Within hours of the decision - made in December and revealed Wednesday - Komen's rationale was exposed as bogus and its credibility seriously damaged. As of last night, more than 170 negative reviews on the nonprofits-following Guide Star website had reduced the charity's rating to one star out of a possible five.
According to Komen, it had no problem with services provided by Planned Parenthood, the largest women's-health provider in the nation. No, the organization insisted, the decision rested on a new policy that it would not give money to any organization that was "under investigation" by any branch of the federal, state or local government. And, since an ultra-conservative member of Congress from Florida had begun an investigation into Planned Parenthood based on several patently false charges - in particular, that Planned Parenthood illegally funnels into abortion services government money intended for other women's health services - Komen said that its hands were tied.
It turns out, though, that the rule was adopted after the Congressional investigation was begun and affects, you guessed it, exactly one organization: Planned Parenthood. And the new vice president of the organization, Karen Handel, recently ran for governor of Georgia (endorsed by Sarah Palin), promising to cut government funding for Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings.
The Internet is awash in activity. Last night, Planned Parenthood had received contributions of $650,000 - essentially the value of the grant it lost - to continue the breast-cancer screenings that it had been providing. The foundation claimed that it would find other ways to serve the estimated 170,000 low-income women whose breast exams and mammograms would have been de-funded, but no other organization has a comparable network of clinics and services. (Go to www.plannedparenthood.org to contribute.)
In the short term, it appears, Planned Parenthood will be able to continue to provide cancer-screening services. In the long term, though, its future - and the future of women's health - is at risk if the conservative vendetta against the organization doesn't stop. It has persisted so long because too many people who know better have not taken a stand. Now is the time.