Editor's note: This is not today's only article on Komen and Planned Parenthood. In addition to our news report, you might also enjoy Albert Mohler's argument that there is "no neutral ground when it Comes to Planned Parenthood," Matthew Lee Anderson's examination of "The Politics of Breast Cancer," and Russell Moore's warning on "the wrong lessons to draw from the Komen-Planned Parenthood debacle."

When news broke that breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure was halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates, abortion opponents cheered. The relationship had been a sticking point that limited donations from those who wanted to help fight breast cancer but didn't want to support Planned Parenthood, a $1 billion organization that performs more than 300,000 abortions a year.

Even though Komen grants to Planned Parenthood were relatively small, working out to $680,000 last year, its supporters were enraged. Planned Parenthood fans filled up social media sites with complaints against Komen's heresy. An unrelenting media and political blitz began. Within two days, Komen backtracked.

So what began as a victory in the fight against abortion ended in what seemed a particularly cruel defeat, a reminder of how much elite culture is aligned in defense of abortion and its largest provider. But there is a silver lining to the disaster, and not just for textbook writers looking for case studies in catastrophic public relations failures.

Now everyone knows that Komen funnels money to the abortion business. For years, pro-life activists had been attempting to alert Komen donors to its entanglement with Planned Parenthood. Progress had been made in recent years, with Komen acknowledging and attempting to downplay its association. But now, only those who don't watch the nightly news, read a newspaper, or have a Facebook account are oblivious to Komen's relationship with the abortion business. The media pushed the line that declining to fund Planned Parenthood is political, but they may be surprised to find out that funding Planned Parenthood is also viewed as political.

Planned Parenthood's lack of mammogram services has been exposed. In March 2011, Congress was debating budget cuts. Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards gave an interview where she claimed these cuts would hurt Planned Parenthood's ability to offer mammograms. Pro-life activist Lila Rose released a video documenting that Planned Parenthood facilities don't offer mammograms. While Planned Parenthood clinics do offer referrals to medical facilities that offer mammograms, Komen's initial grant policy revision indicated that such "pass-through facilities" are less effective than facilities that actually test and treat breast health. The Komen kerfuffle also reminded Americans that Planned Parenthood is the country's largest abortion provider. Planned Parenthood likes to present itself as a benevolent provider of women's health services, downplaying the 300,000-plus abortions it performs annually. Until the Komen media frenzy, many people probably believed Planned Parenthood did much more than offer prescriptions for mammograms.

Article continues below

Any pretense of media objectivity on the abortion issue has been destroyed. The week preceding Komen's announcement, abortion opponents who attended the annual March for Life Washington were ignored, as per usual. And while some in the mainstream media mentioned the Obama administration's mandate that Catholic and some other religious charities be forced to choose between serving the poor and violating deeply-held beliefs on abortion, birth control and sterilization, others didn't mention it, even after dozens of bishops addressed the issue.

But when Komen announced that Planned Parenthood would be subject to new grant criteria, the mainstream media covered the story with a passion and bias rarely seen. MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell interviewed Komen's founder, nearly breaking down as she shared her personal rage and disappointment. Mitchell interrupted Komen CEO Nancy Brinker every time she attempted to respond to a hostile question. At one point, Mitchell questioned how Brinker could hire a pro-life woman considering that Komen is supposed to be "bipartisan." ABC led its nightly news with an advocacy piece indistinguishable from a Planned Parenthood fundraising appeal. Planned Parenthood's breast health efforts were grossly exaggerated, only critics of Komen's decision to halt its Planned Parenthood relationship were interviewed, and the piece ended with Sawyer and a reporter puzzled as to how Komen could ever consider declining to fund Planned Parenthood.

It's helpful to know precisely how aligned the media and Planned Parenthood are, particularly when trying to fight against abortion and for conscience protections.

Planned Parenthood is damaged goods. The Daily Caller's Mary Katharine Ham joked that Planned Parenthood is "The Hotel California of charitable donations." Abortion rights supporter Will Wilkinson said it appeared Planned Parenthood was "throwing its weight around, knocking a few pieces of china off the shelves, sending a message to its other donors: 'Nice foundation you got there. Wouldn't want anything to, you know, happen to it.'"

Article continues below

While the short-term gains are indisputable—Planned Parenthood won a qualified reversal from Komen, reaffirmed their support in the mainstream media and had a field day with fundraising—the long-term gains are not. Bullying is not a good long-term fundraising strategy. As The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf asked, "Won't potential Planned Parenthood donors/partners now be reluctant to start relationship, lest they want to end it?" Further, abortion opponents may note who supported Planned Parenthood (which is not a major provider of mammograms) over Komen, which has done more than any other organization to fund breast cancer research, testing and treatment. Rich Lowry reported that major companies were threatening to cut off funding to Komen unless it backtracked. Lance Armstrong's charity LiveStrong gave Planned Parenthood $100,000 to protest Komen. All of a sudden, LiveStrong has been tarred with abortion politics, a move that may hurt its reputation.

Recent polling data from Gallup shows that the country is evenly divided between those who identify as pro-choice and those who identify as pro-life. Planned Parenthood and its supporters in the media were able to bully Komen into amending its new grant policy. But they did so at the cost of clarifying some important debates about abortion, actual health services, media bias, and political engagement.

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a writer based in Washington, D.C., and was a Christianity Today columnist from 2009 to 2011. She blogs at GetReligion and edits Ricochet.

Related Elsewhere:

Other articles on the Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood include:

The Pink Ribbon and the Dollar Sign | The wrong lessons to draw from the Komen-Planned Parenthood debacle. By Russell D. Moore (Feb. 3, 2012)
Komen Reverses Course, Will Not Ban Planned Parenthood from Applying for Funding | The breast cancer awareness foundation had earlier said it would not fund the nation's largest abortion provider. (Feb. 3, 2012)
After Komen, the Next Big Planned Parenthood Fight | Pro-life groups target $487 million in taxpayer funding for the nation's largest abortion provider. (Feb. 1, 2012)
Pink Stink: Komen Drops Planned Parenthood Support | Move comes after Bible spat, debate on breast-cancer activism. (Jan. 31, 2012)