The story so far: last week, breast cancer research foundation Susan G. Komen For The Cure announced that they were ending all funding to Planned Parenthood. Komen says it's because they no longer fund organizations under federal investigation -- and last September, Planned Parenthood was targeted for audit by anti-choice legislator Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL). But there's more going on. As Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said in a statement last week,
"Over the past five years, Komen funds have enabled Planned Parenthood health centers to provide nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and referrals for more than 6,400 mammograms. These cancer detection and prevention programs saved the lives of women who often had nowhere else to turn for care.
But when anti-choice groups began criticizing the Komen Foundation for partnering with Planned Parenthood, the foundation ended its support for Planned Parenthood health centers. We know our opponents put their ideology over women's health and lives. What we never expected is that an ally like the Komen Foundation would choose to listen to them."
Also, Komen's new senior vice president for public policy, Karen Handel, has previously pledged to defund Planned Parenthood... during her Sarah Palin-endorsed run for Georgia governor. Handel and other Komen spokespeople have been running nonstop damage control, but for a lot of former supporters, their decision's made.
Here at Colorlines, our Gender Matters columnist Akiba Solomon broke down the impact of Komen's decision on poor women and women of color -- who, by the way, are disproportionately at risk of breast cancer. (And from our archives, don't miss Stokely Baksh's infographic illustrating the same, using some of Komen's own numbers.) And at the /Now blog, Jorge Rivas kept us up to date when the news first broke, when Komen experienced both website hacks and resignations in protest (while Planned Parenthood received an outpouring of support), and when Komen apologized... sort of. The whole thing is a reminder of the power that the Internet has, to unite voices and work for good.
And speaking of the Internet, media technologist and ARC board member Deanna Zandt launched a Tumblr to collect the women's stories she was hearing from her family and friends. Check out Planned Parenthood Saved Me for a reminder of what the fight is about -- and to share your own story.
In the Colorlines.com community, we saw testimonials as well, along with anger, resolve, and strategies for moving forward. Here's what you had to say.
I have NEVER BEEN a fan of the sham organization that is Susan G Komen. Breast Cancer is not a bandwagon, and you can't pink everything in the name of a cure, ESPECIALLY when your organization is funded by pharmaceutical companies who benefit from breast cancer patients! They are shameful, and this announcement just gives me another reason to support Breast Cancer Action. You should check them out, and if you were sending money to Komen before, give it to these guys. They're the real deal. Think before you pink
Komen lost the plot years ago when they began suing other charities, including breast cancer charities, who use the phrase "for the cure". More and more donations going for legal fees for this nonsense as if only Komen is allowed to raise $$ for health care. Will never give to them again.
Karen Handel is a politician whose historically centrist perspectives have been altered by where the money is and where the loudest voices are. So, who she hears from matters, a lot. Thus, I wrote her an email to say that this decision to withdraw breast cancer screening support from Planned Parenthood concentrates Race for the Cure's services on middle-class and wealthy women. Because I don't see how leaving poor and working class women to die of undiagnosed cancer is a "pro-life" position, I plan to share this perspective with anyone wearing or selling Komen branded merchandise.
If you want to share your own message directly with Karen Handel, her work email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melissa Austin disagrees:
This is just the kind of vindictive response I've come to expect from PP zealots. It is that tendency to over-react and impugn echoed in this hit-n-run piece that played perhaps the most significant role in Komen deciding to go forward with this difficult decision. The relationship between the two organizations has been mostly 1 way with PP as the benefactors - it is thus no great surprise to see PP zealots to respond so negatively such as the occassional self-centered welfare recipient who considers their case as one of pure justified entitlement. It's surprising to me Komen didn't cut the ties earlier than they did ... it doesn't surprise me however that the PP question that they ask is not "we're we an equal partner and what could we have done to justify that relationship but instead as Akiba Solomon has done here will the sole intention to harm and malign those whom they never fully appreciated to start with.
How exactly was the relationship between PP and the Komen Foundation one of "equals"? The Komen Foundation, like many huge non-profits, have grant programs that they use to help smaller organizations achieve the funding they need each year. PP is a non-profit medical clinic that relies on, among other things, grants from larger foundations like the Komen Foundaton.
What was PP supposed to do for the Komen Foundation? Endorse it? They did. Talk about it? They did. Acknowledge the positive impact the Komen Foundation has had in making sure poor women (including woc) are able to get proper breast cancer screenings? They did that, too.
The Komen Foundation withdrew their funding for political reasons, and the fact that Handel is anti-choice just added fuel to that fire. This shows that the Komen Foundation is much more interested in maintaining their political power then actually reaching out to women who need information and testing about breast cancer.
Terry Stephan disagrees:
What many appear to be missing is that SGK is not taking the money and sending it to China. SGK is putting the money where it will do the most good and not be subject to diversion to other projects. Take emotion and politics out of it, and you get a good, logical, business decision. I give my $ to SGK for fighting cancer, not funding women's health clinics that provide a variety of services.
Terry, may I suggest you reread what you wrote. "The most good" is fighting breast cancer with education and regular checkups and mammograms. This is done mostly at annual exams and sometimes when we are in the office for other services.
"Not funding women's health clinics that provide a variety of services..." In my 58 years, I have never heard of anyone who regularly goes to one place for their annual exam, excluding cancer detection, so they can then go to another place for that part. It is an integral part of the annual exam. Doctors' offices and health clinics provide other services in addition to annuals and cancer detection. How do you propose to fight cancer by not funding clinics? Also, have you ever been a woman with no health insurance who can only get health care at a clinic? If not, I suggest you educate yourself.
Lastly, do you think you would 'feel emotion' if you found your cancer at too late a stage to recover because the only healthcare you can get doesn't provide cancer detection?
My personal view is anti-abortion with the very limited view except in cases of rape, incest and threat to the life of the mother. With that said, I am disturbed that the Komen Foundation would allow itself to be the instrument of right-wing extremists in defunding a breast cancer research and development program just because its host is being audited!
My mother died of breast cancer 40 years ago at a time when research and other programs aimed at poor black women DID NOT exist, and probably would not have catered to them if such programs did exist then! Aside from the political aspect of this decision, there is the foul and rank smell of racism beneath the surface emanating from the right-wing camp that underwrites these efforts.
Theresa M. Trujillo:
As a breast cancer survivor, I was shocked to learn that under pressure from anti-women's health political organizations, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has announced that it is ending future funding for lifesaving breast cancer screenings and breast health education at Planned Parenthood health centers.
During the course of my diagnosis, treatment, and recovery - I was certainly conscious of the great contribution Komen makes to the fight against breast cancer. Because of their work, I have been willing to use my voice and my story to support and raise money for Komen. But, Komen's actions today make it impossible for me to donate or assist in future fundraising events.
By pulling funding, Komen puts at risk low-income women, many located in rural and underserved communities. So, I am redirecting my efforts to try and help make up for the $680,000 funding shortfall that Planned Parenthood must now compensate for to provide breast health education, screenings, and referrals for mammograms -- lifesaving care for women where Planned Parenthood is their only source of health care. My contributions will barely make a dent in that shortfall but I am compelled to find some some way to contain my frustration, disappointment and outrage.