When the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation pulled its funding from Planned Parenthood last week — an annual stipend of about $700,000 for breast-cancer screenings, which may sound like a lot to us non-corporate entities but is a pittance for both non-profits — we reacted with the kind of jaded insouciance common to those in our profession.
Chalk up one more for the bad guys, we thought.
It’s no secret that Planned Parenthood, which offers counseling, medical services and birth control to the low-income families who need it most, has come under fire by various right-wing groups who use the abortion issue to cudgel their way into relevance. And after attacks by various fringe elements and the charlatan James O’Keefe, we figured it was only a matter of time before they tried to cut this 90-year-old benevolent organization off at its root.
The Komen brand has become ubiquitous in the last decade, advocating for breast-cancer research with its trademark pink ribbon, which has graced entities as varied as marathons, peanut-butter jars and NFL teams, which don pink apparel in October to support the cause.
We knew something like this would eventually happen after people started harnessing the technology for things other than posting about cats and honey badgers.
We also made a few cheap jokes about the relationship between Planned Parenthood and NFL players, many of whom are notorious impregnators of women, none of which will be repeated here.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the defunding: People pushed back, and not just by sitting around and bitching about it.
The Facebook backlash began immediately, linked to tweets and blog posts denouncing Komen for its maneuver and casting aspersions on its motivation for the move. Planned Parenthood quickly raised more money than the annual Komen contribution, including a pledge for $250,000 from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — for the record, a Republican.
And just a couple days later, the Komen foundation reversed its decision.
We notice that’s been happening a lot lately. Bank of America tabled plans for a $5 debit-card fee after public outcry. The PIPA/SOPA bills lost all their momentum and most of their support after an internet blackout. The Occupy Wall Street movement and its offshoots changed the discourse on Capitol Hill by amplifying the voices of regular Americans in opposition to the status quo. Here in the Triad, local voices helped ensure that the White Street Landfill in Greensboro remained closed to municipal solid waste.
It’s power to the people — or, at least, power to those of us who have access to streams of real-time information and care enough to pass it on. We knew something like this would eventually happen after people started harnessing the technology for things other than posting about cats and honey badgers. And with an election looming, this kind of communication is right on time.
Now, if we can translate re-tweets into votes, we may really have something here.
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