Breast cancer group called a "menace to women"

Is the antiabortion fringe getting desperate -- and going broke?

Published September 16, 2009 3:17PM (EDT)

As the healthcare debate has shown us, it's far, far too soon to start doing a collective Macarena atop the antiabortion grave. But a couple of news dispatches from the fringes of the "pro-life" world might (might) at least be good for a little schadenfreude.

First: the recession (or, "the recession") has not spared Operation Rescue (O.R.). As the AP reports, the Witchita-based group itself -- already roiled by infighting -- says that "it's close to shutting down unless emergency financial help arrives soon." An inelegant e-mail went out to donors Monday night asking for same. Donations to O.R. are reportedly down 30 percent, paid staff down from nine to four. President Troy Newman blames the economy, but it's probably hard to underestimate the deleterious Tiller effect; the doctor's assassination brought not-so-friendly fire from their own side, and rightly so. (Though it didn't stop O.R. -- which, we may infer, was solvent as recently as June? -- from salivating over the spoils.) Of course, the possible demise of O.R. is a heinous trade for the life of Dr. Tiller; we'd prefer both him and O.R. alive and well, if that's what it'd take.

Again, though, no Macarena: First, other antiabortion groups say they're doing fine. Also, Troy Newman's e-mail contains an ominous threat -- not reported elsewhere, oddly -- that's either empty saber-rattling or scary, perhaps depending on how much, and how soon, a big fat check comes from the Bank of Wingnut. From the e-mail: "Because, in the next 30 days, we're planning to launch the most ambitious and most significant project in our entire history. It's something that's going to devastate the abortion cartel. It could even help end abortion in America once and for all. Basically, it centers around our unique ability to close abortion mills. And although I can't go into detail about it -- because we need to take the abortion cartel by surprise -- I can tell you that it will be a totally NEW phase in the pro-life fight. We've been working on it all summer. And we were planning to launch it in the next 30 days. However, now that we're completely out of money, I'm afraid we won't even be able to launch it ... ever!" We'll see.

The second tidbit is perhaps more schaden than freude. At very least, it's shameless. As Eleanor Bader reports at RHRealityCheck, anti-choice forces have boycotted Susan G. Komen's Race for the Cure (SKG), the largest breast cancer charity in the world  and the leader in the fight against the disease. (The boycott is not brand-new, as the post implies, but it does seem to be heating up.) Antiabortion activists have called SKG a "menace to women," Bader reports, which, obviously, is like calling basil a menace to linguine. Their beef: Advocates for women with breast cancer don't warn women about "the abortion/breast cancer connection." Which, of course, is because there is no such thing. Not that the facts have stopped people like Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, from saying things like, "Women suffer tremendously when 'breast cancer awareness groups' keep us in the dark about breast physiology, especially when millions unwittingly damage their health by choosing abortion." (Or Angela Lanfranchi, M.D., from publishing reprehensible "studies" like this new one in the non-peer-reviewed Linacre Quarterly, which -- where shall I start? -- provides no actual data and no real explanation for why mothers get breast cancer or miscarriages don't seem to be a problem or ... feh. We're not going to dignify it with a rebuttal.)

The Komen haters have also (long) trotted out the association between Komen and Planned Parenthood -- which, to the radically antiabortion, is basically the Death Star. Diabolically enough, some Komen affiliates provide grants to local Planned Parenthood clinics, supporting -- exclusively -- breast cancer screening and educational programming for un- and under-insured women.

Silly as it all sounds, Bader reports that Komen staff "have had to respond to anti-choice criticism" -- instead of to, say, breast cancer -- "and recently hired two Catholic ethicists to rebut Diocesan efforts to stop the faithful from supporting SKG." Your donations at work!

Not surprisingly, the anti-Komen campaign has not gained a ton of mainstream traction. While, again, not brand-new, it -- along with O.R.'s "emergency" e-mail -- does have a whiff of loony, cartoony desperation. As such, it's a reminder that this fringe is only going to get fringier. And that, as we well know, can be fatal.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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