Anti-abortion advocates are cheering a big huzzah this week over the decision by the advocacy group Susan Komen For The Cure to cut its ties with Planned Parenthood. As noted here and here, the Komen folks aren't always the friendliest of sorts when it comes to organizations that want to use the word "cure" as part of their fundraising campaigns. Moreover, their single-minded advocacy of mammography as the critical piece in reducing breast cancer mortality may be misguided due to increasing amounts of scientific evidence indicating otherwise, for which their response appears to be to ignore it. So their kow-towing to groups by-and-large hostile to the idea of women's freedom is only a marginal surprise. The only question is how many women will now be willing to march in all those lovely pink-ribboned Breast Cancer Awareness Walks in the springtime. In Boston, where the Billy Rubin Blog makes its home, I'm suddenly dubious that we're going to see the same level of enthusiasm as in previous years.
Amanda Marcotte nicely dissects the Komen action in Slate here. She notes: "No matter how much anti-choicers wish otherwise, it's not feasible to create an approach to women's health that separates good girl concerns from bad girl concerns. For instance, many women land in gynecologist's offices seeking contraceptive services and cervical-cancer screenings, and doctors use that opportunity to teach the art of breast self-exam." Well written, indeed.
The episode reminds us here at Billy Rubin Central of an old yarn from our med school days. It was supplied by an OB/GYN resident from Romania who had lived--indeed, survived--through Nicolae Ceausescu's regime, which, for those whose history isn't up to snuff, can be tersely summed up as "less cuddly than Josef Stalin". Anyway, Dr. Resident OB/GYN was in med school during the regime, and saw some unimaginable things. What kind of things? Watching women die from septic abortions, for starters. As abortions were illegal in Romania, they were performed much as they were in the US before Roe v. Wade, often by back-alley butchers with little or no medical training in nowhere-near-aseptic conditions.
"I used to see it all the time," my resident told me in the middle of the night while we were on call. "These women would roll in with sepsis from a botched abortion all the time, and the police would find out, and they wouldn't allow us to treat them until they gave up the name of the person who performed the abortion. So we'd see women die all the time, refusing to implicate anyone. This was bread-and-butter in my medical school." It nearly made me vomit all those years ago, but perhaps this would be music to Rick Santorum's ears.
True, it's not quite the same as Komen's move, though the downstream consequence--let's call it the cut-off-their-breasts-to-spite-their-vaginas policy--may well be the same: a heap of discarded ta-tas and mounds of dead women.
If you wish to make a donation to Planned Parenthood shortly, consider doing it in the name of Karen Handel, Komen's Senior Vice President for Public Policy since April 2011. Handel, an anti-abortion crusader and former candidate for Governor of Georgia (state, not country, lest the Romania reference mix anyone up) was overtly opposed to Planned Parenthood during her run, and may have been one of the critical players in forming Komen's new policy.
Various hat-tips to Facebook friends, the Point of Law blog, Amanda Marcotte of Slate, and TBogg of FireDogLake.