Meet the woman who got Komen to defund Planned Parenthood
After the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood, attention has focused on its Vice President for Policy, Karen Handel. She joined the group last January after a failed run for governor in Georgia, where she had advocated defunding Planned Parenthood.
But there’s another woman who deserves equal credit: Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest. It’s her group that issued a report last fall, “The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood,” that led to a probe by the Energy and Commerce Committee. And it’s that investigation that puts Planned Parenthood in violation of Komen’s new policy that bars funding of groups under investigation.
Yoest has run Americans United for Life for three years. She came to the group from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign, and before that, served as the Family Research Council’s vice president for communications. She moved to Washington in the 1980s to work in the Reagan administration. But she counts this as perhaps her biggest victory.
“I have to say, it was some of the best news of my entire life,” Yoest told me in an interview this morning about the Komen decision. She saw the news yesterday afternoon, sitting in her driveway and checking Twitter.
“We’re so used to seeing Planned Parenthood succeed at defining themselves as the trendy place to be, and for Komen to make such a smart decision in recognizing the reality behind Planned Parenthood spin,” she adds. “As a breast cancer survivor, I was always troubled with this whole idea that the nation’s largest abortion provider was enmeshed in the breast cancer fight when they weren’t actually doing mammograms. I look at this as smart stewardship.”
Americans United for Life has, for the past year, aggressively pushed Congress to end Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. It has also drafted model legislation that states can use to bar abortion providers from receiving federal funds. Nine states have passed such laws, although the Obama administration has blocked their implementation.
Yoest hopes that the Komen decision is the beginning of a similar push, on the private side, to curtail Planned Parenthood’s funding, although she does not expect other funders to get on board overnight.
“We’ll be looking at their other supporters,” she said. “Let’s be honest, they’ve been very fashionable amongst a certain philanthropic set. I hope that this is a beginning of people re-looking at associations with the nation’s largest abortion provider.”
As those critical of the decision have shown their support of Planned Parenthood — it raised $400,000 in the 24 hours after the Komen decision — Yoest says the anti-abortion community is exploring ways to support the group. Her group will, for the first time, have a team in the District of Columbia Race for the Cure, called “Team Life.” Yoest, a marathoner, ran the race about a decade ago, but stopped after learning of Komen’s affiliation with Planned Parenthood.
“Yesterday we were looking at Komen’s Web site and how we can interact with them,” she says. “I want them to get as much of the benefit as possible. We’ll have T-shirts and a pasta dinner. I’ve run in a couple of marathons. That’s why I always wanted to be a part of their great work.”