A few days ago, I wrote here about an article in the Washington Post that was clearly misleading to its readers.
That was an example of one way media distortion happens. Today, we saw another, this time from the left side of the political spectrum.
As I’m sure everyone out there is aware, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Foundation had passed new regulations governing its grant process that would have ended its funding for Planned Parenthood. The ensuing outcry made them reverse their decision.
A great victory right? Well, yes, it was, but you would not know it if you read this Huffington Post article by Laura Basset. The headline reads: “Susan G. Komen Reverses Planned Parenthood Decision, Does Not Promise To Renew Grants.”
Sounds like not much of a victory at all, right? It certainly led some friends of mine to question the big win, and it led The Daily Kos to just about toss the whole thing out the window and call it a defeat.
Nonsense. This was every bit the victory it seems to be.
The issue for the HuffPo and Kos (really Greg Sargent at the Washington Post, whose article was mostly just echoed at Kos), is that there is no guarantee that Planned Parenthood will get its funding renewed at the next funding cycle.
Well, yeah. There isn’t. Guess what? There wasn’t such a guarantee before.
Grants are made, renewed, discontinued for all sorts of reasons. No grant is simply assumed to be renewed. If a foundation commits in writing to funding a program or organization till the end of time, fine. Otherwise, everyone has to go through the renewal process.
Sometimes there are political reasons that a foundation does not renew a grant. More often, there is simply a decision to use the limited resources at hand elsewhere, perhaps to start up a new organization or help one that is in more dire need than the one it had been funding.
That’s all there is here. That’s all there ever was. The status quo ante has been restored which is all Planned Parenthood ever wanted.
I don’t know if this is simply an example of lazy reporting by Basset and Sargent or if one or both of them wanted to make sure people didn’t get complacent about this issue. But in either case, they are misinforming their readers.
Planned Parenthood is under ongoing siege. Anti-choice members of Congress are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to find an excuse to cut off federal funding for PP. And foundations like Komen may receive lots of money from people and organizations that are pro-choice, but they receive funding from anti-choice people too (being against abortion but wishing to support breast cancer research are obviously not mutually exclusive).
So, Komen, like every other (with a handful of exceptions) foundation and non-profit organization wants to keep getting funded from as broad a base that supports its mission as it can. And that means the politics over this are going to continue, both inside and outside of Komen.
I can’t say I’m too upset if the shaded reporting on this motivates people to stay alert and on their guard about funding for Planned Parenthood and the protection of a woman’s right to decide what happens with her own body.
Nonetheless, I think that can be accomplished without misleading readers and distorting the actual events. Komen completely reversed itself here. They went back to where they had been, and expecting them to promise to renew Planned Parenthood’s grants in perpetuity, or even for the next cycle, outside of whatever approval process the
foundation has is simply ridiculous.
That’s why it was really a great victory. As Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood said: “We are enormously grateful that the Komen Foundation has clarified its grantmaking criteria, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Komen partners, leaders, and volunteers. What these past few days have demonstrated is the deep resolve all Americans share in the fight against cancer, and we are proud to be a leading source for women seeking preventive care.”
Richards has been around the block, both in politics and the non-profit world, a few times. She is not being fooled by an insincere apology meant to save the face of the Komen Foundation. She is also aware that the long term battle to keep, and hopefully expand, Planned Parenthood’s funding is far from over, and that this was nothing more than a defensive victory.
But a victory it was. Basset and Sargent need to recognize that, and certainly need to avoid misleading their readers about that important fact. Motivate them to redouble their efforts, which must indeed happen, in a more helpful way, please.
For a more reality-based report that addresses the serious questions that remain about Komen and its ongoing relationship with Planned Parenthood, check out this piece from Think Progress.