which PP currently is (as well as Penn State U) due to a suit in Forida.

              Planned Parenthood’s finances are currently the subject of a probe led by anti-abortion Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida. “If you look at all the government reports which have already been done on Planned Parenthood, they’re completely cleared of any of the charges that Cliff Stearns claims he’s looking for.

              What I’m seeing as a pretext for an ideologically motivated decision (with political consequences) you’re discounting because of a theory about the statement of purpose adopted by Komen.


              • So… their reversal is based on what fact? That their opposition to abortion is… insincere?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Defunding. People won’t donate.Report

              • So they don’t like abortion the same way I don’t like onions. I won’t eat one if I can help it, but if you gave me $1000, I would eat the hell out of an onion.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                It’s also probably not so uniform behind the veil.  Assuming that there are people in the board that scrapped PP for political reasons, for this size of a nonprofit I think you ave to assume there are also board members that want to focus on the core mission of breast cancer.  It’s quite likely that there is (has been) some internal debating/fighting over this issue as well.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Bad analogy. People could prefer to not serve you onions but do so when the money’s right, even as the persist in trying to not serve you onions if it didn’t cost them money.


              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                This is their attempt to have their cake and eat it too.

                It’s not going to work.  They’re going to see their donation demographic change quite a bit.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I think so too. People will go directly to the end-user and give to them.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I’m seeing this now.

                Facebook is an interesting place, sometimes.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                Cake is much better than onions, that’s for sure.Report

              • Avatar Michelle says:

                I suspect that they’re reversing their decision because it’s been a PR nightmare which could cost them donors and harm their brand.  Heck, it already has harmed their brand with plenty of people and it’s not clear this reversal will change that trend.

                However, it’s not clear that the most recent decision is a complete reversal. The wording of their press release suggests that while they’ll continue to fund current grants to PP, any future grants depend on how they rewrite their rules.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Michelle, I would say – and I think you would agree – that the wording is very clearly not  a reversal.

        • Avatar LauraNo says:

          I have seen reporting that three different insiders say it was indeed, 100% about abortion, it might have been at the Atlantic?. Even though PP does not use the grant from Komen for abortions.  The truth loses out when it comes to the right and their cherished hobby horses.Report

  4. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    More later, after I finish the post.  But I had to stop to point out that I wish I had written this:

    “When the topic is public sinning, the American public is Catholic in taste, not Protestant. They will forgive, but admissions of guilt are not enough, you must also do penance.”

    That was all net, Pat.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    And now we can watch the people who, suddenly, found a host of complaints about Komen engaging in seriously unethical practices, suddenly, go back to being quiet.

    And Komen can go back to being a great organization that brings communities together by raising awareness.

    I will celebrate with some pink fried chicken.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      I don’t think it’s going to play out that way.  Of course, i could be wrong.

      Komen will undoubtedly still be around.  But they aren’t going to have the pervasiveness they have now.Report

      • Avatar Michelle says:

        I agree with Patrick. I don’t see how they get the genie back in the bottle, at least not in the immediate future. Too many people are too angry to be satisfied by a self-serving, ambiguous press release.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          That’s quite likely the case for Komen insiders, so to speak – people with a closely held interest in what they do and supported them in the past. But it also has damaged their reputation with more neutral people – like me, I suppose – who didn’t have an opinion of Komen one way or the other prior to this.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      Serious question: how much further can the awareness of breast cancer be raised?

      At a certain point, isn’t it just raising awareness of Komen?Report

      • Avatar carr1on says:

        At a certain point, isn’t it just raising awareness of Komen?

        +1  I couldn’t have said it better.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          I actually think it goes the other way. There certainly is awareness of Komen going on here. But most of it is negative awareness. And that makes people focus on the issues they thought they were advancing by donating to Komen, as well as the actual policy goals of Komen itself.

          I think this is actually making people more aware of women’s health issues. And has the likely effect that more people will donate directly – to PP, say, instead of Komen – in support of those issues.


      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Eh, I see “awareness” as another way to say “support group”. Every year, I have friends who are participating in one of the walks for the first time and it’s even odds whether one of them says “I never knew…” or “it never hit home until…” and the little guys who go on the walks tell me that they’re walking for their gramma or for their friend’s gramma or similar.

        If you don’t have a cure, at least you have a community, I guess.

        It’s better than it was in the 70’s, I’m told.

        Hearing that we’ve reached the point of awareness saturation is probably a good indicator that we’re getting close to saturation, anyway.Report

  6. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    As has been pointed out in other places, this turnaround wasn’t about Planned Parenthood-based pushback. This was Yoplait and Ford-based pushback. They don’t want their cute little pink ads turned into political footballs.Report

  7. Avatar Sam says:

    Can I clarify your use of the term minority here? Is the argument that supporters of Planned Parenthood are a minority?Report

  8. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    If the Komen foundation wanted to retain its position as THE place to call if you were running a breast cancer event… they should have made a public statement confessing that they made a mistake, and that they were going to not just reinstate their contribution, but double it.

    What was the mistake?  Saying they would no longer fund Planned Parenthood? Or the way they went about saying it?Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      If your goal is to apologize to someone who feels offended, the mistake is whatever it is you did that offended them.  Whether or not it actually is a mistake isn’t actually germane.

      If you’ve offended two groups of people with bipolar agendas, then it *is* a mistake to try and placate them both simultaneously.  You either fish, or cut bait, or you take the high ground and say, “It is not the position of the Komen Foundation to make judgements on what women regard as their health issues.  We will continue to support women’s health organizations, as our primary and sole mission, and allow the public to come to conclusions on what constitutes women’s health on their own”.  Personally, I think that high ground was already cut off, but that’s just me.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I think you’re right about this. (And it’s fascinating to watch this debacle unfold in real time.) They ceded the high-ground early on by being overly defensive about their rationale to defund PP as well as being overly accusatory that ‘pro-abortion groups’ were politicizing the situation.

        If they came out in advance of the defunding and said something to the effect that ‘since abortion remains a very political issue and one which isn’t central to the mission of Komen, we’re making a tough decision to defund PP’, people could have come up with various reasons to support or criticize Komen. One very legitimate criticism would be that PP is much more than an abortion provider and offers essential women’s health services that can’t be obtained elsewhere. They could have taken their lumps up front, so to speak, and dealt with the very predicable consequences of that decision. (Of course, that they didn’t do this makes me believe they didn’t anticipate the consequences; that they (Handel apparently) believed this change would slip in under the radar since the amount of money they give to PP is actually pretty small.)

        But now they’re fighting a rearguard action, one which is already politicized and which now explicitly includes moral principles. Either way they go from here on out – be it general support for women’s health including abortion, or women’s health issues constrained by explicit wording of the mission statement – means they lose part of their funding base as well damage – irrevocably, I think – their public image.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          And actually, since hindsight is always clearer, they could have said what I wrote above followed by a statement encouraging private donors who believe in PPs mission to donate to them directly. Then they would have covered all their bases. (Tho encouraging donations to funnel thru institutions not named Komen appears to be inconsistent with their operational goals. So there’s that.)Report

  9. Avatar Teacher says:

    I’m a little confused myself.

    Does Planned Parenthood offer mamograms, cancer screening or do cancer research?  If so, really, they need to change the name a bit or do more PR to make that more wildly known.  I’ve, as a white male of the middle class, always assumed that the mission of PP was to provide medical access to women who wanted to, ya know, plan their parenthoods, which would be abortion, birth control, and related ObGyn Issues.

    And if PP isn’t doing the cancer thing as it’s primary mission, then why is Komen, a group that’s ~supposed~ to be about Breast Cancer even in bed with them?  I mean, whatever if they are, just seems that in that case Komen isn’t about Breast Cancer, it’s about women’s health.

    Just like with PP, it’s no skin off my nose either way for either organization but I’m mentally drawing a Venn Diagram here and the Komen circle and the PP circles currently don’t overlap in my head….


  10. Avatar Sam says:

    Pro-lifers would like Americans to believe that Planned Parenthood exists only to advocate for and perform abortions, something that isn’t even remotely true. Something like 3% of their work centers on abortion. The other 97% of what they do emphasizes preventative health care, including the sort of breast cancer screenings that might have interested a group like Komen. Here is a further breakdown of what the group does.Report

    • Avatar Sam says:

      That was supposed to be a reply to the thread just above this one, not its own individual post. Dammit.Report

      • Avatar Teacher says:

        I’ll put my answer here then.  🙂

        With a touch of thanks and a serious helping of “Planned Parenthood needs a new name and some better PR.”

        Why does 90% of America think PP is about abortions and birth control?  Probably the same reason they think that Wally’s Weed Whackers sell lawn care products.  I mean I wouldn’t walk into a W3 service center and expect to buy ice cream….


        • Avatar BradK says:

          The reason could very well be that PP is in the news a lot and almost every mention involves, either directly or indirectly, the abortion issue.  Even if their name had nothing to suggest anything remotely related to reproductive care (“Women’s All Care Center”), if they provide abortions then, as far as antiabortion crowd is concerned, that’s all that they do.  And, of course, must be stopped.

          In other words, simple word association.  PP = abortuary.  Repeated enough it becomes imprinted on the subconscious, regardless of one’s stance on the issue.Report

  11. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    It seems every time some organization like Planned Parenthood or Komen or any other wretched organization of its type feels pushed-around and tries to get a Hot Potato out of its lap, they manage to anger everyone.

    If Komen had simply hung onto PPFA and stayed quiet, they’d have been pushed into the amorphous blob of Baby Killers by the GOP Coathanger Taliban.   PPFA has been demonized since the 1980s by the Coathanger Taliban and they’ve never let up once, no matter how much good PPFA has done for women.   Think of all the abortions PPFA has prevented by putting effective birth control in the hands of women.   How many times has PPFA put in an appearance in SCOTUS?   How many state’s attorneys have grandstanded and kicked PPFA around?   Taliban Lulz means never having to say you’re sorry.

    It really is time someone took the fight to the Coathanger Taliban.Report

    • As I’ve said a million times, on purely consequentialist grounds, there is no more effective pro-life organization in human history than Planned Parenthood, and it’s not even close.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Damned straight.   It’s high time this country realized the Coathanger Crowd has become the moral equivalent of the Taliban.Report

    • Avatar BradK says:

      “Coathanger Taliban”, I like it.  Trying to envision a logo for that in my head.

      The problem of course with crediting PP for preventing abortions by providing birth control is that many of the antiabortion crowd are equally anti-birth control.  It’s not just that “a fertilized egg is a sentient being”, any potentially fertilized one is as well.  What’s next, life begins at erection?  First kiss?