A Brief Summary Of The Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood Controversy

You’ve probably been hearing a bit about the Susan G. Komen Foundation this past week. Specifically, their politically motivated decision to stop funding cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood centers nationwide. There’s a lot of info to process, so I thought it might be helpful to pull together a summary of what’s happened so far.

Towards the end of last month, word got out that the Susan G. Komen Foundation would no longer be giving money for breast and cervical cancer screenings to Planned Parenthood, which provides OB/GYN healthcare to many low income women. This affected Planned Parenthood’s cancer screening program to the tune of $700,000. The reason they gave for this was a new rule they’d made stating they could no longer give funding to any organization currently under investigation at the local, state, or federal level, which seemed curiously designed to single out Planned Parenthood. (And indeed, PP was the only organization affected.) “Under investigation” might sound scary, but investigating is a tactic a lot of politicians use to discredit a person or organization without actually having to find something wrong with it. In this case, the “investigation” was launched by Rep Cliff Stearns (R-FL) to make sure no taxpayer dollars are being used to fund abortions. No damning evidence has yet been found.

“What the heck?” asked a bunch of people. “Isn’t Susan G. Komen that nice, apolitical organization with the pink ribbons and the cancer walks? They must have been bullied by anti-choice forces!” Even Judy Blume thought so:

Not being very familiar with the organization, I thought so, too.

But as it turns out, Susan G. Komen is far from an apolitical body dedicated purely to eradicating breast cancer. The organization actually has a history of lobbying against progressive causes, even if it means lobbying against laws that will help women who have—guess what?—breast cancer. For instance, the org lobbied hard to kill the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act back in 2000, which provided federal funds to help treat uninsured and low-income women diagnosed with those life-threatening diseases. (It passed anyway.) They’ve also lobbied against research into environmental causes of cancer, as many of the chemicals being studied are produced by corporations that donate to them. Kind of horrible, no?

Where is this right wing bullshit coming from? Many attribute the recent targeting of PP to one Karen Handel, an anti-choice politician currently serving as Komen’s senior vice president. She recently tweeted, then deleted, this charming sentiment:

Then there’s CEO Nancy Brinker, another politically active Republican. I’m not saying people with certain political views can’t serve in apolitical organizations, but these women’s politics are clearly interfering with their mission here, and have been for quite some time.

Unsurprisingly, this has been a PR nightmare for Komen, with several top employees resigning in protest, and other organizations cutting ties with them. Even NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg has gotten in on the action, donating $250,000 of his own money to PP to help fill the gap. “Politics have no place in health care,” he said in a statement. Breast cancer screening saves lives and hundreds of thousands of women rely on Planned Parenthood for access to care. We should be helping women access that care, not placing barriers in their way.” Indeed.

On the upside, a bunch of people have been donating to Planned Parenthood to help support cancer screenings for low income women. You can click here to join them.

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    • NotThumper

      When I was in college I took a women’s studies course. My professor had a huge distrust of the Susan G. Komen organization and while I don’t recall the particulars it was something about them being involved with some companies whose products were known carcinogens. That struck a chord in me and I vowed not to support their campaign (I support breast cancer awareness just not through anything Komen-I actually have several survivors in my family). It’s somewhat gratifying and incredibly saddening that my dislike for them is justified after all of these years.

      Damn right wing bullshit is right….

    • LCT

      Some of my own political beliefs would probably be considered right-wing/conservative by the community here, but this situation is just ridiculous. I’ve also had a huge distrust in the Komen foundation for years. They have an unsavory reputation as far as fundraising goes (as referenced by NotThumper), and I’ve heard some very upsetting stories about their bullying tactics used against other breast cancer organizations. I avoid the pink products like the plague, which sucks because I care so much for women’s health care. Ugh.

      Damn bureaucratic corruption is more like it.

    • mr_man

      they also waste a lot of their donations on lawsuits: http://community.wegohealth.com/profiles/blogs/lawsuits-for-the-cure

    • Kim
    • the emily

      I like your use of “anti-choice” to describe a woman that is pro-life. This wasn’t a politically skewed “article” at all…

      Also, PP doesn’t provide breast cancer screenings. They provide breast exams and referrals to other places for mammograms.