Planned Parenthood of North Texas will hold its annual awards luncheon today (2/16/12) in Dallas. And the minds of many attending likely will be on the organization’s recent controversy involving the Susan G-Komen Center for the Cure. The situation’s also on the mind of commentator Lee Cullum.
It’s good, of course, at least in my view, that Susan G. Komen for the Cure decided after all not to cut the almost $700,000 in yearly grants to Planned Parenthood to pay for breast-cancer screening. Instead of denying support to organizations under federal investigation of any kind, the foundation said it would disqualify only those that are involved in probes that are “criminal and conclusive in nature and not political.”
This, I’m afraid is inviting more trouble. It would not be hard to find an ambitious prosecutor willing to launch an official look at alleged criminal activity of some sort, however specious, at Planned Parenthood, and problems “conclusive in nature” sound even more temptingly ambiguous.
It’s particularly distressing to those of us who knew and admired Nancy Brinker when she lived in Dallas and founded the Susan G. Komen foundation, named for her sister who died of breast cancer, much too young. Nancy Brinker had breast cancer too, but made a fantastic comeback to launch the most important campaign in the country against this wretched disease. She also became ambassador to Hungary for President George W. Bush and later moved to Florida.
Nancy Brinker always has been a savvy woman, and it’s hard to imagine her falling into such a tar-pit as the imbroglio over abortion and, now, contraception. I wouldn’t be surprised if an understandable wish for a little peace drove her into the buzzsaw, without adequate thought of the price, both to herself, her organization and the women she sincerely wants to serve. Who can doubt that the pro-life activists had gobbled her time and energy, and, it appears, undermined her judgment as well.
The hiring of Karen Handel to run public policy hardly seems wise. While it looked like a way to get along with the critics of Komen, instead it stirred up the most zealously contested issue of the age, both within the organization and without. While running for governor of Georgia, Handel said plainly that she does not support the mission of Planned Parenthood which is, of course, family planning. Fortunately, she has decided to resign, which is better for everyone since she would be far better off working for one of the pro-life groups, not Komen, which always has been politically neutral.
Now Planned Parenthood is headed toward its annual luncheon in Dallas February 16, and it likely will be the most successful in years. Komen is left to reconnect to its moorings. If anybody can accomplish that, it’s Nancy Brinker.
Lee Cullum is a veteran journalist and commentator living in Dallas.