This Week’s Good News

8 Feb

I don’t know if anyone else is celebrating, but the last week or so has culminated into some pretty good news for the socially progressive crowd. In case you missed it, here is my account of the news.

On January 31, Planned Parenthood’s President, Cecile Richards, sent an email with the news that Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation had “announced that it will stop supporting lifesaving breast cancer screening for low-income and underserved women at Planned Parenthood health centers.” They cited “politically motivated groups and individuals” as the sources that had “undermine[d] women’s access to care.” It was profoundly disappointing and disturbing news. I wondered, as many people did, why a group whose mission is to “save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures” would want to cut off funding that went toward providing preventative care for low-income and underserved women.

The next day, February 1, Cecile Richards sent another message that thanked everyone for the outpouring of support that they had received in the wake of the Komen announcement. It included a link to a letter that pledged supporters would stand with Planned Parenthood, and I think it worked because I saw it everywhere. Okay, it wasn’t up on telephone poles, but it was all over the internet.

That same day, The Los Angeles Times published an article by Amina Khan which discussed some of the problems with Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation hiring the “pro-life Christian” Karen Handel as vice president of public policy. “There’s no proof that Handel had a role in the foundation’s decision to end a relationship between two major women’s health organizations that’s paid for some 170,000 breast exams and 6,400 mammogram referrals since the groups began their partnership,” but the article points out that “Handel has made no bones about her anti-abortion—and anti-Planned Parenthood—position” and quotes a blog post Handel wrote that explained her pro-life and anti-Planned Parenthood stance.

One day later, February 2, Planned Parenthood sent a message that thanked their supporters again, specifically mentioning Mayor Bloomberg. Mayor Mike Bloomberg reportedly “made a generous offer to match donations to the Planned Parenthood Breast Health Fund” to the tune of $250,000. Some people do care about women’s health.

After getting tons of support, attention, and props for what they do, Planned Parenthood won. Well, I’d call it a win for Planned Parenthood, and for women. Cecile Richards sent a message on February 3 with the subject “BREAKING: Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation restores partnership.”The email saidl that Komen “announced that it will continue to make grant funds for breast health and education available to Planned Parenthood health centers.” Boom. Roasted.

I received an email from the WeAreUltraviolet campaign on February 6 which went into further detail about Karen Handel. They quoted a line that Handel allegedly said (which was cited in this HuffPo article): “If we just say it’s about investigations, we can defund Planned Parenthood and no one can blame us for being political.” Now that’s class. The Ultraviolet email urged supporters of Planned Parenthood and women’s health to sign a petition “telling Komen’s CEO that Handel must go.” That petition reportedly collected more that 37,000 signatures, and a similar petition by CREDO Action garnered 50,000.

With all of the criticism of Komen and Handel, and support for Planned Parenthood, it’s no wonder that Handel resigned on February 7. Forbes published her resignation letter.

Here is a mash-up of her statements with my thoughts (Handel’s in italics):

As you know, I have always kept Komen’s mission and the women we serve as my highest priority.

As long as they are Christian.

We can all agree that this is a challenging and deeply unsettling situation for all involved in the fight against breast cancer.

It is deeply unsettling that you care more about your own politics than the health of women, yes.

As you will recall, the Board specifically discussed various issues, including the need to protect our mission by ensuring we were not distracted or negatively affected by any other organization’s real or perceived challenges.

Perceived challenges are a bitch, especially when they are made up.

I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it.

Translation: I am deeply disappointed that people found me out. [Wario laugh]

What was a thoughtful and thoroughly reviewed decision – one that would have indeed enabled Komen to deliver even greater community impact…

Deliver even greater community impact by cutting off the icky parts of the community.

The End.

So, that’s my run-down of the Planned Parenthood/Komen drama, but there’s even more good news! A California court overturned Prop 8!

Reuters reported that “an appeals court on Tuesday found California’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional in a case that may lead to a showdown in the Supreme Court.” The ruling is beautiful:

“Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”

Supporters of marriage rights for same-sex couples know that this is definitely not the end, and not even the end for California. Several sources are claiming that it will likely lead to a Supreme Court case, whereas others believe that the Supreme Court justices may decline to hear it. I don’t know how likely either outcome is, but I look forward to hearing more, and for now, I am celebrating the ruling of Prop 8’s unconstitutionality.

I wish I had more to report on the Prop 8 ruling because it looks like it is less important than the Komen/PP results based on how much material I have listed. The truth is that it is definitely not lesser news; I just don’t have as much drama to share. I hope to learn more as the fight continues.

(Feeling angsty and in need of something to fire you up for activism? Read about the possibility of the Obama administration allowing for religious exceptions to birth control mandates in future health care plans.)

Come on, tell us what you really think.

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