The Right-Wing War on working-class women and Planned Parenthood has gone this far: a bullying campaign by an anti-abortion congressman ostensibly directed at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization has resulted in the shut-down of more than a fifth of Planned Parenthood's breast cancer screening/education programs. Those programs have served over 770,000 (mostly working-poor) women by providing breast exams, mammograms, and other diagnostic services.
The congressman, Florida's Cliff Stearns, pushed Komen to adopt a new rule: no support for any non-profit under investigation at any level of government, local, regional, or national. The rule is new as of December, 2011, and, of course, was promoted by Republican congressmen who have begun to look into Planned Parenthood's finances even though there's no reason to believe that Planned Parenthood's books aren't in order. The real issue, of course, is that three percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides include abortion.
What's notable here is that Mr. Stearns and his fellow bullies have gone well beyond demanding that government stop helping Planned Parenthood's clients in any way--the bullying now has pressured one private women's health organization (Komen) into throwing over another private women's health organization (Planned Parenthood).
The precedent is vile: misogynist congressional zealots now have real hope that they may cripple any women's health non-profit--or any other organization they dislike--by bullying organizations into adopting the rule either before or after announcing an investigation whose purported merit they know is, at best, specious.
The precedent also means that organizations will be pressured to adopt the rule before investigations yield results, subverting our connsciences and constitution. The rule turns on its head the idea that guilt must be proved prior to sanction.
Until last December when pressure on Komen ramped up, according to Pam Belluck in Wednesday's New York Times, the two organizations had enjoyed a year-over-year history of cooperation. Last year Planned Parenthood received just under three quarters of a million dollars in grants from Komen, an amount reflecting Komen's typical support. When the president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, was blind-sided with Komen's decision, she asked for and was refused a meeting with Komen's administrators, the same people with whom she'd thought she had built mutual trust and respect. All Komen will say is that it has "implemented more stringent eligibility and performance criteria", language that implies, of course, that (of a sudden) it now believes Planned Parenthood is not trustworthy.
Planned Parenthood believes what seems inescapable, that, as Ms. Richards holds, Komen's new rule "was written specifically to address the political pressure that they've been under." She believes what appears to be clear: Komen has buckled in the face of what she calls bullying "by right-wing groups." This, of course, will leave hundreds of thousands of low-income, working women and girls across our country without breast cancer screening and health educational services. Many of these people will, of course, suffer and die if no other non-profit takes over.
We should be mindful, too, of this: several years back Komen sponsored a breast cancer symposium in Egypt despite the fact that Israeli specialists, originally invited to the event with Cairo's knowledge, were then barred from participating and with Komen's consent. Komen-cowardice in the face of bullying may well be a pattern.
Aside from Komen's disgraceful, weak-kneed response to our own political thugs, there's a larger issue here. Anti-abortion fanatics are willing to endanger women and girls, particularly working-class and very poor ones, in the service of a frenzied ideology which knows no measure or balance, nor one that has any desire to know any.
The celebrated historian, Hannah Arendt, in her seminal work (Eichmann in Jerusalem), speaking to the effectiveness of S.S. bullies in southern France, showed beyond any doubt that the Jewish town leaders who, when Nazis demanded lists of Jewish residents, essentially told the bullies to go to hell, did not cooperate...in those towns Jews' survival rates quadrupled and quintupled Jews' survival rates in the towns where Jewish leaders did cooperate. The S.S. kept records. Far, far fewer Jews were sent to the camps from those towns where Jewish leaders said "No." For Komen the sakes were far less and yet it knuckled under...again, and swiftly.
Komen has chosen to bend to bullies, to become effectively complicit in a subtle, depraved new stab at eugenics.
The only winning is saying "No".