Ross Douthat and Planned Parenthood are Honest; The Komen Foundation is Not

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?