Susan G. Komen Reverses Planned Parenthood Funding Decision That Would Have Created Dangerous Health Environment for Women

The pink ribbon symbolizing breast cancer awareness represents something else this week: betrayal.

The Susan G. Komen foundation – a non-profit which has used the pink ribbon symbol since its inception in 1982 – announced Wednesday that it would cut funding to women’s health organization Planned Parenthood that would have been used for cancer screenings for low-income, uninsured, and under-insured women. But in a complete reversal of this decision, the organization on Friday announced that it would continue to fund Planned Parenthood in the future. 

“We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics — anyone’s politics,” a blog post by the organization read.

The decisions reversal was the result of an intense backlash from political officials and women’s health advocates, as well as the resignation of a senior official at Komen. By not funding Planned Parenthood, the long term implications would have created a more dangerous environment for women who cannot afford to pay for cancer screenings anywhere else but Planned Parenthood.

Research from the National Cancer Institute shows that regular breast cancer screenings in women aged 40 to 70 years old decreases breast cancer mortality. Most doctors agree that early detection is the best way to treat and cure cancer in patients.

The funding that Komen gave to Planned Parenthood through its five year partnership directly enabled 170,000 women to receive breast cancer exams and referrals for more than 6,400 mammograms. But by ending their partnership with Planned Parenthood, Komen essentially inhibited women from seeking the care and preventative services the organization has promoted for more than 30 years.

The initial decision to cut ties with Planned Parenthood was a calculated move by Komen whose new Vice President Karen Handel, who had publicly stated her opposition to abortion.

In 2010, while running for Governor of Georgia, Handel wrote on her campaign blog that she “did not support the mission of Planned Parenthood” and would end the group’s state government aid if elected, according to ABC News.

The Wednesday move was very much politically motivated, as Komen has been the target of a campaign launched by the anti-abortion organization, Life Issues Institute, to persuade Komen to halt its partnership with Planned Parenthood.

Ironically, reports show that less than 3% of Planned Parenthood’s funding goes to abortions. So, while anti-choice groups continue to pressure groups like Komen to stop funding organizations that support abortion, Planned Parenthood itself isn’t about abortion – it’s about cancer screenings, contraception and overall live saving health services.

As news blogger Dave Dayden explained to Politico, “Unless [Komen is] putting all that money into finding that cure for breast cancer they’ve been chasing all these years, the practical effect of this action is to deny women the ability to get screened for breast cancer – women who have nothing to do with this ideological fight over abortion.”

Planned Parenthood said it's working to raise money independent of Komen so that cancer screenings don't stop. The group launched a Breast Health Emergency Fund to ensure funding to affiliates that will lose their Komen funding.

On Thursday morning, Planned Parenthood said that donors had contributed $650,000 in 24 hours, nearly enough to replace last year’s Komen funding.

The bottom line is that organizations like Planned Parenthood provide the health services to women that help prevent cancer and actually reduce the demand for abortion by offering sex education, contraception and support. These are the kinds of programs that we should be supporting, not defunding.

Photo Credit: ladybugbkt

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Stephanie Dreyer

Stephanie is the Media Relations Director for the Truman National Security Project, an institute that trains and positions progressives to lead on national security. Prior to joining Truman, Stephanie was the primary on-the-record spokesperson and media specialist for biofuels advocacy group, Growth Energy, and served as Deputy Press Secretary for her home-state Senator, Chuck Schumer. Stephanie has a B.S. in Public Relations from the College of Communication at Boston University where she received the Blue Chip Award and was inducted into the Scarlet Key Honor Society for her excellence in leadership, academics and involvement in school. Stephanie was a four-year member of the BU Varsity Women’s Soccer team and currently serves as co-chairman of the Alumni Association. She lives in Washington, D.C. and is a Truman Partner.

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