Komen controversy shows power of informed women

“Coercion and intimidation are the tools of mobs and tyrants…” This was the final, stinging line in conservative editorialist Kathleen Parker’s article on the Susan G. Komen controversy.

Her message to the women responsible for the Komen reversal was this: using your voice to express opposition is considered to be an act of intimidation, a mob-mentality that has no place in a democracy.

I disagree.

The women who used social media to persuade the Komen Foundation to reverse their decision should be applauded. They did exactly what an informed citizenry should do when they feel an injustice has occurred. They voiced their opposition.

Ms. Parker said Komen is well within its rights as a non-profit to allocate its money to any organization it chooses. And she’s correct. Ms. Parker also said that if women were angry about Komen’s decision, they could skip the fundraising events. Right again! And that’s precisely why Komen changed course.

When thousands upon thousands of women, the vast majority of Komen’s supporters, decide to stop participating in the Komen events, the Komen Foundation loses. They need the support of these women. But these women do not need Komen. They can take their dollars and their support elsewhere, and that’s exactly what they said they’d do if Komen ended its support of Planned Parenthood.

That’s the heart of democracy. It’s about voting with your dollars. It’s about letting organizations and others know what you value, and in this case it’s clear women value the services Planned Parenthood provides.

While the far right has tried to paint Planned Parenthood as an abortion mill, (even though abortion only accounts for 3% of its services), millions of women know it as something much, much different. College women and low-income women know Planned Parenthood as a place that provides gynecological exams regardless of a woman’s ability to pay. They know it as a place that provides free or greatly reduced contraceptives. They know it as a place that saves lives.

Women’s reproductive health has long been the subject of political controversy. Why? Because giving a woman the tools to decide when to have a baby, if she’ll have a baby, and how many babies she might have, gives a woman more freedom over her body and her life. And let’s face it; some people do want women to have that type of control.

It wasn’t until 1965 that married women were allowed to legally use birth control. And even now, in 2012, the Catholic Church is up in arms over the Affordable Care Act’s provision that mandates insurance coverage for contraceptives. Notice I said insurance coverage, not forced use of contraceptives. No one is telling the Catholic Church that they must bless the use of birth control. No one is forcing women to take the pill.

And why is the Catholic Church so upset? Is it because they feel the government has crossed a line, or is it because they realize their teachings on contraceptives are irrelevant? It’s been widely reported that 98% of Catholic women have used some form of birth control. 98 percent. It seems clear that Catholic women have chosen reliable family planning over church dogma.

But the real hypocrisy is this: if the Church views abortion as murder, then they should be supportive of all means that help prevent abortion. And the easiest way to prevent abortion is to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And as we all know, the easiest way to prevent unwanted pregnancies is to use a reliable method of birth control.

I’ve never met a single woman who desired or planned for an abortion. Nor do I know a single woman who fails to see the correlation between contraceptive use and unintended pregnancies.

Planned Parenthood does more to STOP abortions every year than it does to administer them. That’s a truth that most women understand. And that’s why so many women, both pro-life and pro-choice, support Planned Parenthood.

The Komen reversal didn’t come about because a group of irrational women held them hostage. The Komen reversal came about because women were shocked to find out that an organization that claims to support and save women’s lives would defund and devalue another organization that supports and saves women’s lives.

This was democracy, by women and for women, at its best.

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