The women’s health community was blindsided this week by the news that a former ally had turned its back on the women it purports to help. Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the largest nonprofit focused on breast cancer in the United States, has said it will pull grants totaling nearly $700,000 that go to breast cancer screenings and mammogram referrals from Planned Parenthood.
Anti-choice politics. It turns out Komen’s founder, Nancy G. Brinker, is a huge George W. Bush supporter, and a senior official, Karen Handel, campaigned for governor of Georgia as a fierce Planned Parenthood opponent. Supposedly Komen has a new rule about not donating to organizations that are under investigation by the U.S. government. The only reason anti-choice politicians want to investigate Planned Parenthood is because they claim federal money intended for the 97 percent of PP’s non-abortion-related services is fungible (i.e., a saintly taxpayer’s pure dollar intended for cancer screening could accidentally come into contact with a dirty whore’s abortion money).
This, despite the fact that money wasn’t being used for abortion. This, despite the fact there’s no link between abortion and breast cancer. This, despite the fact so many low-income women have nowhere but Planned Parenthood to go for breast health. This, despite the fact if you want to shun women who have abortions, you’ll be ignoring one-third of us.
How very “pro-life” to deny money for life-saving screenings.
I have not supported Komen in the past, as I’m not close with anyone who has struggled with breast cancer and been a fan of the foundation.* Honestly, I’m a little tired of facing “pink October” and seeing “save the tatas” paraphernalia. Shouldn’t we be focused on, I don’t know — saving women’s lives? I have no doubt choosing a mastectomy is gut-wrenching, but as high-profile cases such as Christina Applegate and Giuliana Rancic show, most women would rather lose their breasts than their lives. (For more of a great long read on this topic, check out Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Welcome to Cancerland.”)
The real issue I have with the Race for the Cure, though, and other charity events like it is that so little of their money goes to what they actually purport to be advocating. In the case of the Komen Foundation, their express purpose is finding a cure for breast cancer. Yet, according to their fund report from 2009, only 17% of the money they received/earned went to funding cancer research. As the author in the aforementioned link notes, they did other worthwhile things with their money, but still. 17% for the actual cause of the charity? In addition, also according to the link, the Komen Foundation is notorious for suing any charity, no matter how small, who has ‘for the cure’ in its name. How is that effective use of donation money, really?
Komen representatives seemed unprepared for the backlash and refused to answer repeated questions from the press. Negative comments are being deleted from the Facebook page. A nonprofit PR expert explains this is how not to run a nonprofit in The Accidental Rebranding of Komen for the Cure.
I hope Komen does restore funding to Planned Parenthood, but for me, and a lot of other people, the damage is done. We have seen what Komen’s priorities are, and they don’t include women’s health care.
A line has been drawn in the sand. Do you stand with women and Planned Parenthood?
Or do you stand with radical ideology and Susan G. Komen for the Cure?
ETA: If you’ve previously donated to Komen and would like a list of alternatives, check out Five Ways to Support Women’s Health for All.
*This originally said I don’t know anyone personally who has had breast cancer. I have been corrected in the comments below.