A Painful Betrayal
With its roster of corporate sponsors and the pink ribbons that lend a halo to almost any kind of product you can think of, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation has a longstanding reputation as a staunch protector of women’s health. That reputation suffered a grievous, perhaps mortal, wound this week from the news that Komen, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, decided to betray that mission. It threw itself into the middle of one of America’s nastiest political battles, on the side of hard-right forces working to demonize Planned Parenthood and undermine women’s health and freedom.
The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the foundation is cutting off its financing of breast cancer screening and education programs run by Planned Parenthood affiliates. That means nearly $700,000 less for Planned Parenthood, which performed 750,000 such screenings last year, many thousands of them with money from the Komen foundation.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York pledged to matchup to $250,000 for Planned Parenthood, a generous move, although it addresses only one year’s financing. There was also an outpouring of support from small donors.
In addition to harming women, the foundation has also tarnished, perhaps permanently, its brand, symbolized by the pink ribbon that adorns yogurt cups and running shoes and tote bags and Federal Premium Ammunition’s pink shotgun shells. Companies like Ford Motor, Dell and Yoplait may not find the same value in identifying themselves with the foundation after its sharp departure from political neutrality.
To try to justify its move, the foundation cited a new policy against making grants to groups under federal or state investigation — in Planned Parenthood’s case, an inquiry into how it spends its taxpayer money by Representative Cliff Stearns, a Republican of Florida. That is just a flimsy fig leaf.
Mr. Stearns’s “investigation” is nothing more than a political witch hunt, stirred up by Republican leaders and by a right-wing antichoice group, Americans United for Life,which now displays the pink ribbon on its Web site as part of a fund-raising campaign for Komen. The inquiry is part of the Republican campaign to stigmatize Planned Parenthood and end financial support for its invaluable network of clinics. Abortions make up only about 3 percent of its work, but most of this crowd also objects to its leading role in providing access to contraceptives.
The Komen foundation should be speaking out against this abuse of Congressional power. At the least, the foundation’s leaders should have the decency and good sense not to do or say anything that even implies an endorsement.
It’s not clear whether this move reflects the political agenda of Komen’s leadership, including its new senior vice president for public policy, Karen Handel, who called for defunding Planned Parenthood during her failed gubernatorial campaign in Georgia in 2010. Perhaps the foundation just caved in to bullying by politicians, although it is not clear why it would have unless it was sympathetic to their cause. Either way, the result is the same: negative fallout for women’s health.
BREAKING News Today 2/3/2012: Susan G. Komen for the Cure has changed its decision regarding its partnership with Planned Parenthood. We are happy and relieved they have made this decision and hope women’s access to critical health care is uninterrupted.
BREAKING News Today 2/3/2012: Letter of Apology to public:
We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.
The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.
Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.
Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.
It is our hope and we believe it is time for everyone involved to pause, slow down and reflect on how grants can most effectively and directly be administered without controversies that hurt the cause of women. We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue. We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics – anyone’s politics.
Starting this afternoon, we will have calls with our network and key supporters to refocus our attention on our mission and get back to doing our work. We ask for the public’s understanding and patience as we gather our Komen affiliates from around the country to determine how to move forward in the best interests of the women and people we serve.
We extend our deepest thanks for the outpouring of support we have received from so many in the past few days and we sincerely hope that these changes will be welcomed by those who have expressed their concern.
© 2012, agentleman.