It’s been an unprecedented couple of weeks for Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando’s CEO, Sue Idtensohn. At a January celebration of the 39th anniversary of the historic Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, Idtensohn announced her March 30 retirement (she’ll be replaced by longtime Planned Parenthood supporter Jenna Cawley Tosh), and made it clear that vigilance and new youthful energy would be required in the future to keep the banner of women’s health alive. She just didn’t know how immediately that vigilance would be required.
“The problem with this is that Komen decided at the end of December at their foundation’s board meeting,” she says. “They did not notify us until the end of January. We heard rumblings that something was going to happen, but it really came as a surprise, because we’ve been working [with] them for years.”
Though PPGO did not benefit from Komen’s annual grant of $700,000 in funding to Planned Parenthood – Idtensohn herself has pleaded and negotiated contracts with local radiology centers to lower costs for low-income clients in need of attention following Planned Parenthood’s regular “well woman” screenings – the news still came off as an attack, she says. Komen CEO Nancy Brinker’s insistence that Planned Parenthood affiliates were duplicating services rang especially hollow.
“They always understood that we don’t do mammograms,” she says. “Because mostly young women come in here. According to medical standards, they really shouldn’t be getting a mammogram until they’re at least 40. Even your OBGYN doesn’t [provide] a mammogram. They always send them out to get a mammogram. That’s just standard of care.”
Idtensohn says that Planned Parenthood’s two local affiliates see about 26,000 people a year and claims that only a small number of clients have had to be referred for mammograms. But that doesn’t make the screenings less important.
“The critical thing is, had they not come here, these young 20-something women would never have gotten a diagnosis,” she says. “These women would have never have had even an inkling.”
As for the effects of the recent Komen dustup, they’ve been mostly cosmetic on the local level. Idtensohn says that the local organization had received about $2,000 in donations after three days of the news coverage, many of which came in check-form with notes of support; 95 percent of the donations came from new donors.
And, just like last year when the federal government attempted to shut down funding for Planned Parenthood, this debacle has forced the organization – and exactly what its key services are – back into the spotlight.
“It helped explain what we really do and don’t do,” she says, referring to the frequently referenced fact that abortion only amounts to about 3 percent of the organization’s services. “I don’t know why it is such a difficult concept to get across, except for the fact that there are people in those organizations who will always bring up abortion. Everybody applauds when you say ‘gay people’ and ‘abortion.’”
With any luck, the outrage generated by the Komen incident will send a message to state legislators that women are a force to be reckoned with, not toyed with, though Idtensohn remains skeptical. “Tallahassee is completely oblivious to anything like this,” she says. “We are dumbfounded by the viral social media piece of this. It took off like a shot. If anyone thinks that doesn’t create change and movement, they’re not living in this world.”