Political Animal


February 05, 2012 5:00 PM Ross Douthat and Planned Parenthood are Honest; The Komen Foundation is Not

By Rich Yeselson

Ross Douthat in the Times today sees media bias in its coverage of the Komen/Planned Parenthood funding controversy. Douthat thinks the, yes, liberal media made Komen out to be the heavy, and skipped some relevant facts about PP: that they are, in fact, the largest abortion provider in the country, that maybe 10% of its patients come for abortions, and that abortions are its biggest revenue driver. And citing recent Gallup Polls, he argues that the country is, at worst, 50/50 regarding abortion right, or maybe the “opposed” are now a slight majority. Therefore, it would not be surprising if this silent (or, in his view, silenced) majority were “relieved and gratified” when Komen first announced they were cutting off funds to an organization that “[tirelessly opposes] even modest limits on abortions.”

Douthat’s is one of conservatism most able polemicists, and his argument that “it’s no more “political” to disassociate oneself from the nation’s largest abortion provider than it is to associate with it in the first place” sounds reasonable in a tit for tat kind of way. Except for this: While Douthat acknowledges, if only to criticize, that PP supports abortion rights, Komen tried to hide its facially anti-abortion funding decision behind a farrago of bad faith and dissembling. And that’s what immediately enraged so many people. First, Komen claimed that it had a rule that it does not fund organizations under investigation. The investigation under question is, of course, itself a political intervention by anti-abortion Congressman and it’s not at all clear that there is anything substantive to it other than that Congressman’s opposition to abortion. It became quickly obvious that the Komen “rule” had a circumference containing only one organization, Planned Parenthood. Then Komen changed its story to the one that Douthat mentions in passing in his column: that PP usually only makes referrals for mamograms, rather than do the test itself (Douthat breezily calls this “one of the reasons” for Komen making the decision it did).

But that was obviously bogus, too. So Komen, under a lot of pressure, backed off. But it has yet to acknowledge that it made the decision originally because it, like Planned Parenthood, is, or wishes to be, a politically engaged organization in the country’s dispute over legalized abortion. It’s true, as Douthat argues, a lot of Americans were, no doubt, happy to have the organization cut ties with the nation’s largest abortion provider. But Komen is yet to acknowledge their cheers.

Right—a lot of Americans oppose abortion and probably, on those grounds, don’t want Komen to fund Planned Parenthood. And Douthat is right there with them. But Komen didn’t claim it was eliminating the grant because Planned Parenthood was a provider and advocate for abortions. It tried to scam everybody—its own board and staff, its contributors, Planned Parenthood, the mean liberal media, and, whether he acknowledges it or not, Ross Douthat, too. Douthat makes a big deal out of the fact that Planned Parenthood won’t agree to what he thinks would be “modest limits” to abortion. But, at least, Planned Parenthood is accountable for its position, and is in the public arena defending it. Just like Ross Douthat.

But the Komen Foundation, hiding behind a veil of apolitical virtue, lacked the integrity and the guts to say, simply, “It is the policy of this organization not to fund supporters and certainly providers of abortion rights. Planned Parenthood is both, so we are withdrawing our grant to that organization.” Would those of us in favor of abortion rights have rallied to support PP no matter what Komen said? You bet—but we would have been merely ardently opposed to an organization on the other side of the issue, not disgusted by its dishonesty and cowardice (it is this disgust for Komen’s dishonesty that Douthat misreads as mere pro-choice cheerleading in Andrea Mitchell’s reaction to Komen’s decision).

Planned Parenthood, as Douthat is at pains to remind us, is not an apolitical organization because “the provision of abortion may be the most polarizing issue in the United States today.” He might well be right about that. That’s why it’s such an uncomfortable issue for the pink ribbon folks to acknowledge they care about. But trying to escape from the obvious political reasoning behind your funding decisions doesn’t make you “apolitical.” It just makes you dishonest and less worthy of respect than either your political supporters or your political adversaries.

Some people support abortion rights and some people oppose them. But nobody likes being lied to. Do you, Ross?


  • jjm on February 05, 2012 6:12 PM:

    In my understanding, PP devotes only 3% of its activities to abortion. (Didn't we all learn this after John Kyl claimed it was 90% and then had to back down by saying it was not 'intended to be a factual statement'?

  • jheartney on February 05, 2012 6:14 PM:

    I doubt that all the companies currently featuring pink ribbons on their products are going to be interested in doing so if Komen openly joins the ranks of anti-abortion advocacy groups. The point of the pink ribbon thing was to associate brands with a pro-womens' health message that theoretically anyone of any political persuasion could get behind. Coming out on one side of this very divisive issue destroys the commercial value of the pink ribbon.

    Komen is trying to have it both ways - on the one hand posing as an apolitical charity, raking in the bucks from corporate sponsorships (and providing goodwill value to those corporate sponsors from the universality of its cause), while also using its clout to strike a blow against a political foe. They deserve all the bad political karma now crushing them.

  • Danny on February 05, 2012 6:22 PM:

    That's all good, but really - it's much simpler than that. Komen relies on donors and volunteers. When those donors and volunteers found out that Komen had cut off funding for Planned Parenthood they got pissed. When they found out that Brinker was neck up in republican politics and the new VP was an avowed pro-lifer they got even more pissed. They wanted nothing to do with Komen anymore and they said so. The media reported what happened.

    Such is life in a free society where people voice their opinions and vote with their wallets. Komen ruined their brand. Cry me a freaking river. Call me back when Ross finds some moral outrage at his brethren in the conservative movement who try to crush an organization that provide poor women and girls with medical services they can't get elsewhere; here's Michael New at National Review's The Corner:

    >> In recent years pro-lifers have done a good job damaging the credibility and reputation of Planned Parenthood. This work has to continue. Just a short while ago, it would have been unthinkable for a group like the Komen foundation to sever its ties with Planned Parenthood. However, the fact that Planned Parenthood may no longer receive any future grants from such a popular charity is evidence of pro-life progress.


  • Rose on February 05, 2012 6:45 PM:

    So that was Ross Douthat the fool I saw on CNN's "Reliable" Sources this morning. Howie did not challenge him on any of his bull spit about how it was the liberal media that blew it all out of proportion. I should have known better than to watch. No one called Douthat on his statment that Planned Parenthood is the biggest provider of abortion services and accusing Andrea Mitchell of not being a journalist, that she took sides in this!

  • TCinLA on February 05, 2012 6:54 PM:

    There's even more to it than you have pointed out.

    Komen President Brinker claimed she had nothing to do with the adoption of the policy, yet it was she who brought Karen Handler into the organization as VP of Public Policy and gave her the assignment of doing something to solve the problem Komen had with the anti-abortion crowd. Brinker was lying through her teeth during the Mitchell interview.

    It is far from clear that Susan Komen has actually changed their policy. All they have committed to is funding PP grants that already exist and allowing PP to apply for new ones and renewals. There has been no committment to renew any of the grants or award any. PP may still be out in the cold.

    There is additional evidence that Handler provided the information to start the so-called "investigation." Also, there has been no move by the organization to discpline Handler, who tweeted "who cares?" in the middle of the entire controversy.

    I can tell you all that from what you can find out about this organization at Charity Navigator, the Susan Komen Foundation is a "charity" only for those running it. I have raised funds professionally for nonprofit organizations, and it is generally considered that any nonprofit that is spending more than 10 percent of their income on administration (salaries, offices, travel, etc., etc.) is not a responsible organization. Susan Komen - like many right wing "charities" - spends nearly half its donations on so-called "administration." The fund-raising organization I worked for would not handle such a client under that set of circumstances.

    Additionally, three of the major hospitals Komen is funding are now under investigation for the fact their programs don't work. These are investigations for actual fraud. Did Komen defund them?

    Brinker is a close friend of George W. Bush. Her organization works like a Republican "charity." The truth is the organization is a fraud, and unworthy of further support from anyone.

    As for Douthat, here's some interesting information: the original legislation to allow federal funding to Planned Parenthood was signed by Richard Nixon. Senator Preston Bush was their chairman for the groups first major national fund-raising campaign, and both George H.W. and Barbara Bush were major supporters of the organization as late as when he was Vice President.

    But never let the truth get in the way of an ignorant fascist busy with his work to overthrow the U.S. government, which is what Douthat and the rest of the "(bowel) movement conservatives" have been about from the beginning.

    But don't give money to Susan Komen for the Cure. They are a fraud.

  • bemused on February 05, 2012 7:02 PM:

    I certainly hope the Washington Monthly finds someone else to blog on the weekend.

    Planned Parenthood provides legal reproductive health services to low income women, which includes breast exams, Pap smears, contraceptive prescriptions, and abortion services if they are chosen by the women involved in consultation with PP doctors. 3% of their budget is used for this service. This fact is political only in so far as the anti-abortion faction wants to change the current legal situation. By that standard everything we do is a political act.

    Ross Douthat is a shill for the Catholic bishops.

  • Katha Pollitt on February 05, 2012 7:06 PM:

    Excellent piece! Komen's dishonesty and clumsiness certainly made a lot of people angry. Also the hiring of Karen Handler, anti-choice Georgia Republican pol who was on record as wanting to defund PP. That made the banning of PP from Komen grants look like part of a rightwing anti-choice takeover of the organization.

    Douthat may be right that the country is evenly split on abortion (although, as he doesn't mention, a majority approves of abortion rights, not quite the same thing). But what matters is how the volunteers, staffers and donors of Komen feel about it -- and I will bet him that this is a way majority pro-choice group of women.

  • Rich on February 05, 2012 7:12 PM:

    Nothing honest about Douthat. He claims abortion is a bigger part of PP's business than it is. He's an anti-abortion person himself. Komen, itself, is quite political. It opposes embryonic stem cell research. It has lobbied against laws to regulate environmental toxins. this is a step further than other cancer orgs have gone. The very establishment American Cancer Society once argued against things like lumpectomies and interferon treatment, but they had some legitimate scientific opinion on their side, and these were conventional wisdom. Denying women access to breast cancer screening is just sleazy, as is being sucked into a much larger, anti-scientific agenda, that is without credible research bases.

  • Christiaan on February 05, 2012 7:47 PM:

    Sorry, Douthat was not honest. He got to the 50/50 split for and against abortion by bundling those that oppose abortion ("pro life") with those that want to allow abortion under certain circumstances. The real "pro life" support comes only to 20% (if I remember correctly.) The other 50% is the real "pro choice". So it would actually be better to say that there's a 80/20 split for allowing and not allowing abortion. And remember that PP only provides abortion support, it does not promote it, so it would also serve those 30%. This basically undermines Douthat's argument.

  • Anonymous on February 05, 2012 7:48 PM:

    The fact is that Komen lied. It doesn't matter what they claim as policy, they lied. As a result, people that have been donating to this organization never knew exactly where and how much of Komen's money was being spent and now they see. The door is open and people are seeing it for the farce it is; a money business and nothing else. People would be better off to donate to an organization that really uses the money for what they say it is for rather than a "middleman" that uses most of it for themselves.
    The whole point of PP is being overlooked. They help many many people including men. They are not about abortion, they are about prevention and testing. Most important, if they prevent the pregancy, they prevent the abortion.

  • schtick on February 05, 2012 7:49 PM:

    dang. anonymous above is me.

  • Anonymous on February 05, 2012 7:53 PM:

    It appears to me that Komen for the Cure originally sought out no role in the abortion issue. The anti-abortionists initiated an all-out campaign to force them to pick a side. That left Komen with no good and comfortable choice, but the best one, the honorable one, would have been to tell the anti-abortionists to take a hike. Instead, they tried to weasel out of it and botched the whole thing royally. And, Mr. Douthat, the silent majority is NOT anti-abortion. A very large block of people have wishy-washy and ambiguous attitudes, but when the need for abortion strikes close to home, they expect it to be legal and available. Those who really, genuinely want abortion treated as a crime and stamped out are a very small minority, and it is not going to happen.

  • robert waldmann on February 05, 2012 7:55 PM:

    I think you are very right and can explain what happened to Ross Douthat who is, I agree, sincerely confused. It's not that so many people think that all organizations have to outsource breast exams and breast cancer education to planned Parenthood, it is that Komen's staff lied, lied and lied again.

    When discussing honesty it is important to be very precise. Douthat didn't just claim "a lot of Americans were, no doubt, happy" he claimed that

    "for every American who greeted Komen’s shift with “anger and outrage” ... there was probably an American who was relieved and gratified." That is a whole lot. There is no evidence for this claim. All the data, especially including Komen's reversal suggest that more were angered than relieved. Douthat just guessed (he presented no evidence). Just above he refers to his guess as "Three truths, in particular, should be obvious" so a guess (with the weasel word "probably" is an obvious truth. This attitude towards the word "truths" is now what I call "honest." He assumes taht people who say that abortion should be allowed only under a few circumstances oppose paying Planned Parenthood for breast exams and breast cancer education.

    Basically, he assumes that for all Americans, abortion is the key issue, that if one disagrees with an organisation about abortion (and a majority of Americans say they disagree with planned parenthood) then you support a boycott of its services (even if they are provided efficiently and there is no available alternative).

    I think that Douthat is being dishonest about the polling data. He picked one poll which seems to support his claim. But there are polls which provide much more relevant information.

    There are polls on defunding Planned Parenthood.

    CNN April 9-10 N = 824 adults "As you may know, the federal government currently provides funding to support some programs run by the organization called Planned Parenthood. Do you think federal funding for Planned Parenthood should be eliminated entirely, or do you think the federal government should continue to provide funding to Planned Parenthood?" Eliminate funding 34% Continue to provide 65%. I submit that 34%

    Close Quinnipiac Polls Feb 21-28 N = 1,887 registered voters
    "Do you support or oppose cutting off federal government funding to Planned Parenthood?"

    Support 43% oppose 53%
    43% is not a majority. 43

    I don't call his presentation of polling data honest. He is well paid to write his comment. I am commenting on a blog. I can tell that his presentation of polling data is misleading. If he didn't know, he has reckless disregard for the truth (there is no excuse to not check given that pollingreport is on the web). I think he cherry picked polls aiming to mislead. I think his column was dishonest.

    I think you personally make the one of the two huge intellectual errors Douthat made "Therefore, it would not be surprising if this ... majority were “relieved and gratified” when Komen first announced they were cutting off funds" That's some therefore. It is valid only under two conditions, one is that people are consistently pro-choice or pro-life and the other (the huge one) is that this determines their view of Planned Parenthood so that the other things Planned Parenthood does are side issues.

    Basically, the assumption is that no one cares about contraception (or pro-shoice people are anti contraception) or breast exams or pap smears. Others claim that many women rely on Planned Parenthood, or did in the past, or believe that someone they care about will in the future. This must mean that some people who call themselved pro-choice also oppose the funding cut off. I have not taken a big chance, yet, two people are some people, but I *guess* that people whose views split in a way not dreamed of by your or Douthat's philosophy number in the tens of millions (note "guess" not assert t

  • Tony Smith on February 05, 2012 7:58 PM:

  • DAY on February 05, 2012 8:10 PM:

    Good Golly, Miss Molly!
    Another Emperor with no clothes!

    (and a tip of the hat to TCinLA)

  • Kathryn on February 05, 2012 8:42 PM:

    Hopefully this cynical and dishonest move by Komen has awakened the slumbering women in the country to the unprecedented attacks on women's health care by conservative politicians at the federal and state levels. It's time to pay attention ladies. Koman stepped in it by clumsily attacking women's preventative care unrelated to abortion services., an overreach similar to Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio attacks on school teachers and municipal workers.

    Just this past week, the Virginia state legislature has passed an onerous measure which will require women and girls in need of an abortion to submit to and pay for unnecessary and invasive ultrasound exams before obtaining a legal abortion in the Commonwealth. This past November, the Democrats lost their majority in the Virginia Senate which now consists of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats with the tie going to the Republican Lt. Governor. Pregnant rape victims in Virginia will now have to experience an ultrasound with a vaginal probe thanks to those small government Republicans. So it's full steam ahead, voter suppression is next.

  • TCinLA on February 05, 2012 9:30 PM:

    One nice thing about the Virginia law, there is an amendment that requires men seeking a presecription for Viagra to have a comprehensive heart exam and a probing prostate cancer exam. As SWMBO says, where's all the concern about men's health when they worry about women's health?

  • M. Paul on February 05, 2012 9:39 PM:


    I had been thinking about those/you slumbering women since this whole Komen cluster…k come out.

    I can get excited about the one group able to really effect the dynamic of our dysfunctional legislative process in a way that rewards us both: women and men. I am secretly hoping women all over this country, at the vary least, step behind each polling place curtain and chose to vote for their collective empowerment.

    Just so you know I am not talking about women like yourself who choose to be openly active politicly, but instead those who must walk the three steps behind their husbands.

    Being a man in a mostly man's world I know I have a slim grasp of political women-hood but was lucky enough to have a mother that made certain I could bake a tasty loaf of bread and my little sister could start that cantankerous lawnmower. She is gone now but I was thinking she would be fighting mad!

    M. Paul

    ps. most excellent comments from all!

  • pjcamp on February 05, 2012 9:49 PM:

    To conclude that the country is majority opposed to abortion, Douthat has to seriously cherry pick his statistics. All the recent polls are available here:


    and very nearly every one of them shows a clear majority (though sometimes not large) the other way. You can count the ones that support Douthat without using both hands. That is the very definition of an outlier.

  • rk on February 05, 2012 9:58 PM:

    I'll wager that an equally shocking thing for many donors was the extent to which Komen was a right-wing political organization rather than a women's health advocacy organization. Komen didn't have the reputation of being a partisan political organization but as the week went on virtually every person associated with them was shown to have a partisan GOP background rather than public health experience. That will trouble donors in a very big way.

  • pol on February 05, 2012 10:21 PM:

    rk, doesn't it make you wonder if Komen is just a front group for the Republican Party? What happens to all that money?

  • arkie on February 05, 2012 10:32 PM:

    Even those who believe that abortion should be permitted only in cases of rape or incest are still pro-choice. They acknowledge that women in those very difficult situations should be able to choose to have an abortion.

    Using that criteria, Americans are overwhelming pro-choice.

  • theAmericanist on February 05, 2012 10:39 PM:

    Rich asks: "Some people support abortion rights and some people oppose them. But nobody likes being lied to. Do you, Ross?"

    Yes, is the short answer. Don't you find that polemicists do?

    A word about public opinion on abortion. This isn't complicated: decades of data, and a very clear pattern. Apply the Rule of 4 -- measure BOTH for and against, AND intensity. (This is from decades of reading polls on this stuff: YMMV, but not much if you really check it.)

    Depending on the wording of the question, there are two overlapping majorities. If you use pro-choice framing, e.g., "do you support the right of a woman to choose an abortion if...", you generally get about 20% strongly for, 40% sorta for, 10% sorta against, and 30% strongly against. Draw the line, and it's 60/40 pro-choice.

    If you use pro-life framing, e.g., "do you support the right of a mother to abort a healthy fetus in the 8th month...", you generally get about 15% strongly for, 30% sorta for, 15% sorta against, and 40% strongly against. Draw the same line, and it's 45/55 pro-life.

    Pro-choice framing moves 10-15% from choice to life; pro-life framing moves 'em the other way -- but what's important is the intensity: there are more pro-life folks who feel intensely than there are pro-choice folks who feel intensely. If you use pro-life framing, you get TWICE as many intensely pro-life folks as you get intensely pro-choice folks with pro-choice framing, even though you have a solid 60-40 pro-choice majority with even mild pro-choice framing. With even the worst pro-life framing, you don't get a large pro-life majority (check the polling on stuff like partial birth abortion) -- but you get double the bump in pro-life intensity (that is, strongly pro-choice folks decrease about 5% -- check Greenberg's polling during the partial birth debate -- while strongly pro-life folks increase by twice that.)

    What the Komen thing really shows is essentially the same lesson as the coming fiasco of Obama imposing contraception on Catholic employers -- folks REALLY need to get out of their silos and listen to folks they disagree with. What moves people from choice to life? And especially, what moves a sorta pro-life person to a strongly pro-life position? Cuz that is also the framing -- the facts, in some cases -- that moves folks from sorta pro-choice to sorta pro-life.

    Both Komen and the White House provoked spectacularly negative reactions that they didn't anticipate. I'm all for knock down, drag out fights that you need to have, so you have to win.

    But I'm against provoking fights we don't need, that we CAN'T win. Progressives should not be like Komen. This flap pretty much killed the Komen brand. They've burned their unequivocal image as a champion for women's health, because it never occurred to them that Planned Parenthood gets much of their support from the SAME people who supported Komen.

    The Obama folks should take the lesson: by forcing the contraception or close choice on Catholic institutions, they're picking a fight with allies they needed for health care reform -- and will need again, soon.

    The way this plays out will be framed by pro-life folks as a simple matter of religious freedom, one of the highest principles there is: the White House has given up the initiative and never anticipated the fight.

    Watch the Rule of 4 dynamics. They won't be pretty.

  • Mike S on February 05, 2012 10:59 PM:

    I think there's a more fundamental flaw in Douthat's argument. Suppose he's right that a majority of Americans think abortion should be illegal. It doesn't necessarily follow that all of them were relieved by, or even cared about, Komen Foundation's decision to defund funded Planned Parenthood's breast cancer activities, as Douthat suggests. There is no doubt at all that many people were outraged by Komen's action. The social media (hardly the same thing as the "mainstream media") erupted in protest and dismay at the decision -- and the mainstream media reported that reaction. Was there a similar counterbalancing collective joy or relief on the part of abortion opponents? I suppose it's possible, but I saw no signs of it, even though not all my Facebook "friends" are pro-choice and many are Catholic. Douthat provides no examples or evidence of any such strong feelings on the "pro-life" side and instead simply asserts that "for every American who greeted Komen’s shift with 'anger and outrage' (as Andrea Mitchell put it), there was probably an American who was relieved and gratified." Probably? Why? What makes him think that all those who think abortion should be illegal were outraged by the funding of Planned Parenthood? Many might not feel strongly at all, and many might actually approve of Planned Parenthood's (wholly lawful) activities promoting breast cancer screening and prevention. The media reported what was plain for all to see. It wasn't their task to report the invisible counter-protest that Ross Douthat imagined was occurring.

  • Danny on February 05, 2012 11:12 PM:


    Disagree on the Obama/contraceptive stuff. I think they know exactly what they're doing. The key here is that we're talking contraceptives - not abortion. Public opinion is much more lopsided in support of contraception, and crucially: while the Catholic church condemns the contraception most Catholic women use them. The whole thing tricks Republicans to put the culture war stuff front and center on an issue where they really don't have all that strong public support. There are no cute baby pictures to demagogue, only some religious dogma that life begins at conception. And many independents hate the repubs on culture war stuff, barring maybe the abortion issue...

  • exlibra on February 05, 2012 11:40 PM:

    Thanks, Rich Yeselson, for bringing up Douthat's op-ed in this forum; I've been fuming about it for hours, but couldn't be bothered to write to the NYTimes.

    Ross Douthat and David (Babbling) Brooks are the Times' "fraternal twins"; one writes about morality in faith, the other about morality in the marketplace (generalising a bit here), but both lie -- either directly or by implication (twisting the truth into pretzels) -- however slick they might be about it (esp when compared to the -- not slick at all -- Teabaggers and such.

    Even if we accept Douthat's dictum that 10% of PP's "business" (rather than 3%) is providing abortions, he fails to mention that 10 -- 10 individuals, not 10% -- of righteous citizens would have been enough to spare Sodom. Suddenly, Douthat and the Khomeini Foundation know better than than the God they claim to venerate?

    Douthat blathers on about PP being the largest provider of abortions in the country, without ever once venturing a guess as to why. If you have insurance, you can get your breast exam/mammogram anywhere. But, for an abortion, you're likely to have to go to PP, because so many other options are no longer available. So, for a breast exam, only the uninsured will come to PP; for an abortion, many more.

    With all the "stuff" that has come out about the Khomeini in the past 5 days (and not just the political preferences, but also their penchant for suing everyone who tries to use the word "cure", their off-balanced apportioning of funds to research/vs "management", etc, etc, etc), I'm just happy that they've got it in the neck from both sides. The left is not satisfied with their semi-retreat, and most people are not going to give to Khomeini ever again. The right, meanwhile, is equally pissed about the Khomeini's retreat from giving an unequivocal axe to the PP; *they* are not gonna give any money to the scammers, either. Serves 'em bloody right.

  • George on February 06, 2012 12:20 AM:

    The funniest thing here is that despite Rich's laudatory description of Douthat as "one of conservatism's most able polemicists," he effortlessly blows Douthat's column completely out of the water. If Komen never clearly came out as an anti-abortion organization, then -- unless they made the mistake of supposing that Komen did -- the horrible "liberal media" can't have been pillorying them for doing so, which is Douthat's whole argument. And that leaves open exactly the two points correctly made by Rich and commenters:

    -- That Komen was being hammered in large part for its duplicity and general stupidity; and
    -- That the MSM, far from leading the charge, were way behind the bloggers and social media and were mainly reporting, accurately, what others were saying.

    In other words, apart from the other defects also noted, Douthat's piece was almost entirely based on an incompetent reading of the facts of the situation, from which he went haring off in an entirely wrongheaded direction. He might be all that Rich suggests, but his current column is no proof of it -- quite the opposite.

  • Skip on February 06, 2012 12:23 AM:

    Obama "forcing" contraceptives? Hummmm...

    From my perspective, no secular person forces a religious person to take contraceptives, it is a choice to do so or not do so. When a religious organization takes contraceptives off the health care plan, for many lower-wage secular (or other) people, that could mean removing their choice if they can't afford the more costly options of contraceptive added on top of the cost of the health plan. Contraceptive use isn't cosmetic surgery, it's an option in the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and abortion, that other hot button of religionists.

    And on that topic...

    No secular person can force a religious person to get an abortion, either. It's a choice. Abortion outlawed by religious people removes that choice from law-abiding secular (or other) people.

    Catholics cry foul about having contraceptives on their health insurance, conservatives cry foul about abortions, but it isn't their choices that are being eroded, they've always retained the right to choose NOT to take the Pill or NOT to have an abortion, that personal definition of religious conscience that doesn't rely on the letter of the law, but rather on the spiritual. It's secular people who are being knocked back and forth as others decide if they CAN have a choice or not.

    Is Obama forcing the religious to suddenly take contraceptives? No, he isn't impacting their choice at all. What he is doing is keeping the choice open for those who may not fully subscribe to all the parameters of that singular ideology.

  • N.Wells on February 06, 2012 12:40 AM:

    I've been steaming about this for days now, and everything I've heard gets me more angry about them. Their high salaries and their bullying of other charities are bad enough, but I had not known that a charity that pushes "for the cure" was repulsive/stupid enough to fight against stem cell research for political and theological reasons, and they apparently they also lobbied against The Affordable Health Care Act.

    They lied blatantly and offensively at the outset, trying to justify a clearly political manoeuvre as sound management. They hired Handel, who was looking for ways to crush Planned Parenthood, and have otherwise bulked up with extremist right-wingers. They used a ginned-up partisan witch hunt as an excuse, without applying their own reasoning to Penn State and other grantees. They probably expected right-wingers to cheer, the news media to give them a pass, and the majority of people to not notice or to acquiesce, given Komen's size and good reputation.

    Then they got worse. Nancy Brinker's press conference was an insult to our intelligence, trying to call their actions nonpolitical. They jumped from rationalization to rationalization. They lied about moving away from education (as they still fund other organizations that do even more education). Their new-found distaste for "pass-through organizations" flies in the face of good practices of starting screening cheaply and accessibly and moving people on up to specialists as needed, and points out that they are the very essence of a pass-through organization. (Just donate to Planned Parenthood and others directly, and get a much bigger effect for your money.) Their recent 'reversal' is a classic 'not-pology': go away, shut up, keep giving, and we're keeping our options open for dealing with Planned Parenthood once the spotlight shines elsewhere.

    If they had just been up-front and said, 'we are dissociating from PP because they provide abortions', I'd have regretted it, but they are a private foundation and I wouldn't have been nearly as angry.

    I love the "unofficial translation" of the Komen "apology" that's been making the rounds: from http://www.dcjunkies.com/showthread.php?t=28659
    "We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that resulted in completely unexpected scrutiny of our CEO's unconscionably high salary ($450K+), obscenely high overhead to actual good ratio, longstanding links to Republican politicians, huge budget for taking oppressive legal actions against other charities that dare use the word 'cure,' vast marketing and lobbying budgets, and long-standing history of secretly lobbying against federal assistance to women with breast cancer.

    Based upon the last ten years, we truly had no idea that we couldn't do whatever the hell we wanted with gullible contributors' money. We thought that the corpse of our CEO's sister was an impenetrable shield that protected all of our actions from scrutiny or accountability. We appreciate your support while we try to figure out WTF has changed.

    However, although the sudden spike in scrutiny and precipitous drop in fundraising and sponsorships scared the crap out of us, we want to assure all of you that, even as we desperately attempt to salvage something out of the conflagration burning our brand to the ground, we will continue to flat-out lie to your face and generally assume you are all still such credulous imbeciles that we can shamelessly stick to obvious falsehoods or change our story from minute to minute as whim or panic dictate.

    Now please stop looking into our finances, lobbying and legal activities and strong political connections with right wing politicians. Stop it right now or Susan will be angry, very angry with you. Thank you."

  • matt w on February 06, 2012 1:04 AM:

    Somehow I don't think Douthat would react the same way if the Komen foundation pulled funding from Catholic hospitals that do screening, even though those hospitals are quite active combatants in the abortion controversy -- and also some of the most prominent militants against contraception, which as Danny points out is an extreme minority position.

  • rea on February 06, 2012 5:29 AM:

    Douthat’s is one of conservatism most able polemicists

    Damning with faint praise . . .

  • theAmericanist on February 06, 2012 8:16 AM:

    You guys have been leaping up and down, shouting and pointing at your blind spot -- now you're painting big circles around it. Ya might take a moment to consider how that looks from a different perspective.

    Danny: "Disagree on the Obama/contraceptive stuff. ...they know exactly what they're doing. ..Public opinion is much more lopsided in support of contraception, and crucially: while the Catholic church condemns the contraception most Catholic women use them. [it's] only some religious dogma that life begins at conception. And many independents hate the repubs on culture war stuff, barring maybe the abortion issue..."

    This won't be a referendum on contraception, because nobody is being denied access to it. This isn't a court case about someone getting fired by a Catholic institution because they use their own money to subscribe to the condom of the month club.

    Skip: "no secular person forces a religious person to take contraceptives...."

    But it's okay for the government to force a religious organization to pay for them?

    "When a religious organization takes contraceptives off the health care plan..."

    They've never HAD contraceptives on the health care plan. Ya think Catholic schools pay for teachers to get their tubes tied? This is a change in policy, which means it can't be a Constitutional right unless you figure we've somehow discovered a new one that nobody ever noticed before. Or do you have some SCOTUS decision that overturns the Hyde amendment? You're waay off on what's going on here.

    You guys are REALLY dense. This isn't about contraception. It's about whether the government can tell a religious organization to violate its teachings because it employs people.

    All of you enthusiastically shout "yes!" -- but you're blind to what the actual issue is (because you keep insisting it's about access to contraception, which it ain't), and even less capable of perceiving what's gonna happen:

    In the first place, this policy double-crosses key allies in getting health care passed. That shows other people in similar circumstances (like, um, the next vote in Congress on this one): don't trust the White House. They won't have your back.

    Second, Congress is going to vote on this one. Anybody think the Rs in the House won't vote to restore the historic rights of religious employers? Anybody think that Bob Casey isn't going to make this a major part of his Senate campaign - or that he will lack allies among the Ds running in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Nebraska, Virginia, and West Virginia? Right there, that's enough to lose the Senate vote, too. Hell, this probably puts a lock on Rubio for VP, and might give him the nomination in 2016 (assuming he doesn't win in the fall: which this makes more, not less likely.)

    Third, the Supremes are gonna rule on this one -- and quite possibly sooner, rather than later. The last time they ruled on this right of religious organizations as guaranteed by the First Amendment was 1986 when they held that religious organizations must be free to choose their doctrines and practices. Anybody think the Roberts Court is less favorable to that principle than 25 years ago?

    Finally, the great concern about the ACA was that it was over-reaching. Progressives never did get the simple fact that this powerful feeling (which dominated all the Rule of 4 polling, the vague conviction that we shouldn't go too far, too fast) took single payer, etc., off the table. That's why the support of people like Sister Carol Keenan was so critical to getting it passed in the first place. They reassured folks that the ACA wasn't such a radical step, it wasn't going to violate anybody's religious doctrines or force religious hospitals to close, it wasn't pro-choice OR pro-life.

    The Administration has now shown that they played people like Keenan for suckers. They've proven all the critics of the ACA correct

  • Lucia on February 06, 2012 8:21 AM:

    Yesterday I talked with a friend who is strongly pro-life and also strongly in favor of the other 97 percent of PP's work, and thoroughly disgusted with Komen. Anecdote =/= data, of course, but I think this is what Komen didn't anticipate: that most people's abortion stance isn't the linchpin of their politics and of how they decide where their charitable money goes. I think the reason they didn't is that their board and management is stacked with social conservatives who do work that way.

  • Skip on February 06, 2012 8:58 AM:

    TheAmericanist, yes, I do.

    I don't ever use Viagra, but I have to pay for its availability on my health plan. Just because I choose not to use it or regardless of what my opinions about it are, it's still available for others to use, if they so choose.

    We are already on a precipice about preexisting conditions and employers wanting to pick and choose what/who they will or will not cover, all neatly packaged with some excuse about costs or religion or what have you. If they're going to provide health insurance, provide it, if not, get out it and increase worker pay so the employees can get their own insurance, tailored to what THE WORKER needs, not what the EMPLOYER dictates. And so what if they've not had it before, read up on the dissension among Catholics after the Pope said birth control was still against God's will. Choices? How about consequences? How would YOUR life be with a) an extra 6 kids or b) absolutely without sex as the only "religious" means of preventing unwanted kids.

    Taken altogether, there are some serious messages being sent to the public by religious leaders. Lack of contraceptives, no abortion; like a lot more kids, wanted or unwanted, on this earth is going to SOLVE problems? Religious leaders continue to stand on single sticking points, without addressing the vast scope the entire issue from A to Z, because they can't. They don't have answers either, they just stand on the letter of law as their defense for forcing people down hard roads. Obama stepped in for the ones being denied choice, Catholics who understand the impacts of unwanted pregnancies. Obama isn't stepping on the ones who can choose not to use contraceptives as their religious right.

  • max on February 06, 2012 9:11 AM:

    Rose on February 05, 2012 6:45 PM:

    Rose said: "So that was Ross Douthat the fool I saw on CNN's "Reliable" Sources this morning. Howie did not challenge him on any of his bull spit about how it was the liberal media that blew it all out of proportion. I should have known better than to watch. No one called Douthat on his statment that Planned Parenthood is the biggest provider of abortion services and accusing Andrea Mitchell of not being a journalist, that she took sides in this!"

    Great post and it deserves a second look. Douthat missed the point and Howie Kurtz is as dumb as a box of rocks. Andrea Mitchell did a great job with that insensitive GOP bigot, Brinker, in her interview. Kudos to Mitchell. Komen has politized itself and thrown in its lot with the anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-evolution boneheads who make life more difficult for poor women in America. Donate to Planned Parenthood. Ditch Komen.

  • SYSPROG on February 06, 2012 9:22 AM:

    This is the 'right to life's new talking point...and yes Max that was Matt Lewis on spin his crap. They are trying to spin that it was grassroots by MILLIONS of women that had worked for Komen and felt betrayed. Look. Komen can give money to whoever they want and SO CAN WE. We can lobby donors to your organization they same way you do. We are sick of your lying about PP and sick of how you pretend you care about 'life' when you are willing to throw 97% of the work PP does with women under the bus.

  • Jim Pharo on February 06, 2012 9:37 AM:

    Way to buy into the rights framing.

    There was nothing about this that had anything to do with abortion. No abortion funding came from Komen, none was impacted by this. The anti-woman forces want people to THINK this has something to do with abortion, but it doesn't. That's why Douhat's entire point here is duplicitous: he is trying to elide the distinction between Panned Parenthood and abortions. He wants people to think that anything Planned Parenthood does is controversial because they provide abortions. But so do hundreds of hospitals, etc., that people donate money to without controversy.

    If we don't start thinking more clearly we are not going to be successful.

  • theAmericanist on February 06, 2012 9:37 AM:

    Skip writes: "read up on the dissension among Catholics after the Pope said birth control was still against God's will..."

    You're new around here. A few weeks back, I sketched the history on this one -- the more important part of Catholic dissent was BEFORE Humana Vitae. (John XXIII appointed a panel that included -- can you believe it? -- married couples for advice on the morality of contraception. That's why it wasn't on the agenda for Vatican II. They hadn't reached a conclusion when John XXIII died, so Paul VI simply packed the panel, adding among others an obscure Polish bishop, soon to be raised to Cardinal. For political reasons, that guy didn't travel outside Poland for a few years, so he never attended a single one of the panel's meetings. His dissent from their findings was the foundation for Humana Vitae, and for the Vatican's set-in-stone doctrine now, which is all an elaborate rationalization for authoritarianism.)

    You also confirm my point -- like I said, you guys are drawing big rings around your blind spot and POINTING at it.

    The US government is not authorized to take sides WITHIN a religion. It is not the business of the US government that Roman Catholicism bans contraception, sterilization, and abortion. Every time one of you guys mentions how many Catholics disregard the Church's teachings, you confirm that a significant motivation for this policy is to stick it to the Vatican.

    I've noted before that there is an interesting historic parallel here, the way Congress went after the Mormon's over polygamy in the 19th century. Somebody REALLY should ask Romney an informed question about it, because his great grandfather fled the US because he was a polygamist. In that case, the LDS chose to revise its policy (the, um, Holy Spirit spoke) because Congress brought political pressure -- and not incidentally, offered statehood. (And the Transcontinental Railroad -- the LDS got major stock in Union Pacific.)

    This one isn't like that. It isn't about chasing a Church to stop doing something illegal -- it's not unlawful to NOT pay for contraception, unless you're shoplifting.

    It's about forcing Catholic institutions to pay for contraception, or close: they will not be able to stay open unless they cease being Catholic.

    The sorta unspoken goal -- a premise, really -- is this odd idea that the Church will just fold, that they will accept the inevitable and start paying for contraception and sterilizations in their health insurance plans. You can see it in every post -- you guys simply cannot imagine a religious institution that takes its identity as a religious institution so seriously that it would close, rather than do something it regards as wrong.

    And you're so sure that you want to use the power of the US government to force the Roman Catholic Church to side with American Catholics (so to speak) rather than the Pope.

    Think that over on its own terms for awhile. You're not advocating freedom OF religion. You're demanding freedom FROM religion.

  • PhillyCooke on February 06, 2012 9:40 AM:

    I actively support Planned Parenthood, but what I found most bothersome about the Komen Foundation's move was its willingness to abandon a view of working together on issues of common cause. Does Komen want breast cancer prevention and detection to become an issue that only the right wing supports? Do they want to actively discourage people who are supporting those efforts if they don't ALSO agree with Komen on a completely unrelated topic?
    Health causes in America have long been the last refuge of bipartisanship. Bitterly divided foes could always agree that cancer was bad and everyone worked together to fight it. The Komen move was a crack in that bulwark, and I suspect that's why people were so vehement in their outrage.
    Unfortunately, I suspect that having now breached this dam, we'll see others flood in; and maybe one day we'll have the right-wing and left-wing versions of all of our healthcare organizations. To me, that's a dystopian future.

  • theAmericanist on February 06, 2012 10:05 AM:


  • ceilidth on February 06, 2012 10:18 AM:

    Douthat an able polemiscist? Only for thumbsuckers. He's a guy--they are almost always guys--who drinks the Catholic kool aid on contraception and the sanctity of the poor sperm foiled in its holy mission. What he missed entirely and I think many men have missed is that for many of us Planned Parenthood was the place we went when our own doctors refused to prescribe birth control. They gave us control over our own bodies and we haven't forgotten. If you want Planned Parenthood to stop doing abortions, support contraception or keep your zipper up. But Douthat is not about that because he's still in the ancient misogynistic paradigm of controlling women's bodies.

  • Peter C on February 06, 2012 10:23 AM:

    HONEST????? Give me a break!
    Douthat is a propagandist and an ass.
    Just as a stopped clock is right twice a day, Douthat occasionally says something inadvertently true. That's far from making him honest, though.

  • worcestergirl on February 06, 2012 10:47 AM:

    Rather than let consevatives like Douthart frame the debate, liberals need to push it back into their faces:

    It is well proven that the most liberal social policies (access to medical care, low poverty rates, good education) result in the lowest rates of abortion. If Douthart really cares about abortion to the extent he claims, then he most certainly would be a liberal.

    It is also well proven that the policies pushed by the Republican party (no access to safe abortions, no safety net for even things like WIC, abstinance only) would make the matter worse, not better. Instead, making abortion unavailable and unsafe is the main focus of so-called pro-lifers. There is nothing life affirming about poor women butchering themselves out of desperation, or teen agers getting epidemic clusters of STDs.

    There is nothing moral about the rank dishonesty and phoney moralizing of right wingers like Douthart.

  • LAC on February 06, 2012 11:18 AM:

    Douthart is a conservatool who must have been first in line to pick up the freshly copied list of GOP talking points this weekend to the Komen clusterfreak. I heard the same crap spewed by the morons on "This week" with George the leprechan. And did you know that Catholics are a monolith that votes only on abortion issues? Neither did I. But apparently the patron saint of "My conservative soul is available for rent", George Will, "thinks" so.

  • Texas Aggie on February 06, 2012 11:58 AM:

    "Douthat is one of conservatism most able polemicists"

    If this is true, then God help the conservatives. The very first time I read something by him, I thought he lived in la-la land, and nothing I've seen since has changed my mind. The man has absolutely no ability to think rationally.

    "10% of its patients come for abortions, and that abortions are its biggest revenue driver. "

    The man is flat out lying. The only place you find large numbers of women coming for abortions is in cities where fundamentalist christianist universities have a major presence. Starting in the late fall and going until summer vacation, they get a rush of coeds who haven't been doing their birth control. This I got from a PP nurse who worked at one such facility.

    All the other facilities spend the vast majority of their resources on providing PAP smears, STD diagnosis, contraceptives and all the rest of what constitutes reproductive health.

  • Joe on February 06, 2012 11:58 AM:

    Both PP and Komen are private organizations, and far from unique, and, while both quite large, far from monopolies. If people wish to give to other breast cancer organizations, they're free to do so. If Komen wants to contribute to other women's health groups to provide services, eyre free to do so. The former isn't a problem: there's quite a number of breast cancer orgs out there, many growing now because of this debacle. It's the latter that's the problem: There isn't another women's health org with the breadth and reach of PP. If people don't like the fact PP provides abortions, why doesn't someone just start another org that does the 97% of the non-abortion activities PP does? It's because then they'd have to believe women need all of those too, and abortion foes just simply aren't willing to. And thus they moan and PP and say "no" without providing an alternative, a predicament that sounds awfully familiar.

  • Crissa on February 07, 2012 2:11 AM:

    Ross 'Doubt that'.

    Pretty much everything he says is a lie.