Sunday, February 5, 2012

Planned Politics

    "Politics!" was the predictable accusation from Planned Parenthood supporters in reaction to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization's announcement that they were ending their grant to Planned Parenthood.  In reality, the reaction itself heralded the introduction of politics to the controversy.  After all, it is not as if Komen planned to give the funds to National Right to Life or Concerned Women for America.  Komen's mission is about breast cancer - awareness, prevention, and research.  Doubtless the funds would have been redirected to other groups offering breast cancer screenings.  Nevertheless, 26 (Democratic) senators signed a letter to Komen which said in part:
“It would be tragic if any woman – let alone thousands of women – lost access to these potentially life-saving screenings because of a politically motivated attack,” the letter reads. “We earnestly hope that you will put women’s health before partisan politics and reconsider this decision for the sake of the women who depend on both your organizations for access to the health care they need.”
The letter went on to say: "This troubling decision threatens to reduce access to necessary, life-saving services."  Apparently a quarter of the US Senate found this move by Komen such a threat to the health of women that these politicians felt it was necessary to send a meddlesome letter decrying Komen's choice (choice!)  to reconfigure the way they distribute the charitable funds under their stewardship.
    If the loss of funds that paid for only about 4.3% of exams and mammography referrals by Planned Parenthood over the past five years (according to the Kansas City Star) is such a blow to women's health, the senators and like-minded Planned Parenthood supporters might want to investigate the 10% drop in "breast exams/breast care" figures in the organizations latest annual report.  In 2009, this figure was 830,312, but in 2010 dropped to 747,607.  (Total screening for all types of cancer dropped from 1,830,811 to 1,596,741, a 12% decrease.  Neither drop is reflective of a comparable decrease in total expenditures for Planned Parenthood which were $1,037.4 million in 2008-09 and $1,029.7 million in 2009-10.)  So in one year, life-saving screenings dropped at more than twice the rate that might have occurred from the loss of the Komen grant.  Doesn't Planned Parenthood have some explaining to do?  Did their priorities change?
    Of course, I am not suggesting a conspiracy by Planned Parenthood, although the logic of Komen's detractors would not only suggest it, but pronounce a guilty verdict.  I'm sure there are a variety of explanations as to why cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood may have dropped so significantly in 2010.  The point is, Planned Parenthood and Komen are both private organizations and make dozens of decisions about levels of service and use of funds based on varying criteria.  So the idea that a private charitable organization would be excoriated by 26 sitting senators for a relatively insignificant redirection of funds (Komen's grant represents less than one-tenth of one percent of Planned Parenthood's annual budget) when nearly half of Planned Parenthood's $1 billion in annual funding comes from the government is outrageous.
    And what of those same Senators that have been publicly agreeing with Warren Buffett that the "rich" could be paying billions more in taxes?  To hear them talk, one or two of these super rich millionaires or billionaires could make up Komen's $700,000 with the loose change in their couch cushions.  Come to think of it, since the estimated median net worth of current Senate members at about $2.5 million, perhaps one of those 26 senators themselves could have signed a check to Planned Parenthood instead of signing the querulous letter to Komen.  But pass up a chance to pummel a private sector charitable organization with the abortion cudgel?  Some pleasures are worth more than anything money can buy.

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