Standing Tall for Planned Parenthood—It Worked!

After leading breast cancer advocacy organization Susan G. Komen for the Cure pulled funding from Planned Parenthood, public outcry convinced the breast cancer charity to reverse its mistake.


Whew! That was close...for a moment there I thought someone was saying that politics was more important than the health of all women. I, and millions of others, were under the impression that once again women were being used as pawns in the political game.

That was the message sent by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, the leading fundraiser for breast cancer research and support money. Up until this past week, the organization had done much to further women’s health with its pink ribbon campaign of awareness and advocacy, and its far-reaching fundraising efforts.

But this week Komen made a move that shocked many: Seeming to bow to conservative pressure, they announced they were . Komen spokespeople said that the foundation adopted a new policy, one that barred financial support of organizations under governmental investigation.

For a moment, once again, politics trumped healthcare for women.

Planned Parenthood supporters—really, supporters of protecting women's health—rallied, big time. Petition campaigns, Facebook and Twitter posts, emails, editorial cartoons...the Internet and news media was literally awash in outcry against the direct attack on women's healthcare. It was the loudest internet protest I've heard, likely ever.

And surprisingly, Komen listened.

Friday, they released a statement from Komen founder Nancy Brinker, apologizing for defunding Planned Parenthood, and reversing the move, saying tthey will continue to maintain their current level of support.

The breaking news definitely is reason to celebrate, but the events of this week are yet another reminder about how the health of women—most usually lower income and underserved women—is regarded as dispensible and negligible, and that it's under political attack.

 has been targeted this past year by republican lawmakers pushing to defund the organization. Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) has launched an investigation to find out if public money was used to fund abortion procedures at Planned Parenthood facilities. 

The Komen policy was only added this past year shortly after Karen Handel joined the foundation as sr. vice president for public policy. Handel ran an unsuccessful bid for governor of Georgia in 2010 on a pro-life platform, and has been an outspoken critic of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood was the only recipient of Komen funds affected by the new policy; moving forward the policy will only disqualify organizations under investigation that is "criminal and conclusive in nature and not political," per Brinker's statement.

Planned Parenthood is one of the largest providers of reproductive and general health care of women in the country. They perform pap smears, breast exams and cancer screening; the test and treat sexually transmitted diseases and infections; they provide contraception; and they provide abortion services.

The last function is what’s at the heart of anti-abortion lawmakers and organization’s objection to any support of Planned Parenthood—and yet it is only 3 percent of the services the organization provides. Planned Parenthood has made sure that money coming from Komen did not support abortions.

According to the Huffington Post, Komen funding in the past has supported nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams to low-income and uninsured women. Without that funding it would be harder for women to get the life-saving care they need.

In the words of one editorial cartoon that made the rounds yesterday, “Thank you for cutting off funding for cancer screening programs in order to prove you are pro-life.”

As the CEO of one Planned Parenthood affiliate said: "Cancer doesn't care if you're pro-choice, anti-choice, progressive, conservative. Victims of cancer could care less about people's politics."

At stake was relatively small amount:  it was said to be about $600,000 that Komen gave annually to Planned Parenthood to support breast exams and referrals for mammograms, mostly for women that wouldn’t be able to afford such preventative and diagnostic care were it not for Planned Parenthood facilities. After Komen's initial announcement cancelling support, donations (including $250,000 from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg) poured in to Planned Parenthood, making up for what it would have lost.

It was quickly clear that Komen's move backfired in more ways than one. In addition to theresignation of its top public health executive because of the Komen choice to end funding, there was renewed criticism that its famous pink ribbon campaign is more marketing than life-saving: When news of the funding brouhaha broke, cartoons quickly popped up saying that “pink mugs, shirts and shoes don’t detect cancer, doctors do,” in a reference to the actual medical care that happens at Planned Parenthood.

But most damaging of all seemed to be the understanding that Komen cared more for political alliances than healthcare, and that hurt Komen financially. Komen’s Facebook page overflowed with posters angry about the decision, who vowed never to donate again. One post said, “You can keep your pink ribbon! For shame!”

Komen did great harm to their image, and despite Friday's move to correct it, it will take a very long time to repair it. When a blog like “Pink Badge of Cowardice” is but one of many that pop up just one day after news breaks, you’ve destroyed a good chunk of your long-standing brand image—and credibility—in no time at all.

Important to note, from the start of the brouhaha, the CT affiliate of Komen vowed to continue funding local Planned Parenthood offices, so that women in southern CT would have continued to be receive healthcare even without the national organization's help. You can thank them at theirFacebook page for standing defiant and tall in the face of harmful political pressure.

What else can you do? Consider donating to Planned Parenthood and speak up about how you feel—tell your representative, tell Komen, tell your friends. And thank Komen for doing the right thing.

The attacks will keep coming. Thankfully the multitudes spoke up to help defend women's health. And it seems it was a strong enough voice to make a difference, and get those who control the purse strings—and perhaps lawmaking—to listen.

After all, the best thing to prove you’re more than a pawn is to show the power of your voice.

S Tadik February 05, 2012 at 07:38 AM
The 3% figure is misleading or incomplete in 2 ways. First, both abortion and capital punishment willfully and legally kill humans so it is possible to make a relevant comparison. The cost of electricity, ammunition or chemicals is a small percentage of the operating budget of the prison systems which include capital punishment as part of their services but the damage done is much larger than the cost percentage, so the % statistic can mislead. Second, some methods of contraception may result in an abortion equivalent but these are not separately reported so the “abortion services” catchall may be incomplete and understated. In fact, there are more abortions performed per year than executions, so given abortion’s greater usage, it might be interesting to examine the dollars expended per extinguished life rather than the expenditure % to understand which is more efficient.
Glen K Dunbar February 06, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Birthright AND Planned Parenthoold provide VERY needed help to Women and couples/ They both should be supported ALL the way from donation from the Rich and also Govt funding 100% GLEN
J Bauer February 06, 2012 at 01:06 PM
The 3% figure is very misleading. Any woman that goes to PP for an abortion receives serveral other services as well. The right number to look at is what % of PP's patients receive abortions. I believe the number is roughly 10%. Furthermore, the proportion of PP's revenues that come from abortions is roughly 1/3. I always thought of PP as a pro-abortion organization veiled withinin a more general womens health cause.
Stan February 07, 2012 at 04:58 AM
The reality is that Planned Parenthood—with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion—does little in the way of screening for breast cancer. But the organization is very much in the business of selling abortions—more than 300,000 in 2010, according to Planned Parenthood. At an average cost of $500, according to various sources including Planned Parenthood's website, that translates to about $164 million of revenue per year. Source:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204369404577206692451108960.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop
Stan February 07, 2012 at 05:40 AM
Just to give you an idea of why some of us are skeptical - to say the least - of Planned Parenthood, there are some quotes from Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood that are highly troublesome. Just Google 'Margaret Sanger quotes' and you'll likely be shocked.


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