I’m thrilled that the Susan G. Komen foundation just announced that they would continue funding to Planned Parenthood. Their quick reversal was a response to the PR nightmare their defunding decision sparked. People from all walks of life and from all over the country criticized Komen’s decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood, and took to the streets (well, their computers) donating money to Planned Parenthood and demanding that Komen stand by its commitment to women’s health. And rightfully so. The Komen Foundation appeared to have bowed to pressure from anti-choice extremists willing to put women’s lives at risk by denying them breast cancer screenings in order to advance their radical agenda.
But here is the thing. The Komen Foundation’s decision to strip Planned Parenthood of its funding is just the tip of the iceberg. Last year, state after state put politics before women’s health and cut off funding for Planned Parenthood and other health care facilities that provide critical health services for low-income women and men because those organizations provide or refer for abortion care.
What happened in Kansas is typical. In its zeal to shut down Planned Parenthood, the state stopped federal money from going to Planned Parenthood and other health centers that provide critical health services. This money was designated by the federal government to provide basic health care — services like contraceptives and cancer screenings. But, just like the Komen Foundation, the legislators in Kansas put abortion politics before women’s health. Had it not been for the ACLU’s lawsuit , the Dodge City Family Planning Clinic would have been forced to shut its doors leaving the low-income residents of a large three county area without any means to access these basic services.
And it doesn’t end there. The state of Arizona went so far as to kick organizations that even refer a woman for an abortion out of a program that encourages individuals to donate to organizations that serve the working poor. Again, legislators were literally willing to put women’s lives at risk in an effort to scare off organizations, like our client, the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, from having anything to do with abortion. On behalf of the coalition, whose members sometimes refer their clients — domestic violence survivors who have been the subject to sexual assault — for abortion, the ACLU sued and won. But, already a bill has been introduced in the Arizona legislature that would again attempt to penalize organizations involved in abortion care.
In fact, in the last year, states from Colorado to North Carolina to New Hampshire passed laws that punished organizations that provide or refer for abortions by stripping them of money to provide basic health care services. And states around the country are getting in line to do the same this year.
So for those of us who were rightly outraged about the Komen Foundation, and took action and made them pay attention — let’s celebrate that victory. But we can’t stop there. For the sake of women’s health, we must be equally vocal in our opposition to these threats coming at us from all across the nation. We must stay engaged and defeat all of the efforts to put women’s lives and health at risk by punishing organizations that provide abortion related care.
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CORRECTION: A correction was made for greater accuracy. The first sentence originally read: “I’m thrilled that the Susan G. Komen foundation just announced that they would restore funding to Planned Parenthood.”