By Patricia Salber

Well, what an interesting turn of events we have here.  Last year, the Susan G. Komen Foundation hired a ferociously pro-life SVP for Public Policy, Karen Handel, an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Georgia in 2010.  Ms. Handel is on the record as stating that she does “not support the mission of Planned Parenthood” and she pledged to eliminate grants, like the one that funded Planned Parenthood breast and cervical cancer screenings as well as a Healthy Babies Initiative during her tenure as Chairman of Fulton County. Georgia.  These grants were awarded, by the way because PP was “the only eligible vendor approved to meet the state criteria.”

The next thing you know, the Komen Board adopts a funding guideline that bars it from funding organizations under congressional investigation.  It just so happens that Planned Parenthood, a long-time target of pro-life politicians, is under investigation for whether it spent public money on abortions, an effort led by Cliff Stearns, an anti-abortion Republican congressman from Florida. Note that it has not been determined that Planned Parenthood has broken any laws, the organization is only being investigated to see if any public funds went to pay for abortions, an act that is illegal under the Hyde Amendment that prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortions.  In our country, as health care professionals know all too well, anyone can sue anyone for anything, anytime.  Similarly, any member of Congress, for whatever reason, can initiate a congressional investigation – remember the infamous McCarthy hearings?  Being investigated by Congress does not equate to being found guilty.  Given that, why would the Komen Foundation adopt such a funding guideline?  Hmmmm…

Abortion services only accounted for 329,445 of the 11,003,366 services provided in 2010 (about 3%). According to the 2010 Annual Report available on the Planned Parenthood website, in 2009-2010, 88 affiliates operated 840 health centers caring for three million people.  2.2 million received contraception, 1.1 million had pregnancy tests, 770,000 Pap smears, 750,000 breast exams, and more than four million tests for STDs, including HIV tests. That is a lot of care.  According to a 2011 Planned Parenthood fact sheet, 75% of the services were provided to women who fall under 150% of the poverty line.  Planned Parenthood, I would argue, is an important part of our tattered patchwork of Safety Net services for the poor.

Forty-six percent of Planned Parenthood’s revenue is from government health services grants and reimbursements – that includes payment for health care services that comes from government funded sources, such as Medicaid managed care plans.  The rest of the funding is from a broad base of committed donors and other revenue, such as private plans and privately paying clients. As far as I can tell, since the Hyde Amendment was enacted, Planned Parenthood has not been proven to have used federal funds for abortions.  The anti-abortion advocates argue, however, that funding received to use for other programs, allows PP to “free up other funds to use for abortion.”  (I get it, stop funding all the other stuff so that you can snuff out abortion).

By coincidence, Mitt Romney, now probably the lead in the Republican presidential race, let slip a remarkable statement yesterday, just as the Komen-Planned Parenthood brouhaha was heating up.    He said, and I quote “I am not concerned about the very poor, they have a safety net.”

Well, excuse me Mr. Candidate, PP is a critical part of that safety net for poor women and women in rural areas with limited access to care.  That being said, would you be surprised to learn that Mr. Romney is also on record as advocating for the defunding of Planned Parenthood.  In his own words:

As president, I will end federal funding for abortion advocates like Planned Parenthood. I will protect a health care worker’s right to follow their conscience in their work.  And I will nominate judges who know the difference between personal opinion and the law. It is long past time for the Supreme Court to return the issue of abortion back to the states, by overturning Roe v. Wade. – Romney’s speech at the Value Voters Conference, October 8, 2011

So bear with me if I tell you that I am struggling to put it all together.  According to Romney, we should defund an important part of the safety net for low income women.  We should repeal Obamacare that would expand the number of insured in part by expanding Medicaid.  We absolutely, positively will not raise taxes, even on the superrich, to pay for any of this stuff.  So, just how is it that these hundreds of thousands of low income women who currently get health care from Planned Parenthood are going to continue to get those services?

Well, the Komen Foundation may have found a way.  By defunding Planned Parenthood, they have set off a back lash that is rapidly filling the coffers of Planned Parenthood, more than making up for the now lost Komen funding and hopefully going well beyond.   It is pretty ironic, don’t you think, that a decision meant to cripple an organization has led to such an incredible outpouring of financial support.  Could it be that policies that deprive people of needed and wanted services are not only mean-spirited and divisive, they may also fuel a backlash that has unintended consequences.  [Some are predicting that Komen's brand will be damaged for years to come.  If social media sites I frequent are any indication, I think many prior Komen donors may have been converted to Planned Parenthood donors.]

Perhaps, Mr. Romney, some people in this country are worried about the poor and they intend to do something about it.

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