Beyond Hypocrisy: Komen for the Cure’s Assault on Women’s Health

It’s difficult to be anything less than infuriated with Susan G. Komen for the Cure right now for its tactical decision to stop giving grants to Planned Parenthood for screenings and breast health services.

An article from the Associated Press sums up the issue:

“The nation’s leading breast-cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates — creating a bitter rift, linked to the abortion debate, between two iconic organizations that have assisted millions of women. The change will mean a cutoff of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, mainly for breast exams.

Planned Parenthood said the Komen grants totaled roughly $680,000 last year and $580,000 the year before, going to at least 19 of its affiliates for breast-cancer screening and other breast-health services.

Komen spokeswoman Leslie Aun said the cutoff results from the charity’s newly adopted criteria barring grants to organizations that are under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. According to Komen, this applies to Planned Parenthood because it’s the focus of an inquiry launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., seeking to determine whether public money was improperly spent on abortions.”

While CBS reported that Komen’s official stance is that it is “regrettable when changes in priorities and policies affect any of [their] grantees” and the decision is a matter of evolving to “best meet the needs of the women [they] serve and most fully advance their mission,” Jezebel points out that,

“This brand new rule that suddenly appeared in the books of the Komen Foundation just so happened to coincide with a Congressional investigation launched by a Republican legislator, who himself was pressured by the pro-life group Americans United for Life. And last year’s assault on Planned Parenthood also coincided with the addition of a vocally anti-abortion ex-politician to the ranks of Susan G Komen For the Cure.

Karen Handel, who was endorsed by Sarah Palin during her unsuccessful bid for governor of Georgia in 2010, has been the Foundation’s Senior Vice President for Public Policy since April 2011. During her gubernatorial candidacy, she ran on an anti-choice platform, vowing that if elected, she’d defund Planned Parenthood.”

No doubt political leanings influenced Komen’s decision. In addition to the Handel appointment, a major anti-abortion group rallying against Komen is Texas Right to Life, which produced the Pink Ribbon Scandal campaign, a petition that urged Komen to end its partnership with Planned Parenthood. Signers of the petition also committed to boycotting the Race for the Cure until such a decision transpired. Notably, Texas holds the greatest number of Komen races compared to any other state, so a Texas boycott would have a significant impact on Komen’s coffers. I should also note that people have been boycotting Komen races for a variety of reasons that I fully support, but strong-arming the organization for an ideological agenda that would further erode health care options to those who need it most, is not one of them.

Texas Right to Life was pleased when Rep. Cliff Stearns (FL) launched the so-called congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood last September. Under the guise of making sure federal funds were being used properly, Stearns demanded internal audits, reviews, and policies about Planned Parenthood’s use of funds with regard to abortion services as well as referrals outside of the Planned Parenthood system and its policies and procedures about reporting suspected sex trafficking. How any of this implicates Planned Parenthood’s screening and breast health services is unclear. Yet, Komen made the decision to pull back.

I have to wonder – based on Komen’s track record of putting its organizational interests above all else – what is really going on. After all, this is the same organization that thought Pink Buckets for the Cure and Promise Me perfume were good ideas; that used its heft to crowd out smaller nonprofits over the use of the trademarked phrase “for the cure;” that routinely discounts scientific evidence about screening to promote a narrow agenda; and, that refuses to address the concerns of those who see major flaws in how the pink industry operates.

Komen is the wealthiest breast cancer nonprofit, and it allocates some of its nearly $350 million in revenues (estimated to be in the $400 million range for FY 2011) to key program initiatives. Yet Komen’s decision to abandon women who need Planned Parenthood for health care may contradict its mission “to work together to save lives, empower people, and ensure quality care for all.” Unfortunately, the decision is far less surprising in the context of Komen’s actions and funding allocations especially in the last ten years.

As the public critique of pink ribbon culture and industry continues to mount, those who have the most to lose from changing the system (i.e., those who profit from pink consumption, publicity, and propaganda) continue to speak out in defense of the status quo. There is already a storm of disgust streaming into Komen for these reasons and others, and Komen’s sleight of hand to withdraw needed funds from a vital health care provider is just the kind of ironic and inhumane action that could derail major public support for the organization.

I fully support the protest.


More New Articles:

  • Planned Parenthood, “Alarmed and Saddened” by Komen Foundation Succumbing to Political Pressure, Planned Parenthood Launches Fund for Breast Cancer Services, Jan. 31, 2012
  • The Associated Press Exclusive picked up by:
    • NPR, “Cancer Charity Halts Grants To Planned Parenthood,”Jan. 31, 2012
    • The Washington Post, Amid abortion debate, Komen cancer charity halting grants to Planned Parenthood, Jan. 31, 2012
  • Slate, Susan G. Komen’s Act of Cowardice, Jan. 31, 2012
  • Reuters, Breast cancer charity ends Planned Parenthood funding, Jan. 31, 2012.
  • Jezebel, Susan G. Komen Foundation Bows to Pro-Life Bullying; Stops Contributing to Planned Parenthood, Jan. 31, 2012
  • CBS, Susan G. Komen cuts ties with Planned Parenthood, Feb. 1, 2012
  • Salon, The fight against cancer — and abortion?, Feb. 1, 2012
  • Good News, Give Komen the pink slip, Feb. 1, 2012





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5 comments to Beyond Hypocrisy: Komen for the Cure’s Assault on Women’s Health

"women urged to get screened because it might save their lives. But that’s only 1 possible outcome, and it’s the least likely one" @cragcrest

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