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5 Important Lessons from the Komen/Planned Parenthood Fiasco (Don't Mess With Women's Health)

The big win here is that an anti-choice power play failed in the court of public opinion.

What a week it's been for the pro-choice community.

On Tuesday, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the largest breast cancer charity in the country, announced that it planned to impose new funding criteria under which Planned Parenthood would no longer be an eligible grantee. Over the next several days, pro-choice activists and women's health supporters across the nation fought back against what all signs pointed to being a politically motivated attack on Planned Parenthood and the women it serves. Finally, on Friday, all the tweets, Facebook messages, blog posts, and articles pointing out Komen's hypocrisies and misdeeds paid off, and Komen backed down (sort of), announcing that it would tweak its new funding criteria and "continue to fund existing grants, including those to Planned Parenthood."

Plenty of people are skeptical about whether Komen will really do the right thing, or whether the group's latest announcement is little more than the Komen PR machine going into overdrive. And we should be skeptical. 

But still, credit where credit is due: someone tried to mess with one of our most beloved women's health institutions, and we fought back fast and hard. Pro-choice messages drove the news cycle. Family members and high school friends who are neither radical nor overtly feminist were all of a sudden defending Planned Parenthood on Facebook, because Komen was so clearly the "bad guy."

And those voices were heard. Komen couldn't ignore that onslaught of criticism, so it had to address it. As feminist activist Shelby Knox tweeted Friday afternoon of Komen's latest announcement, "The win is not @komenforthecure's opaque statement. The win here is that an anti-choice power play failed in the court of public opinion."

There are many lessons we can learn from this high-speed rollercoaster of a women's health battle. Here are several of them.

1. Do not mess with Planned Parenthood supporters.

Planned Parenthood supporters are a loyal bunch, as we saw this week. Was it the relentless war on women finally wearing them down? Or was it the thought of a seemingly wholesome charity, rather than some politicking congressmen, going after their beloved organization? Whatever the case, Team Planned Parenthood came out swinging this week -- more so, it seemed, than during the most recent Republican effort to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding.

Social media sites positively lit up with pro-Planned Parenthood messages over the past several days. But perhaps the most concrete demonstration of support came in the form of dollars. On a conference call Friday, national Planned Parenthood Federation of America CEO Cecile Richards told reporters that PPFA had received $3 million in donations from more than 10,000 individuals in just three days.

2. We can and should stand up to anti-choicers.

Knowing that there is such great public support for Planned Parenthood and its services, we should now feel more confident in going after loftier goals. We should not just defensively push back against anti-choice attacks, but actively try to improve women's reproductive rights.

Amanda Marcotte put it well in a  piece for the Guardian on Friday:

The past week has erased months -- years, really -- of work on the right to build a cloud of suspicion around Planned Parenthood. Now, a new narrative is forming: if you attack Planned Parenthood, be prepared to meet massive resistance, as well as a ton of negative press....

[A]bove all, Planned Parenthood won this battle by going on the offense. The lesson learned here should not be forgotten. Instead of slinking away to nurse your wounds when anti-choicers call you a slut, throw it back in their faces by calling them prudes. Pro-choicers have nothing to fear by being loud and proud about what we believe. When they dish out shame, respond with pride -- and you will win.

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