In an announcement on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation told the Associated Press that it would cease providing grants used mainly for breast exams to Planned Parenthood, citing a new policy that the charity is adopting. The news, which comes at a time when the war on abortion is heating up and in which the barrage is aimed at Planned Parenthood, has sparked fierce reaction from critics, including president of Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards. She released a confrontational statement, saying, "We are alarmed and saddened that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation appears to have succumbed to political pressure.”
This statement excels at expressing the popular sentiment among those on the pro-Planned Parenthood side of the debate, who are furious at the numerous attempts to prevent funding to an organization that provides indispensible services to low-income women, ranging from mammograms, to STD testing, to contraception based on their politics.
It appears almost certain that the intended role of the charity’s new policy was to act as scapegoat for the inevitable backlash that followed their announcement. As planned, Komen blamed the new grant-making criteria for the cuts, which disqualify organizations under investigation by local, state, or federal authorities from receiving grants. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) launched the congressional investigation following pressure from anti-abortion groups. The inquiry seeks to determine whether Planned Parenthood inappropriately used federal funds to support abortion costs.
Komen, a non-profit organization, has previously been criticized for its operational nature, and likened to performing more like a standard business than a grant-making foundation. Issues raised include Komen’s promotion of unhealthy products ensuing from their links with brands such as KFC. The charity has defended their corporate relationships as an integral part of gathering funds and donations for grants. Komen has raised approximately $55 million a year from corporate partnerships. Yet, it remains hard to sympathize with Komen's CEO, who earns $459,406 annually. Further, it is highly likely that pressure from corporate brands (who allow their political ideologies to play a part in their business transactions) influenced Komen in this new turn of events.
These critiques are made in similar vein to those regarding American Cancer Society’s establishment of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with funding from pharmaceutical giant Zeneca. Sociologist Gayle A. Sulik published a book entitled Pink Ribbon Blues in 2010, in which she describes her findings and views concerning “pink ribbon culture,” which serves more as a brand name and a distraction than a real force in a breast cancer movement.
According to Planned Parenthood, they received $680,000 from Komen last year. Planned Parenthood distributed their funds to 19 local programs, and in attempt to soften the blow from the news; it has established a Breast Health Emergency Fund, initialized by a $250,000 donation by the Amy and Lee Fikes’ foundation, a family organization which released a statement along with the gift.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Michael Honda (D-Cal.) released statements expressing their discontent with the news, and urging Komen to reconsider, while many others including celebrities, women’s health organizations, and activists took to Twitter to deliver heartfelt sentiments, following the latest development in the abortion debate.
“Does cancer care if you are pro-choice?” is among the most notable tweets, emphasizing the importance of providing health care and breast examinations without allowing political pressures to come into play.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons