Breaking with the Pact: How the Komen decision will divide and conquer us, if we let it

When news broke earlier today that Susan G. Komen for the Cure was breaking with their long-standing partnership with Planned Parenthood and not renewing funding for breast cancer screenings, it is not over-stating it to say a bomb went off in the pro-choice community. Several hours later, I still don’t think my twitter feed has recovered, with tweets condemning Komen’s decision out-pacing my feeds tweeting about the Florida primary results by a margin of at least 3 to 1.

Some examples:

@LisaMaatz: Asshat move of Day: @Komenforthecure ceases funding4 breast cancer screening4 low-income women at @PPact http://bit.ly/xichxq#fem2#woc

@AbigailCollazo: Dear @PPact@CecileRichards, FYI, even if 100% of your $ went to providing abortion services, I’d still support you. RT if you agree! #fem2

Or as one of my friends on Facebook said, “Shred those pink ribbons and start supporting Breast Cancer Action.”

Clearly, this is a big upset in the pro-choice and feminist continuum.

And Susan G. Komen has already been in hot water with some of us, especially after revelations early last year that only 17% percent of the fundraising giant’s $331 million take in 2009 went to funding breast cancer research. It turns out, they spent more money on lawyers in 2009 than research. Well, they need those lawyers, after all, to snuff out any use of “For the Cure,” its trademarked slogan. And to handle tricky perfume situations. And all those other pink ribbon products

But what does it say when Komen, one of the largest and best-funded breast cancer organizations in America, decides to back the anti-choice team? What does it say about their commitment to helping women — especially low-income women — prevent, diagnose, and/or treat breast cancer?

It says that women — especially low-income women — don’t matter.

And that’s a big message coming from an organization founded by a woman looking for a cure for a disease that almost exclusively attacks women. Tell that to the 170,000 women who were screened for breast cancer at a Planned Parenthood clinic with Komen dollars during the past five years. (PS: Komen is a non-profit, which means those dollars have to go somewhere. So who’s going to get the breast cancer screening money now?)

Worse still, this decision by Komen says to me that all they care about is money. Money over people. Money over purpose. Just wash it down with a little pink. Pink makes it all better.

Well, money and dead fetuses. It always comes back to dead fetuses…

This decision is not about forces outside of Komen. This decision comes from within its own ranks — the foundation’s senior vice president of public policy is none other than Sarah Palin-endorsed Karen Handel, who ran on an anti-choice platform in an unsuccessful bid for governor in Georgia in 2010. That platform included defunding Planned Parenthood, even for screenings for breast cancer and cervical cancer.

So now women can’t get screened for breast cancer because Planned Parenthood also provides other health care options? Is Komen suggesting that I not go get my mammogram this year, which my insurance covers if I get performed at a local hospital, because there might be an abortion performed at that same hospital, too? … Because that’s the logic train they are on now.

But in our anger about this turn of events, let’s not lose sight of the real issue here — the anti-choice team is playing the old “divide and conquer” card.

Until now, Komen has enjoyed a massive good-faith following in the women’s movement. I’ve participated in and raised money for four Komen races, as have dozens of my friends and colleagues. With this one decision, Komen will divide not just our community but the community at large about which breast cancer organization is worthy of donations. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is out nearly half a million dollars in grant money it was getting from Komen.

I don’t know how they managed it, but suddenly the War on Women has unearthed a whole new battlefield. But quibbling about which breast cancer organization is the best and most worthy of donations is a red herring. That’s where the anti-choice groups want us to be looking — and fighting about. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize here.

Now more than ever is a good time to donate to Planned Parenthood to ensure that women retain access to affordable health care, in all its forms.

*UPDATE (2/3/12): Following a huge public out-cry (Planned Parenthood received almost $1 million in donations following this story) which included 26 Congressional Democrats sending a letter of protest and three of Komen’s own board members stepping down in protest, the organization announced today that it would reverse its decision and allow funds to Planned Parenthood. PS: Komen made other news this week… for the partnership with Discount Gun Sales in Seattle for a pink “Hope” handgun… So, there’s that.

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8 thoughts on “Breaking with the Pact: How the Komen decision will divide and conquer us, if we let it

  1. Thank you for posting this. People need to know that we–women as well as men–that we can conquer over the government as a whole and not divided. It won’t be easy but small steps can create big changes. I will be sharing this post wherever I can.

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