The National Catholic Review

I am not crazy enough to believe that the U.S. culture wars ever ended, but it is kind of breathtaking to watch them reignite into flame before your eyes. After announcing just three days ago that it would no longer fund breast exams at a handful of Planned Parenthood affiliates, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity, having endured a relentless barrage from politicians, prochoice activists and soon to be ex-supporters, said today that it is reversing that decision.

"We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives," a Komen statement said.

In previous statements Komen officials said their decision to drop Planned Parenthood affiliates wasn't "political"; I guess in the sense that its reversal likewise isn't political, which is to say it is all political.

The folks at Planned Parenthood, which orchestrated the shock and awe response to Komen's decision, have been busy on a number of different fronts this week and must be feeling pretty satisfied with their many public relations efforts. In fact the Komen controversy and the U.S. bishops response to HHS have proved something of a public relations and fiscal watershed for Planned Parenthood. In television ads this week PP is thanking President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for "standing firm" on contraception. PP may be overdoing the victory dance on this one; watching the self-righteous counterattack against the bishops and noting the increasingly Nativist tone of some of the sentiment expressed on that vast wasteland of the Interent, I can feel some atavistic response mechanism kicking in myself. Will liberal Catholics come home to stand by their bishops despite their differences? (We know the Lefebvrians won't.)

In today's Wall Street Journal Peggy Noonan argues ("A Battle the President Can't Win") that President has made a fatal blunder in this decision:

The church is split on many things. But do Catholics in the pews want the government telling their church to contravene its beliefs? A president affronting the leadership of the church, and blithely threatening its great institutions? No, they don't want that. They will unite against that.

The smallest part of this story is political. There are 77.7 million Catholics in the United States. In 2008 they made up 27% of the electorate, about 35 million people. Mr. Obama carried the Catholic vote, 54% to 45%. They helped him win.

They won't this year. And guess where a lot of Catholics live? In the battleground states.

There was no reason to pick this fight. It reflects political incompetence on a scale so great as to make Mitt Romney's gaffes a little bitty thing.

There was nothing for the president to gain, except, perhaps, the pleasure of making a great church bow to him.

Enjoy it while you can. You have awakened a sleeping giant.


geoffrey o'connell | 2/8/2012 - 1:24pm
In many communities abortion has become a form of birth control. UNPlanned Parenthood wishes to become all things to all women rather just than the Genocide Mill it is.

 Breast Care is big business from the salaries of Komen and PP wants a piece of the action too. A cure would bankrupt many agencies and fundraisers.
Anonymous | 2/6/2012 - 9:56am
I was just at a fundraiser this weekend for a Crisis Pregnancy Center in my area where I serve as the Medical Director.  I can assure you that there where only "pro-life" individuals in attendance.  There were no Pro-choicers at this event.  We offer a choice to these unfortunate women that is not promoted by my Pro-choice friends.
Thomas Rooney OFS | 2/6/2012 - 9:22am
Jim McCrea says ''You can outlaw abortions but you will not prevent abortions.''

I agree.  But laws against drunk driving dont't prevent that practice either.  If there were perfect preventative laws, there would be no need for a criminal justice system, prison system, etc.

IMO however, it's not black and white when it comes to abortion.  For better or worse, this issue is charged to the hilt with white hot emotion and pain and guilt and fear.  Many women who ''choose'' to abort have little to nothing in terms of financial, emotional or moral support.  This is the antithesis of ''choice'' and this is what is not being addressed.  It is not being addressed by the pro-choice ''it's just a lump of cells crowd'', NOR is it being effectively addressed by the pro-life ''abortion is murder'' crowd. 

To the pro-choicers - If it is simply a ''lump of cells'' why say that abortion should be a ''rare procedure''?  If you have to have on, and it's just a lump of cells, it shouldn't be any different than having a tooth extracted?  Why the special treatment?

To the pro-lifers - If abortion is indeed murder, how can you tout the ''I regret my abortion'' slogan, or the Project Rachel retreats?  Should you not be advocating for the incarceration of these perpetrators?

I know these are extreme examples I'm using to illustrate my point.  Abortion is a unique legal and moral issue; anyone who pretends it is not simply is not paying attention.  This issue deserves far more than the screeching of either the extreme pro or con position. 
Jim McCrea | 2/5/2012 - 6:50pm
You can outlaw abortions but you will not prevent abortions.

They happened in the bad old days pre RvW and will happen in any bad future days if RvW is outlawed.

Even in "Catholic" Ireland (my, how silly THAT sounds these days) where abortion is outlawed, the flights of good Catholic girls to England to solve the "bun in the oven" problem are well documented and well known.
Bill Collier | 2/5/2012 - 6:24pm
Thank goodness for an organization like Feminsits for Life, which makes the case that "Women Deserve Better" than abortion.

From FFL's mission statement:

If you believe in the strength of women and the potential of every human life,

If you refuse to choose between women and children,

If you believe no woman should be forced to choose between sacrificing her education and career plans and sacrificing her child,

If you reject violence and exploitation,

Join us in challenging the status quo.

Because women deserve better.

Welcome to Feminists for Life.

There is a better way.
Crystal Watson | 2/5/2012 - 2:47am
I should add that while I wouldn't cosider getting an abortion myself, so I guess you could say I'm pro-life, I don't want abortion to be criminalized, so I'm pro-choice.  Maybe a lot of the people that article polled are like me .... pro-life in that they wouldn't get an abortion themselves, but pro-choice in that they want it to remain legal (with existing restrictions).
Crystal Watson | 2/5/2012 - 2:38am

OK, I just read it.    He writes that most people are pro-life and want to outlaw abortion and he says that it's just the media that is pro-choice.  Many people may well identify as pro-life but the reality seems to be that many women, including Catholic women, don't "act" like pro-lifers (and don't vote like them, either).  If I understand the statistics correctly, about a theird of the women who have unwanted pregnancies get abortions, and 37% of the women getting abortions are Catholic .....

I don't think putting Planned Parenthood out of business will end abortions, abd making it illegal doesn't seem to lessen the number of abortions but to actually make things worse  ...

The only way I can see to lessen abortion is to lessen unwanted pregnancies.

Crystal Watson | 2/4/2012 - 11:49pm
You can see a pie chart here that shows what percentage of PP services are abortions ... 3% ... and what percentage are cancer screenings ... 17%

Kang Dole | 2/4/2012 - 11:29pm
"Planned Parenthood does NOT provide cancer screening to poor women, they simply provide referrals to clinics that do. There are NO mammograms at PP and this was the reason Komen decided to redirect their grants."

You're a stone cold sucker if you believe that.
Crystal Watson | 2/4/2012 - 9:54pm

It's not all about mamograms - when women go to see their doctor for yearly pelvic exams, they also get physical breast exams .... visual exams and palpations, as well as advice on how to do their own at home exams.  This is the front line of breast cancer screening.
Beth Cioffoletti | 2/4/2012 - 6:22pm
Oh boy, this whole conversation brings up a lot of emotion for me, so my comment is an emotional response.  I am a breast cancer survivor who is now going thru a 2nd diagnosis of bc.  And I am a passionate pro-choice Catholic.  I do not endorse abortion, but I do not think that legislation - as in criminalizing abortion - is the right response.  Just what do you do with women who have abortions?  Convict them of 1st degree murder, and then, because of mandatory sentencing laws already in place, send them to prison for life with no chance for parole or to the electric chair?  Come on.  And what about the hundreds of thousands of discarded embryos produced during IVF?  Catholics don't even want to touch this Pandora's box.  In my humble opinion, the mysterious beginning stages of pregnancy belong in the realm of the conscience of the mother.  This is a God-given right.  The mother gets to make the call.

The Catholic Church should respond to abortion by teaching and reflecting ultimate respect for the sacredness and dignity of human life.  Nothing else makes sense.  Nothing else will truly change behavior.  If Catholics were serious about ending abortion, they would be out there in the streets caring for unwanted babies, prisoners, the sick, the forgotten and abandoned.  The bottom line is the sacredness of life.  Until we get that, we'll lose every battle.

As for the pink ribbons of Susan Komen, I want none of it. 
Adam Rasmussen | 2/4/2012 - 8:57am
I'm pro-life, and I'm glad that Komen changed their mind. A grant for breast-cancer screening in no way supports abortion or is anti-life. We should be about stopping abortion, not trying to score meaningless political points against Planned Parenthood. What a PR debacle for pro-lifers....
Crystal Watson | 2/4/2012 - 12:41am
An interesting article on this from The New Yorker ...

As Rick mentioned, PP is an important women's health clinic for those without much money - it's one of the best places in which to invest in breast cancer screening.

As for the contraception reg being a battle the president can't win, I think you underestimate the women voters of this nation.
Rick Fueyo | 2/3/2012 - 3:39pm
How could Komen feel that its association with PP would "detract from its mission of curing breast cancer” qua cure?  As I understand the relationship, PP clinics are the frontline of health care for many poor women. Many wishes were not so, but wishing it does not make it any less true.  The Komen grant as I understand it, and I've attempted actually read up on the underlying facts before forming an opinion, was solely for breast cancer screening of the women who come in the clinic, and not for any other purpose.
To the extent that Komen legitimately perceive that its association with PP was legitimately detracting commission if you breast cancer, that could only be from the political dimension of such an association, not from the actual providing of screenings and women who, in most cases, would not otherwise receive such screens. It appears a more legitimate argument can be made that the withdrawal of the funding actually harms the mission, so long as the mission is viewed on its individual merits, and not as part of a larger political perspective.
Gerelyn Hollingsworth | 2/3/2012 - 2:15pm
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you are not among those liberal Catholics who will be returning to the barricades alongside the bishops.
Barricades?  Exaggerate much? 
I agree with Rick's comments.
Thomas Rooney OFS | 2/3/2012 - 2:54pm
From my last post:
"It just seems to me that people who truly want to advocate for women's health would wish to de-fund the organization that generates the most research and ongoing support to kill breast cancer. "

SHOULD read "It just seems odd to me..."

Apologies...I need to proofread before I post.
Thomas Rooney OFS | 2/3/2012 - 2:40pm
@ Abe - agreed.

It just seems to me that people who truly want to advocate for women's health would wish to de-fund the organization that generates the most research and ongoing support to kill breast cancer.  Looking throughout the blogosphere, even with this reversal, PP advocates are already hemming and hawing about NEXT year's funding and promising NOT to support Race for a Cure.

I guess the Cure will have to wait.
Kang Dole | 2/3/2012 - 2:32pm
Well of course Komen was under no obligation to fund PP-just as nobody who got angry about this was under any obligation to keep pumping money into Komen, or to be quiet about it. It's not as though the mere fact that Komen isn't obliged to fund PP means that people are obliged to stick with Komen when they choose to cut that funding for political reasons.
Thomas Rooney OFS | 2/3/2012 - 2:24pm
I think American Papist said it best when it likened PP to a protection racket.  "Yeah, Komen, nice little charity you got there.  Be a shame if something happened to it..."

Komen is a private foundation  under no obligation to fund anyone, including PP, if they feel it would detract from its mission of curing breast cancer.  PP assured and demonstrated dire reprisals if this private foundation didn't keep their gravy train going.

In short, this was a stick-up.
Douglas Brougher | 2/3/2012 - 2:13pm
On a related note, the Komen Foundation is no doubt unhappy about this upcoming documentary, about the business of breast cancer:
Stephen SCHEWE | 2/3/2012 - 2:10pm
As much as I'm in sympathy with the religious liberty argument advanced by the bishops on the HHS decision, I doubt that HHS will retreat.  One reason is a flaw at the heart of Humanae Vitae.  The Church supports preventing pregnancy (e.g., abstinence or natural family planning) as long as contraception is not directly assisted by technology like barrier methods.  A more nuanced teaching would have allowed Catholics and the public at large to distinguish between some forms of birth control as licit and even beneficial to public health (see the HHS arguments) vs. forms of birth control that are more aggressive and invasive to conception and gestation, up to and including abortifacients and abortion.  Catholics could then have supported Griswold while continuing to vehemently oppose Roe.  Because that distinction cannot be taught officially by the church (although practiced by the 98% of Catholic couples who use artificial birth control) without walking back from Humanae Vitae, the reproductive rights folks get away with bundling everything together, In the public debate, abortion gets a free ride, instead of being marginalized as a brutal, harmful act that could only be justified by most people in the most extreme of cases.
Anonymous | 2/3/2012 - 2:07pm
The nice thing about this is that there is definitive proof and validation by Komen that they partner with Planned Parenthood.  For a long time when we would accuse Komen of being a partner with Planned Parenthood, people would deny this.  Now Catholics can feel comfortable refusing to contribute money to this organization.
Rick Fueyo | 2/3/2012 - 2:05pm
I would also state that to the extent that the Bishops become an increasingly active actor on the political stage, which appears to be happening, it will become increasingly difficult to honestly describe political disagreement as anti-Catholicism. One cannot take a political position opposed to an issue with not insignificant at least plurality support and honestly label any opposition as motivated ad hominem.
Rick Fueyo | 2/3/2012 - 2:01pm
I second the surprise at the use of the term "Nativist”, but the disconnect may be semantical.
I equate "nativist" criticism of the Roman Catholic Church with the political movement that was had its heyday with the Know Nothings party and has maintained isolated strains to the current day (“ Rum, Romanism and Rebellion”). This line of attack usually associates the Church as a foreign body that is somehow not truly American, associated with non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants, echoing a split that goes back to the Anglican schism, which is part of the reason the Knights of Columbus felt so important to emphasize the patriotism of Catholic men.  Hence, the use of the shorthand "nativist" to suggest that Catholicism is not native to our land, even though it had a part, albeit less significant than today, in the faith of the founding generation, especially in Maryland.
I have seen none of that tone in the current debate. I have seen the reflexive reference to the sexual abuse scandals, which remains largely irrelevant. But I don't consider that nativist in my understanding of the term. I have not seen any nativist sentiments in comments anywhere, it would be surprised to see same, as nativist sentiments are usually associated with the Church's allies on this point, which could be very crudely referred to as the Tea Party element.  I acknowledge that is reductive and oversimplistic; I'm just trying to make a general point.
Again to use a crude oversimplification, the Church’s critics on the Left usually do not come from a nativist perspective. Consequently, I also would disagree without use of the term.
Thomas Piatak | 2/3/2012 - 1:59pm
Kevin Clarke is exactly right.  There is a great deal of anti-Catholicism out there, a sentiment cultivated by Planned Parenthood and its allies in the media and the Obama Administration.
Vince Killoran | 2/3/2012 - 1:57pm
C'mon Kevin Clarke ("orchestrated the shock and awe response to Komen's decision"):there was general disgust at a grassroots level by Komen's move.

As for Noonan's "sleeping giant" comment, our parish priest read the bishop's letter this past weekend and used the same phrase. Talk about "orchestrated". . .
Kang Dole | 2/3/2012 - 1:53pm
I second Gerelyn. Just about every social network I participate in exploded almost immediately when the split was announced, and there was nothing orchestrated about it. Saying so just diminishes the real extent of people's anger, as well as their desire to do something about it.
Gerelyn Hollingsworth | 2/3/2012 - 1:35pm
There was nothing for the president to gain, except, perhaps, the pleasure of making a great church bow to him.
Enjoy it while you can. You have awakened a sleeping giant.


In any disagreement, it's easy to tell who's right and who's wrong.  Just notice who must lie, exaggerate, calumniate, etc. to make the argument.

The ''great church'' was not made to ''bow'' to the president.  There is no ''sleeping giant''.  (Would that be the 98% who use contraception?) 

And there is no ''Nativist tone'' in the approval of President Obama's decision.  To make that claim is to trivialize history. 
Gerelyn Hollingsworth | 2/3/2012 - 1:23pm
The folks at Planned Parenthood, which orchestrated the shock and awe response to Komen's decision, have been busy on a number of different fronts this week and must be feeling pretty satisfied with their many public relations efforts.


Is it possible that women and men who are not stupid and who are not hypocrites could decide for themselves that Komen was wrong?   Why assume the reaction was ''orchestrated''? 

(Noonan's article silly as usual.)