Rants and Raves

What?? Anti-Komen protesters are Bullies??

Saturday, Feb 18, 2012 12:55 pm

By Tim Stevens

One of the more interesting responses to The Susan Komen Foundation’s decision to pull  funding from Planned Parenthood was The National Review blog post by Daniel Foster entitled “You Should Find the Anti-Komen Backlash Disgusting, Even If You’re Pro-Choice.”

 While I urge you to check out the article for yourself, let me just give you the broad strokes. Essentially, Foster argues that Komen had the right to defund Planned Parenthood (PP), that there was nothing inappropriate about the choice, and that those who chose to protest via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, carrier pigeon, et al behaved in an immoral and aggressive manner. He ultimately draws the comparison between those protesters (largely politically left-leaning pro-abortion feminists, he asserts) and individuals who bully people weaker than themselves. It is, shall we say, a provocative thesis.

Before I get into the meat of it, I feel I should make two important points. First, despite what seems to be the focus of all the reporting about PP, most of what the organization does is not related to abortion. In fact, it is only represents a few percentage points of their overall budget. Additionally, the Komen funds were specifically designated only for breast cancer prevention-related expenses. This cannot be overstated.

Second, it should be noted that the Susan G. Komen Foundation is not a monolithic organization. While the national Foundation’s position was to defund Planned Parenthood, the Connecticut branch of the organization made the choice not to follow this edict.

These facts acknowledge Foster is not wrong that, regardless of the reasons, Komen can do as it wishes with its donations. As far as I am aware, there is nothing illegal about altering where a nonprofit uses its funds provided it is still towards their mission and not to, say, give weapons to the Contras or line their own pockets. So while people may have donated to Komen in part because of their relationship with PP, it does not represent a violation of contract for Komen to instead decide they would rather send that money to a different organization. Again, this is as far as I know. There may be contract laws involved here I am unaware of, but I have seen no such assertions anywhere.

That said, Komen donors can still be plenty angry to see their money go elsewhere. That is not illegal or morally wrong and it is definitely not bullying. In the same way any consumer can express their disappointment with a company’s direction or products by writing negative reviews, choosing to buy other products, or writing letters to the corporation, individual donors are free to tell non-profits how they feel about what is being done with their money. This is a benchmark of the free market. It is, in fact, how it is supposed to work. You do not like a company’s product or how an organization spends its money, you take your cash elsewhere. That is not bullying; that is pretty much as American as you can be.

The goals of those who chose to pull their money from Komen and take it elsewhere are not what matters. Many of the lapsed donors have asserted that affecting change at the foundation was not a primary goal, and there is no specific evidence that only “far”’ leftists were the ones doing so. But even if both were true, what of it? Do donors’ political beliefs or desire to sway the policies of a foundation they support make them unworthy of exercising the power of their dollars?

Flip the situation. Imagine if Komen had never funded Planned Parenthood, decided to do so, and was persuaded otherwise by people pledging to take their money elsewhere because they opposed PP’s birth control policies. Would it matter if they were moderates or “far” rightists? Would Foster be so quick to call then bullies or would he praise them? If I had to guess, it would be the latter. And that would be a perfectly valid choice.

Yet Foster’s piece characterizes the recent Komen critics not as involved consumers or donors but as thugs, noting “…there’s something quite a bit different, something creepy and not a little despicable, about the Planned Parenthood set’s besmirching Komen’s good name across a thousand platforms for having the audacity to stop giving them free money.” Suddenly, according to Foster, taking your money where you think it will be used in a manner most in line with your political or moral rights is not an act of freedom but equivalent to pushing a weak kid into a locker. For me, the outrage here is not the idea of people voting with their dollars. It is the idea that Foster and his like-minded cronies would consider such voting outrageous.

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