Komen-Planned Parenthood Kerfuffle Exposes Something You Probably Didn’t Know

News flash: if you give money to that group that does the “pink ribbon” campaign for breast cancer, some of that money you give might go to an organization that performs hundreds of thousands of abortions every year.

That organization also gives out birth control and referrals to other agencies that provide free or low-cost mammograms and other women’s health stuff that are not abortion-related. That’s what Planned Parenthood does, and some of that breast cancer pink ribbon money you give goes to Planned Parenthood. Maybe not much money, and maybe not directly for abortion. But if you give money to Komen’s “pink ribbon” campaign, some of it might wind up in the hands of Planned Parenthood, which is a very large provider of abortions.

Recently, two women in the pro-life movement, through slightly sneaky means, managed to get Komen (the pink ribbon people) to stop giving money to Planned Parenthood. These women (one of them a breast cancer survivor herself) have always been quite up-front about the fact that they are staunchly against abortion, though they weren’t up front with the defunding of Planned Parenthood, arguing merely that organizations currently under investigation for possible legal or ethical violations shouldn’t get money from the Komen foundation–and it turns out that Planned Parenthood is under such investigation. This caused an explosion of outrage among pro-choice/abortion rights activists who (rightly I think) said it was a sneaky way to fight abortion. Planned Parenthood got a sudden surge of new donations, and Komen, in the wake of the publicity, changed their minds, somewhat, and said Planned Parenthood would still continue receiving whatever grant money it’s now getting and will remain eligible to apply for future grants, but did not say it actually would give any future grants to the organization.

What a lot of people in this whole story might have missed is what this stunt really did:

It just informed tens of millions of Americans that if they give money to those cute pink ribbon campaigns, some of their money might wind up in the hands of an organization that performs hundreds of thousands of abortions every year.

So while at the moment Planned Parenthood is reaping a wave of new donations from people who support Planned Parenthood’s abortion program, here’s what else happened:

Tens of millions of people with strong to moderate anti-abortion feelings have just learned that if you give money for pink ribbons, you may be giving money that helps an organization that performs hundreds of thousands of abortions every year. That, in fact, you may already have given money that you did not know might wind up in those folks’ hands.

An awful lot of pixels have been spilled on how this whole thing supposedly comes from a dastardly far-right-wing religious-extremist agenda. Which seems to expose a big blind spot a number of people suffer from: that performing abortions is an uncontroversial, mainstream thing that most people have no problem with. They just assume that if you feel otherwise, you’re somehow on the fringe, and maybe even have an agenda against women, or against poor people.

Here’s the problem: about half of Americans consider abortion immoral, and more than half would support greater restrictions on the practice than the law currently allows. Indeed, if you look only at American women, the numbers are rather stark: about half of all women consider themselves pro-life, and if you add up those women who would outlaw the procedure in all circumstances with those who would only allow it to be used under few or limited circumstances, you get about 64% of all American women. About two-thirds of American women, in other words.

If you don’t believe that, simply look at any nonpartisan poll that asks the question. They all look pretty much the same. Here is the latest from Gallup, for example, taken just last year.

Thus the problem here for the Pink Ribbon people is this: a lot of very mainstream American women (and men) are against abortion completely, and for a whole lot more of them, it is one thing to say “I don’t think it should be illegal” and quite another to say “I wish to donate money to an organization that does this.” Or, to put it shorter, there is a substantial gap between “I would not put someone in jail for this” and “here’s five bucks, go ahead and do it.”

And so I note again what it appears to me that this explosion of rage at the Komen Foundation’s action has really done:

Alerted millions of people to the fact that if they raise or donate “pink ribbon” money, some of that may go to Planned Parenthood, which performs hundreds of thousands of abortions every year. That, indeed, money they might already have given in the past may have already gone to that organization.

I suspect that the Komen Foundation will in the long run suffer from this not because they said they’d stop giving money to Planned Parenthood. Yes, this angered pro-choice/pro-abortion-rights people, and yes, and some of them are still angry even though Komen has backpedaled somewhat. However, I suspect that the biggest problem for Komen long-term is that the vast majority of Americans, who are deeply uncomfortable with abortion, will never look at those pink ribbons quite the same way again, and may now begin to hesitate, asking themselves exactly where that money might go.

I for one will never look at those pink ribbons quite the same way again.

And by the way, your own position on abortion? It isn’t exactly relevant is it? It is the opinion of the millions of people who used to give pink ribbon money who will now be thinking twice about giving money for pink ribbons. That’s not your problem, it’s Komen’s.

It’s high time we acknowledge that opposition to abortion is not a “religious extremist” position. It is a thoroughly mainstream opinion among American women (and men), and I suspect very little blustering about how you personally feel about the matter is going to change the fact that the famous pink ribbon now doesn’t look quite the same as it used to.

(This item cross-posted to The Moderate Voice.)