We have all heard it said that freedom isn’t free, and we shouldn’t take it for granted. But I did just that a week or so ago, and then got my come-uppence.

My take-it-for granted moment came when one of our ad sales representatives reached out to an occasional advertiser in the paper and asked if the organization wanted to run an ad in our Women-in-Business edition. A marketing person for the advertiser, Planned Parenthood of Central NJ, replied that no, the group had no immediate plans for advertising, but that it might consider it later in the year.

“We may wish to advertise our abortion services this coming year,” the Planned Parenthood representative said in an E-mail. “Is that something that would do-able — saying the word abortion in an ad, specifically? I know other advertisers have had issues with the word.”

Our sales rep passed the question along to me and I instantly batted out a glib response: “We have no problem with the word. It’s protected under the First Amendment. And the service itself is protected under Roe v. Wade.”

Talk about paranoia, I thought to myself. A few days later I understood the concern, and reminded myself about the dangers of taking anything for granted.

The Susan G. Komen decision to withdraw funding for Planned Parenthood has been rescinded, bowing to public pressure not only from other women’s groups but also from its own core constituency. But the forces that seek to influence our personal choices through political pressure and corporate lobbying remain strong.

The Komen people have always enjoyed strong corporate ties. The organization was founded by businesswoman Nancy Brinker in 1982, shortly after her only sister, Susan G. Komen, 36, died of breast cancer. Brinker brought breast cancer out of the shadows and into the public spotlight at a time when some newspapers were reluctant to print the term “breast cancer.” The determined younger sister, married to restaurant magnate Norman Brinker (Bennigan’s, Chili’s, etc.), made the charity a pioneer in the concept of “cause marketing,” and now reportedly commands a salary of more than $400,000 a year. Along the way Brinker founded a health product company that was sold to Astra Zeneca, was recruited to serve on corporate boards, and was appointed as U.S. chief of protocol in 2007 by President Bush.

The investigative reporters are still digging into the basis of the decision to withdraw support for Planned Parenthood. Some speculate that it may have been triggered by one of Brinker’s subordinates, specifically Karen Handel, Komen’s vice president of public policy, who had run for governor of Georgia on a platform that called for defunding of Planned Parenthood. Or it could have been in response to intimidation from the bullies of the religious right.

It does happen. Lowe’s recently withdrew its commercials on a cable television reality show, “All-American Muslim,” which chronicles the lives of five Muslim-American families in Michigan.

The JC Penney department store is under pressure from the American Family Association and its One Million Moms project. The problem: The store has hired Ellen DeGeneres as a spokeswoman. “Funny that JC Penney thinks hiring an open homosexual spokesperson will help their business when most of their customers are traditional families,” the Million Moms group posted on its website. “DeGeneres is not a true representation of the type of families that shop at their store. The majority of JC Penney shoppers will be offended and choose to no longer shop there.”

Here at U.S. 1 we know both Planned Parenthood and Susan G. Komen not in the context of any political agenda but rather through purely personal lenses. Over the years several of our staff have battled breast cancer; one lost her life to the disease. We have donated money, worn pink, and marched for the cause on many occasions in her memory.

I got to know Planned Parenthood many years ago when an employee came to me asking for a few days off. She explained that she was pregnant, and not in a position to cement any relationship with the man who would be the father. She was going to Planned Parenthood to terminate the pregnancy.

A few days later she was back to work, smiling. How did it go? I asked. Fine, she said, announcing that — after counseling with the Planned Parenthood staff — she had realized she wanted the child after all. And Planned Parenthood was supporting her in that choice.

Some argue that such choices are leading to a deterioration in the family values that are at the core of America’s greatness. I would argue the opposite — that such choices are exactly what make the country great. That’s my opinion. You are free to disagree.

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