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What We Must Learn From Komen

I’ve said it for years: While we pro-lifers have been busy trying to change the laws, the other side has been busy changing people’s hearts. Never has this been more apparent than in the about face displayed this week by Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

On January 31, 2012, the Associated Press reported that Susan G. Komen for the Cure would no longer provide grants to Planned Parenthood. Pro-life circles were buzzing with the news. Most pro-life folks, including me, were thrilled by the news; a few wise souls were suspicious about whether this would last. They were right. Less than a week later, on February 3, Komen issued a statement that they would amend their funding policies so that Planned Parenthood would again be eligible to receive grants from Komen.

What happened to cause such a stunning turnaround? Quite simply, it was a barrage of criticism from Planned Parenthood supporters.

Here is the tough truth we must face: Planned Parenthood is a respected, almost revered, organization among most Americans. Those of us who’ve seen the ugly underbelly of Planned Parenthood — the corruption exposed by Live Action, the all-but-pornographic fliers distributed to our children, the interference between teens and their parents – we know that Planned Parenthood must be de-funded, must be stopped. But we are the minority. Ask the proverbial man on the street (or woman) and you’ll find that they have quite a positive view of Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood has worked hard to cultivate the view that they are a force for good, and they’ve been more than successful in doing so. We are the ones who have failed. We have allowed them to promote themselves, and we have done little or nothing to combat the positive story they spin about themselves.

We had a huge opportunity to change that last summer, and we failed. Watching C-SPAN, you heard Senators and Congressmen calling for the de-funding of Planned Parenthood. But not once did I hear a pro-life politician explain that Planned Parenthood had been taped promoting child prostitution. Not once did I hear that a recording had been made of false medical information being given. And not once did I hear a pro-life politician expose the willingness of Planned Parenthood to accept money specifically to abort black babies.

C-SPAN gave our elected representatives a microphone, and all we said was that we want to cut off Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. We needed to use that opportunity to change the hearts of Americans, to let them know that they’ve been lied to, that Planned Parenthood is not some benign, helpful little non-profit that just wants everyone to be healthy.

But we can’t just blame the politicians. How many of us, myself included, spend our days preaching to the choir? I’m surrounded by Catholics, day in and day out. Catholics make me comfortable. Together we can support each other. We can freely talk about how awful abortion is. We can share our struggles against contraception in a pro-contraceptive society. It’s pleasant for me to be surrounded by like-minded people, to watch EWTN, to read Catholic Lane.

There was a time I was a crusader, but I got emotionally burned by the pro-Planned Parenthood crowd (http://catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0091.html). I’ve retreated now into a safer, Catholic world. But the Susan G. Komen turnaround has awakened me. We – I – must keep looking for opportunities to gently let my neighbors know the dangers of Planned Parenthood, of abortion, of population control.

We have to change hearts in this country. Otherwise any victories we gain may be overturned within a week.

[Editor’s note: The Feb. 3 statement from Susan G. Komen for the Cure was an apology and not a reversal of policy.]


Toni Collins is a convert to Catholicism, a church musician, and a summa cum laude graduate of the University of California-Irvine in computer science. Her business card further identifies her as a web designer and a happy Catholic quilter. She and her husband, Rick, are the parents of four adult daughters and live in Northern California.


  • goral

    We will always lose these battles. The American mind and heart are callously predisposed towards pro-choice and pro-death. It would take the recent Japan tsunami to turn this culture around. Forget the statistics, Americans only favor life when they are asked that question in the shopping mall. Privately, this culture will always choose, support and fund death.

  • The old and the useless continue in charge. There are honorable exceptions like Mother Angelica’s EWTN, Michael Voris’ Real Catholic TV, and others. They suffer from lack of funds for the most part because they are NOT supported by those who get all the funds, namely those who are supposed to lead us. Let’s face it! We are lead by pretty incompetent people. There may be a divine design there: the more incompetent the leaders, the more glory God will get when the battle is won in the end. If I only have a dollar for every person that has told me “I did not know that THAT was the Catholic pro-life position!” Most people hear over-and-over from school onwards the same mix of unchallenged accusations. We are not in the media, we are not in school, and FOR PETE’S SAKE: in some places we are not even in Church! So, how do you want to be influential if we don’t get our butts off the sofa!

    Long ago I discovered that sects (like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.) are defeated by well organized, well presented, and truthful INFORMATION. Of course the American public opinion can be turned around if the right information is (a) available (b) presented clearly (c) presented FREQUENTLY (d) presented APPEALINGLY. But oh my! some of those programs on TV are soporipherous to those who agree with the pro-life ideas presented there. What do you think those who are not well disposed to pro-life ideas think of that. I’ll tell you: “ZZZ! SNORE ZZZ!” In the meanwhile the pro-death forces continue presenting their stuff appealingly and surreptitiously all over the place. We need better marketing! We need professionals in charge!

  • Toni Collins

    Thank you, Mary, for the clarification. I think I was guilty of reading headlines instead of between the lines.

    Goral and Carlos, please do not be too discouraged. We can change hearts, one by one. We must.

    And when you feel discouraged by the falsehoods you hear from the aging, mainstream media, remember that a new pro-life generation is waiting in the wings to change our national consciousness. They know that they are the survivors of the culture of death, and they will crusade against it.

    In the meantime, don’t ever let an opportunity go by when you can make the case for life to a friend, a teacher, a doctor, or a co-worker. Be gentle, but make the case!

    • Mary Kochan

      Thanks should go to Chelsea Zimmerman, our intrepid Associate Editor for pro-life news and articles. She has been keeping up with every nuance of this shifting story. I’d be lost in woods without her.

  • fishman

    I think there is an overestimation here.
    The last pew study showed that the number of people who support strong restrictions on abortion is growing and growing rapidly.

    Makes no difference however, the fight must continue on all fronts. The first place we need to win is in the pew’s of our own church however. the same studies suggest that 97% of catholic american women have used birth control at some point in their lives.
    We have catholic hospitals and universities that promote at pass out birth control. So why are we shocked we are losing this battle!! .

    Why are we surprised that the vice president ( a communion taking catholic) and the former speaker of the house ( also a communion taking catholic in good standing) are the ones the president of the united states is listening too about how to best deal with the catholic faithful ?

  • goral

    I don’t for a minute accept defeat. The battle will always be there. We will win souls but we will never have a law that protects the unborn against any of the forces that are anti-life.
    The system is rigged. It’s set up in such a way that the pro-life forces are made to appear irrational.

    Even pro-life people will subscribe to the “exception” to the pro-life stance ie. in case of rape, incest or the mother’s health. Once that door is left ajar, practically speaking there is no protection.

    We’re fighting the pro-death forces on their own turf, they are using our money and they have enlisted people from our ranks to be there as traitors. If we make advances it’s only because of our God. That’s good enough.