Occasionally, in the course of my work, I find that a defense attorney has been lying or fighting tooth and nail to withhold information that actually would help their client. When I finally pry it out of them – sometimes at judgepoint. Sometimes they do this for billing purposes, but sometimes it’s just…well, stupid. “Why do they do this?!” I will snarl, stomping around my office. (I have very patient co-workers.) And somebody will inevitably remind me that, hey, dumbfuck, they’re defense attorneys. That’s what they do. Withholding information. dodging, never giving a straight answer: those are typical and often very useful strategies, and they do them reflexively, even when it does not serve them or their clients.
I sometimes think that these same people end up running socially conservative activist groups.
Witness the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s recent decision to end funding for Planned Parenthood’s breast-cancer screening program. Their claim, which they continue to maintain, is that this has nothing to do with abortion or contraception, but is simply pursuant to a (brand new) rule that they don’t give grants to groups “under government investigation”. By a startling coincidence, an anti-choice Congressman has (again) started an investigation as to whether Planned Parenthood spend public money on providing abortions. By an even more startling coincidence, the foundation recently hired as its VP an anti-choice politician who made defunding Planned Parenthood part of her unsuccessful campaign. And Ms. Handel quietly ended the foundation’s support of cancer research (you know, a thing that’s part of its mission) involving embryonic stem cells. Nor has there been any suggestion that the new guidelines have been, or will be, applied to any of the other thousands of organizations receiving grants.
So why is the Komen foundation lying about its reasons for defunding Planned Parenthood?
Because that’s what they do. They can’t help it.
I recall hearing an interview with an anti-choice leader of the movement to pass a “parental notification” initiative in my state, in which they added a little paragraph about life starting at conception. The woman being interviewed was shocked, shocked at the suggestion that said paragraph might be taken as anything other than a legally meaningless statement of purpose: “I’m a lawyer,” she said, and she therefore knew there was no possible way that could bleed out into any other legislation. Which, as anybody who got their JD from an actual law school instead of a cereal box knows, is not only horseshit but is the exact opposite of how laws work.
Or consider when Mark Leno introduced SB-906 in California, which explicitly stated the (existing) rule that religious groups would not be forced to solemnize same-sex marriage. You would think that anti-LGBT groups would embrace it, but unsurprisingly, they did not; because one of their anti-equality talking points is “Your church will be forced to marry gay couples!” and they didn’t want to lose it.
A principled stance would be for the Komen foundation to state that they believe funding Planned Parenthood detracts from their mission of ending breast cancer; or that they believe Planned Parenthood engaged in misconduct; or that they believe abortion and contraception are contrary to the mission of protecting women’s health. But these aren’t principles; they are socially conservative politicians. They can’t help themselves.