Susan G. Komen Strips Planned Parenthood of Funds for Breast Exams

5 years ago

When I first heard that the Susan G. Komen foundation was screwing over Planned Parenthood I didn't believe it. The nation's most famous breast cancer charity was cutting off its funding to Planned Parenthood because of a right-wing, anti-abortion Congressman?

It sounded absurd. It sounded like some sensationalist story you might read on The Drudge Report. Or a rumor that conservatives might gleefully spread because of their irrational hatred of birth control and sex. Yes, let's smear that elitist-feminist-Nazi breast cancer group with its pretty pink ribbons and its feel-good events, Race for the Cure. Let's accuse them of plotting to cripple Planned Parenthood. Which would have been ridiculous enough, given that Nancy Brinker, Komen's founder and CEO, donated to George W. Bush's presidential campaign.

Only the story was true. Every awful, sad, infuriating word of it, according to an Associated Press story that broke last Tuesday.

Other media outlets confirmed it. NPR reported:

Planned Parenthood says the move results from Komen bowing to pressure from anti-abortion activists. Komen says the key reason is that Planned Parenthood is under investigation in Congress -- a probe launched by a conservative Republican who was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.

This meant that the hundreds of thousands of women who rely on Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening, who don't have health care or can't afford to see a doctor, would have had to fend for themselves. Go somewhere else. Or maybe forgo those pesky breast exams entirely. All because a group whose mission it is to cure breast cancer decided that its ties to a group helping women prevent breast cancer was politically untenable.

Are you sick yet?

A lot of women were. The backlash was immediate. Within hours, supporters of not just Planned Parenthood but Komen flooded Twitter and Facebook venting their outrage. At least part of the anger was due to Komen’s lame-headed attempt to try to hide the decision. The day the story exploded, I checked on Komen’s website,, to see if they had a statement about why they’d cut off their grants to Planned Parenthood. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a word about it. It was all cheery news about the latest race and pitches to donate. I say not surprisingly because Komen broke the news to Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards last December in a phone call, according to the Associated Press. So why would the group be transparent about their actions now?

But on Twitter the reaction to the news was explosive.

[View the story "Susan G. Komen Cuts Off Breast Exam Funding for Planned Parenthood" on Storify]

Caught off-guard by the fury, Komen scrambled to explain. No, it wasn’t the investigation by a Republican congressman with a long grudge against Planned Parenthood that had triggered the decision. No, it wasn’t because of Karen Handel, a former anti-choice candidate for governor of Georgia and a recent Komen executive. Or that they’d changed their criteria for grants.

The real reason, Brinker told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, an active supporter of Komen and a breast cancer survivor, was something about wanting to be more efficient and avoid “duplicative grants.” It was nonsense, of course. Did Brinker really believe that was going to cut it with women, women who’ve seen their health care and reproductive choices under relentless attack by state legislatures and Congress?

We now know that, contrary to Komen’s first feeble attempt to explain itself, that for months the charity had been hounded by anti-abortion groups that hate Planned Parenthood. And so, afraid of losing their support from conservatives, Komen threw Planned Parenthood under the bus. And hoped no one would notice. Or care. It was only a few hundred thousand dollars, after all. Only thousands of young, low-income women who would be affected. It was only breast cancer prevention. Big deal.

It was.

On Friday, after two dozen U.S. senators asked Komen to reconsider, after Michael Bloomberg and Lance Armstrong made huge donations to Planned Parenthood, Komen switched gears again. They were sorry for all the trouble they’d caused. They would renew their relationship with Planned Parenthood.

Yet they didn’t say a word about continuing to fund them.

I'm glad Komen apologized. That doesn't mean I am going to leap up and give them a high five. You go girl! In the interest of politics, the influential organization compromised women's health in the worst kind of way. By betraying the women they supposedly serve. How treacherous and sleazy is that?

Credit Image: Wenews on Flickr

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