The Komen Planned Parenthood Lesson: Lose Sight of Your Vision, Lose Your Supporters

Senior Vice President, Karen Handel has resigned in light of the Susan G. Komen-Planned Parenthood fiasco, but Komen is still reeling from the repercussions of its original decision.

Women mobilized after the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision because breast cancer is deeply personal. Many of these women had ties to other women (or men) who had breast cancer and were somehow personally affected. When Komen decided to no longer provide funding to Planned Parenthood that enabled uninsured or low-income women to receive life-saving cancer prevention care, these women took it as a personal affront.

For others, however, the issue wasn’t about breast cancer, but about principle. They decried Komen’s decision because the non-profit organization relying on donor funds failed to use those funds as donors had wished.

People knew that Planned Parenthood’s cancer screenings and preventive exams, made possible by Komen’s money, are not luxuries all women can afford, but something all women rightfully deserve. They saw the controversy as a matter of sticking to principle and saving lives — something Komen failed to accomplish as it arbitrarily realigned its mission and defunded Planned Parenthood.

Komen does have a prerogative in deciding what causes and organizations it wants to support. However, once Komen accepts donations, the foundation is held accountable for what it previously said it would do with that money – namely its mission statement and its goals. By deciding to defund Planned Parenthood, Komen denied funds to a group that also believes in the organization's mission and would have fulfilled it.

Komen’s grants supported Planned Parenthood centers in areas where there were no other resources for low-income women to get mammograms, pap smears, or other essential services. The $680,000 in grants from Komen enabled Planned Parenthood to keep providing these services at little or no charge.

The Komen Foundation was not doing its job, upholding its mission, or keeping its promise to women. Instead, it shunned its many of its ardent supporters in favor of special interest groups and politics. The Komen Foundation did not make this decision out of concern for ordinary people who require its services, but instead made it by considering the opinions and leanings of its donors and executives.

It violated its most sacred tenet — its own mission statement. Its website states, “As the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists, we’re working together to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures.” With its decision, the foundation clearly demonstrated how it put special interests and politics before “quality care for all.”

Simply put, Komen broke its contract with all the women in America.

The old adage runs true: Actions speak louder than words. It doesn’t matter that the Komen restored its funding to Planned Parenthood for this year after succumbing to external pressure. At this point, that barely placates anyone. It doesn’t matter how many publicity firms Komen may hire to restore its image. Though it has made a start by removing Karen Handel, Komen has a long way to go.

Unless Komen is able to convince people, through consistent action in the near future, that the decisions it makes are in the interest of women everywhere, the Foundation will not and cannot survive on the backs of its grassroots supporters.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons