In general, it’s fair to categorize me as a liberal. I’m never thrilled with labels, though, because they oversimplify. I have a slight lean toward libertarianism, because I want the government to quit interfering with my wallet and my life decisions. It’s only a slight lean, though, because I do believe that the government needs to provide a safety net for the members of our society who need one (short or long term); because I appreciate things like defense (when justified!!!), roads and garbage pickup; because the government has a right to make rules about my actions if they could hurt other people; and because I can live with governmental investments in things like space, education and medicine because those investments tend to have a high payback for us as a society.
I’m also uncomfortable with the idea that I must support all causes on “our side” without question, so I can be an uncomfortable ally for some. (I suspect I’d be an even more uncomfortable ally for conservatives, if I were one, but that may be a bit unfair – I do know a number of conservatives who think for themselves and don’t walk a party line.)
All of this background is to say that while I do think the Susan G. Komen foundation acted in bad faith in pulling their money out from Planned Parenthood, I’m not entirely comfortable with the “How dare they even question Planned Parenthood!?!” response I’ve been seeing from those on my side. (Liberal, not liberal, whatever, I do consider supporters of PP as “my side”.)
The investigation on PP, while clearly politically motivated, was due to an accusation that they were using funds earmarked for other services to fund abortions. There have been other similar accusations in the past and some audit findings of overbilling. Some of these were also probably politically motivated, for instance one audit complained when services to pregnant women and counseling visits were billed as “family planning” – I can’t see how they aren’t. Still, it seems like a reasonable thing to be concerned about if you’re given money to an organization and you only support part of their mission. (None of these accusations worry me, anyway, because I support all parts of PP’s mission.)
So the SGK foundation *could* have had legitimate concerns. They could have – but they didn’t, as proved by their actions. First, there should never have been a question, because they should have been keeping track all along. If I were giving around half a million a year to an organization and earmarking it for a particular thing, I’d be expecting an accounting every year. Second, if they did have reason to worry, the next thing should have been the investigation that they were dong an investigation of their own to see how the money was used. Next, if they hadn’t done all that, the thing would be to announce that they were going to transfer their money from PP to some other organization that could supply cancer screenings to poor women. Finally, if they’d totally screwed all that up and didn’t have somewhere else to put the money but felt they couldn’t support PP for one minute longer (not true, since the problem was only that PP was “under investigation”, not that anything was proven), they should have announced that they were in an intense effort to find or set up another way to provide those services, and that they would put the money into it as soon as possible.
They didn’t do any of that, but instead said effectively, “We don’t like you so we’re gonna take our funds and sit on them. Nyeeaaaahhhh!” I think this is the beginning of a very difficult period for the Susan G. Komen foundation, because they’ve lost a lot of trust, and deservedly. No one opposes breast cancer treatment, screening and research; a group truly dedicated to those aims would strive to bring together people in support of those goals, no matter how they disagreed about other issues.
I don’t like the idea that PP is a sacred cow whose motives can’t be questioned. It may even be true that they’ve miscategorized expenses in a few localized cases, based on the audit findings. I’m not too worried about that, because in all the cases I’ve heard of those funds are still going to provide services to women who need them, not to executive salaries or high levels of administration. I think we need to question ourselves and our allies, to prove we can answer those questions and to preserve our right to stand on the high ground. I trust PP to be able to stand up for itself and answer those questions honestly.
The SGK decision has already been reversed, due to the enormous outcry, and I’m proud to have been a part of that. But also, I was waiting until I got home to send my own contribution to PP, and I’ve gone ahead and donated to them anyway. I gave the money to their general fund, not the breast cancer fund, because I believe that all women deserve decent health care and the right to make decisions about their own bodies. I trust PP as my partner in that fight. It’s because I trust them and myself that I think anyone is welcome to ask questions – because we can answer them proudly.