Editor's note: This is not today's only article on Komen and Planned Parenthood. In addition to our news report, you might also enjoy Matthew Lee Anderson's examination of "The Politics of Breast Cancer," Mollie Ziegler Hemingway's look at "The Komen Fiasco's Silver Lining," and Russell Moore's warning on "the wrong lessons to draw from the Komen-Planned Parenthood debacle."
Crash and burn. The policy reversal by the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure, which now means that its funding of Planned Parenthood will continue, is nothing less than a public relations disaster for the organization. More than that, the decision reveals a basic lack of moral conviction when it comes to the Planned Parenthood issue—and that is a story unto itself.
Just days ago, faced with growing controversy, Komen sought to break its relationship with Planned Parenthood, to which it had provided an annual grant of $700,000 for breast cancer screenings. Komen did not state the decision in these terms, of course, but instead described the decision in terms of a new policy not to fund any organization under legal investigation. It just so happens that Planned Parenthood is currently the focus of a congressional investigation.
For years, Komen has established a reputation as the nation's leading advocacy group dedicated to fighting the tragedy of breast cancer. It has made the color pink synonymous with the issue, and it has protected its turf energetically. Bridges, skyscrapers, and waterways have been turned pink in order to bring attention and funding to the fight against breast cancer deaths.
But breast cancer is not an isolated issue, and the group's funding of breast cancer screenings by Planned Parenthood could never be kept morally isolated from all that Planned Parenthood represents—and that is the machinery of death for the unborn.
Komen's decision to cease the funding of Planned Parenthood was bungled from the start. The organization lacked the confidence to stand on moral grounds and deny the funding because of Planned Parenthood's involvement with abortion. Instead, it tried to finesse the issue by adopting a policy that, on its face, was really not about Planned Parenthood at all. The ruse did not work.
The first sign of trouble came when pro-life groups applauded the decision. Komen was clearly uncomfortable with that attention, but it could do nothing to stop it—no one believed that the decision was not about Planned Parenthood and its controversies.
The real trouble came when Planned Parenthood and its powerful friends saw their big opportunity—to pressure Komen into capitulation. This was accomplished in record time. In less than a week, Komen caved and the deed was done. Planned Parenthood flexed its muscles and twisted all the right arms. Over 20 members of the U.S. Senate declared their outrage at the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York personally promised to make up much of the funding. Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards saw a golden opportunity and made the most of it—with increased donations to Planned Parenthood mixed with cries of outrage. Feminist groups announced cancelations of Komen events and threatened further retaliation.
On Friday, Komen declared its unconditional surrender: "We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives. The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not."
In other words, Komen first made a decision that it said was not about Planned Parenthood and then faced a whiplash from Planned Parenthood and its friends, only to reverse itself on the policy and offer a groveling public apology … while still insisting that the controversy was not really about Planned Parenthood at all.
Komen has just learned the hard way a lesson that we must all take to heart—there is no neutral moral ground. Genesis 3 tells the story, and this controversy is just the latest reminder to come our way. It will not be the last.
All this is enough to make an evangelical lean into Reinhold Niebuhr's insistence that moral ambiguity is not moral innocence. There is no innocence here. In a sinful world, innocence is not to be found.
Fighting the scourge of breast cancer is a brave and urgent cause, unquestionably on the side of the angels.
But fighting that fight with Planned Parenthood as a partner? That means complicity with the dark side, and in a big way. It isn't just that Planned Parenthood is involved in abortion. That is a moral evasion. Planned Parenthood is the major engine of abortion in America, an organization that makes millions upon millions of dollars by ripping unborn babies apart. Its operation is vast, and it is inseparable from the involvement of its founder, Margaret Sanger, in the cause of eugenics. Planned Parenthood not only performs and profits by abortion, it openly celebrates abortion as it extends its reach.
The Susan Komen Foundation for the Cure tried its best to change a policy without taking a stand. Within just one week, it made itself into a national spectacle of moral confusion and political cowardice. What a pity, for Komen's mission is so truly important and worthy.
But when Planned Parenthood became the issue, Komen ran away from principle, only to find no refuge in policy. It refused to make a principled break with Planned Parenthood, and then made an equally unprincipled retreat.
The group is grasping at straws as it tries to land in a position of moral neutrality. There is no such place. There is no policy that will allow Komen to be neutral when it comes to Planned Parenthood and all that it represents.
Komen has made a mess from which it may never recover. Planned Parenthood, on the other hand, never had anything to lose.
The whole disaster should serve as a warning to those who may be tempted to try to avoid taking moral responsibility even as they take actions with deep and inescapable moral consequences. If honest, we all know that temptation first hand.
It isn't easy being pink. You cannot hide behind even the noblest of causes, if you intend to do business with the most ignoble of partners.
R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Other articles on the Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood include:
The Pink Ribbon and the Dollar Sign | The wrong lessons to draw from the Komen-Planned Parenthood debacle. By Russell D. Moore (Feb. 3, 2012)
Komen Reverses Course, Will Not Ban Planned Parenthood from Applying for Funding | The breast cancer awareness foundation had earlier said it would not fund the nation's largest abortion provider. (Feb. 3, 2012)
The Komen Fiasco's Silver Lining | Small comforts (and other sizes) emerge from Planned Parenthood's bullying tactics. Mollie Ziegler Hemingway (Feb. 3, 2012)
The Politics of Breast Cancer | Why the Komen Foundation's desire not to be "political" is understandable, but impossible. Matthew Lee Anderson (Feb. 3, 2012)
After Komen, the Next Big Planned Parenthood Fight | Pro-life groups target $487 million in taxpayer funding for the nation's largest abortion provider. (Feb. 1, 2012)
Pink Stink: Komen Drops Planned Parenthood Support | Move comes after Bible spat, debate on breast-cancer activism. (Jan. 31, 2012)
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