Shocker: Right Wing News Editor Seriously Misinformed About Breast Health


I know, I know. I hate article titles that begin “Shocker:” too, but after reading the idiotic piece by idiotic news editor Katie Pavlich, “Shocker: Susan G. Komen Pulled PP Funding Because They Don’t Perform Mammograms,” I simply couldn’t resist. Now, Townhall has never been known for its intellectual rigor, but even in that notoriously obtuse shed, Pavlich isn’t the sharpest tool. Even so, she manages to plumb new depths of ignorant asshattery in this ponderously dull-witted piece. Now that Komen has apparently reversed course on Planned Parenthood, Townhall has “updated” Pavlich’s article with a cut-and-paste statement from Komen’s website, rendering the original article following the update as an object lesson in rhetorical face plants.

While the Komen organization was still flailing publicly for a credible rationale for defunding Planned Parenthood, Pavlich latched on to another ephemeral talking point. The new story was that Komen didn’t suspend pass-through funding to Planned Parenthood for political (anti-choice) reasons, but rather because Planned Parenthood doesn’t actually provide mammograms in their facilities. The article is annoying on several levels, but before I attend to Pavlich’s blindly ideological nonsense, I must regrettably point out a blindingly obvious fact: few other doctors and clinics provide in-house mammograms either.

My wife gets an annual checkup with our family doctor, who performs a manual breast exam and instructs (and chides) my wife on the topic of self-exams, but—shocker!—she doesn’t actually have a half-million dollar full-field digital mammography system purring away next to the tongue depressors and rubber gloves. Rather, she provides a referral to a nearby radiology lab where the mammogram is actually performed. Any woman who has ever been to a doctor knows this, but apparently not Katie Pavlich.

Here’s another slightly less blindingly obvious bit of news for those readers who might be so shockingly ignorant about the ins and outs of routine breast exams: Radiology labs do not generally accept “self-referrals.” In other words, one usually cannot go to a radiology lab and receive a mammogram without a referral. No tickee, no shirtee. On the other hand, if your family doctor or other practitioner, say, a Planned Parenthood physician, provides you with a referral, you can then be seen and receive your mammogram.

More important, even if mammograms were common as muck and free with a 44 oz. Big Gulp, in-office breast exams by a qualified health professional are at least as important as mammography. As director of breast surgery at New York University, Dr. Freya Schnabel explains, “…superficial and central lesions are frequently missed on mammography, and young women with dense breasts represent a specific population where there is a substantial false negative rate for mammography, making clinical exam particularly important.”

Furthermore, breast self-examination, which is explained and demonstrated to thousands upon thousands of women at Planned Parenthood facilities, is unquestionably one of the most effective early detection methods. In the wake of a controversial 2011 study, doctors—not right wing bloggers, mind you, but actual doctors—are cautiously reevaluating the efficacy of annual mammograms. In short, Komen’s insistence on the primacy of mammography didn’t seem to pass the smell test.

The real reasons behind Susan G. Komen’s change of policy are a matter of some controversy and speculation, to say the least. Komen had originally announced that Planned Parenthood didn’t make the grade due to the McCarthyesque investigation underway in Congress. An AP story revealed that an internal source at Komen had reason to believe that Komen vice president for public policy Karen Handel, a vocal critic of Planned Parenthood, was behind the decision. In another shockingly stupid TownHall article, Katie Pavlich offered the theory that Komen was uneasy about a ludicrous hoax allegation that Planned Parenthood was actively promoting sex trafficking. The no-mammograms-no-funds grant criterion angle simply muddled what was unquestionably the most badly botched public relations effort since NetFlix announced Quikster.

The right wing coup at Komen, evidently orchestrated by none other than former Bush operative Ari Fleischer, had all the earmarks of a typical Republican black op. As one flimsy rationale after another was overrun by amazingly agile “Occupy Komen” forces, the entire superstructure of lies and political intrigue was exposed piece by piece.

While the controversy raged, the liberal blogosphere fulminated in righteous indignation at the apparent anti-choice politics which led to the decision, while the right wing blogosphere exploded in ecstasy at same. Katie Pavlich’s whooping, fist-pumping support of Komen’s decision to stop supporting Planned Parenthood’s life-saving work doesn’t jibe well with her simultaneous protestations that the decision wasn’t politically motivated. To completely shatter any pretense of higher brain function, she offers the following sober (well, maybe a couple of beers) analysis:

This is a simple situation. Susan G. Komen is a breast cancer organziation (sic) and therefore they give money to other organizations that help women with breast cancer screanings (sic), cures, etc. Planned Parenthood doesn’t offer mammograms or any type of breast cancer treatment, so it is a waste of money for Komen to be giving Planned Parenthood funding. In fact, you can argue that the continuation of Komen funding for Planned Parenthood would actually prevent women from receiving mammograms in clinics needing that funding for real breast cancer prevention services. Regardless, pro-abortion Leftists are angry with the breast cancer organization for not supporting a woman’s “right to choose,” yet they don’t respect Komen’s, a private organziation (sic), decision to choose where to best allocate their resources.

Hmm. So help me out, Katie. Why has Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure now reversed course on this perfectly sound and defensible policy? Why are they indulging angry leftists and misallocating resources? Why do they want to continue wasting money on organizations like Planned Parenthood that don’t do real cancer prevention? Why do they want to prevent women from receiving mammograms? Why, Katie, why?

No doubt this controversial onion will continue to be peeled, and more disturbing details will be revealed about the politics surrounding Komen’s clumsy maneuver. Thankfully, Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood have kissed and made up for now, and a side benefit of the controversy is that both organizations have received massive infusions of politically motivated donations. With luck, Komen will soon escape the circus atmosphere of modern American politics and return to focusing fully on women’s health. Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood will probably never enjoy that luxury.

The flash controversy we’ve just witnessed is just another tiresome episode in the long term hyper-politicization of women’s health issues. Katie Pavlich is just another tiresome shill for anti-choice radicals. And I suppose I’m just another tiresome liberal who thinks that the health of the women I love, the health of women I’ve never met, and even the health of ignorant harpies like Katie Pavlich, are all more important than all the political battles ever waged.

If we as a people can’t even agree on that, everything else we’re arguing about is just a goddamn waste of breath.

Image source: Flickr/Planned Parenthood

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11 Replies to “Shocker: Right Wing News Editor Seriously Misinformed About Breast Health”

  1. After reading Rmus’s article this am I think the whole thing really needs to hit the fan. As you point out DL where the mammograms are done was probably irrelevant. This was a planned attack on women’s health by the GOP and the fundies.

    I applaud the people now donating direct to PP instead of Komen. And I will applaud more when the ugly truth comes out. Although we know the media will not have a thing to do with it

    Worse, I just discovered I have 666 followers at Huffington. Im screwed

  2. Shiva, the sh*t has already hit the fan! The public relations errors — which seem to be multiplying exponentially every day — will require major changes (resignations or expulsions) if Komen is ever to regain its reputation.

    As for the illiterate idiot Katie — well, she’s outnumbered, and the only folks who will believe her are the robots who unquestioningly follow the teapublican words of the day.

  3. Maple, do you really think Katie Pavlich is unusual? I don’t. And while we expect to be crawling with reactionary ignoramuses, who would have thought that the ostensibly apolitical Komen organization was also quietly succumbing to a right wing infestation? You’re right, though, that Komen will need a very public delousing to restore its former inestimable reputation. Unfortunately, early signs point to more skillful public relations rather than better policy.

  4. Maple, I seriously doubt Komen will ever regain its reputation to any significant degree. Those pink ribbons may have once seemed like a great marketing tool, but corporate sponsors are going to be jerking them from products and advertising as fast as they possibly can. And then those sponsors will gallop off into the sunset, because the Komen brand has become toxic.

  5. As evidence Komen is now focusing on damage control rather than actually rooting out and sacking ideologues, I give you this:

    Note that Karen Handel is not mentioned once in the article, which also reports Nancy Brinker’s announcement that Komen would be seeking “help on crisis communications” from none other than Ari Fleischer. I’m afraid it’s not looking good.

  6. Too bad given that Ari already had a part ion this debacle by getting Handel hired. Ari was hired as a conservative head hunter

  7. Looks to me like Komen has made another really, really bad move in picking Ari Fleischer.

    If Brinker wants past, present and future donors to believe that the decision to defund Planned Parenthood was in no way politically motivated, then she shouldn’t have picked such a high-profile Republican to “help on crisis communications.”

    How many times can a person shoot themselves in the foot before they have nothing left to stand on?

  8. The more Komen tried to rationalize its decision to end funding to Planned Parenthood, the worse they made themselves look. It’s quite clear that their motive stemmed directly from politics, and they deserved every bit of flak that came their way. The term pro-life has been appropriated wrongly by those whose pro-life sentiments don’t extend beyond being pro-birth. They could care less about kids once they are born, and Komen’s decision would have endangered countless women if it had been allowed to stand. The lack of concern once kids are born, as well as the cheering of a decision that would have doomed countless women, make a mockery of pro-life claims from people with these attitudes.

  9. Handel and Ari are NOT the only problems at Komen: Jane Abraham sits on the SGK board too. AND, she sits on the board at Susan B. Anthony List, a right-winger women’s organization seeking to place women who can enact the hard-right GOP agenda in influential positions in business and politics. Abraham helped create, along with the president of SBA List, Marjorie Dannenfelser the website

    Dannenfelser is also regular contributor at – SURPRISE!

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