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Komen Slapped for Right-Wing Extremism

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Logo of Susan G. Komen for the Cure

The Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood have worked together for years attacking problems of women's health. All of a sudden this week, it came to light that Komen would no longer be funding projects associated with Planned Parenthood. The foundation has been under pressure for years from anti-abortion groups to cut off Planned Parenthood. A number conservatives have power within the organization. For example, Nancy Brinker, founder and CEO, is a long-time donor to conservative causes and political candidates, and was an ambassador in the George W. Bush administration. Karen Handel, Senior Vice President for Policy, was a Republican candidate for governor of Georgia and is an avowed enemy of Planned Parenthood. Jane Abraham, who sits on the foundation's Advocacy Alliance Board, is a well known anti-choice advocate.

RH Reality Check gave information about the latter two women on Wednesday:

First, Komen last year hired Karen Handel, a former Georgia anti-choice gubernatorial candidate and Sarah Palin acolyte who promised as part of her platform to defund Planned Parenthood and other vital health services. Handel, who lost her race but is said to have future political ambitions, is now Senior Vice President for Policy at Komen. She was originally endorsed in her race by and received money from current GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, with whom some sources suggest she remains closely allied. Romney, in turn, has suddenly become more anti-choice-than-thou and has promised a federal personhood amendment as well as to defund Planned Parenthood.

Second, sitting on Komen's Advocacy Alliance Board is Jane Abraham, the General Chairman of the virulently anti-choice and anti-science Susan B. Anthony List and of its Political Action Committee. Among other involvements, Abraham helps direct the Nuturing Network, a global network of crisis pregnancy centers, organizations widely known for spreading ideology, misinformation and lies to women facing unintended pregnancy and to use both intimidation and coercion in the course of doing so. Also on the board of Nuturing Network is Maureen Scalia, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, no hero to women's rights and health.

That Komen -- an organization ostensibly dedicated to scientific exploration of cures for breast cancer -- has invited on its advocacy board women so closely allied with organizations that so blatantly ignore science and medicine and spread outright lies to other women about their health and welfare speaks volumes about Komen's ethical principles as an organization.

After the defunding became known, the firestorm that erupted made Komen wish it hadn't been so pushy. Women of all backgrounds began pulling their funding from Komen. The emails and instant messages were forceful and excoriating. Contributors were incensed that the organization would turn against Planned Parenthood, the preeminent group providing health care to women in this country, after such a long association. The well-known disdain and contempt for Planned Parenthood of right-wing religious crusaders made it only too likely that the rise of these women to positions of power gave them the opportunity to impose their ideology on the Foundation, and so they took it, without compunction.

Of course, the foundation denied that politics had anything to do with the decision, and they are still offering changing excuses for their actions -- none of which stand up to scrutiny.

At one point, Handel retweeted a tweet she had received from a woman named Jade Morey, who obviously shares Handel's animus toward Planned Parenthood. The tweet was overbearing and revelatory at the same time: "Just like a pro-abortion group to turn a cancer orgs decision into a political bomb to throw. Cry me a freaking river," the tweet read.

Presumably, Handel thought this sentiment would be received well by all and sundry, or she wouldn't have retweeted it to all and sundry. She must have been taken aback by the actual response, which was yet more controversy. The retweet was quickly pulled from her Twitter account, but not before screenshots of it were posted all over the Web.

What is so revelatory about this retweet? Only that it demonstrates the political and ideological nastiness behind the decision to defund Planned Parenthood. Would a totally dispassionate person who had made a decision on merit alone retweet a clearly antagonistic tweet that demonstrates her concurrence with the antagonism? Of course not.

So, regardless of the Komen Foundation's attempts to disavow the politics underlying their attack on Planned Parenthood, at least one person at the center of the controversy has made it clear that politics was indeed at the bottom of it all.

Why do people try to hide their actions? Because they know that they are behaving reprehensibly, and that decent people will decry them when they find out. Why do they come up with patently false excuses for their bad behavior? Because they are still trying not to reap the just consequence of getting caught doing something reprehensible, namely, having to confess and humbly beg for forgiveness.

Is this the kind of behavior one would expect from people who seem to think they possess God's secret of virtuous living? I think not. They themselves are the best evidence that they don't know what they are talking about.

And they wonder why the rest of us don't want to have our consciences and our behavior dictated, or worse, legislated, by the likes of them.

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William Pastille is a writer, a student of politics, and a long-time college educator.
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