In the course of a week, one of the most powerful and well-respected cancer foundations in the world has managed to nearly destroy their near-pristine image.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced on Tuesday that they would cease providing grants to Planned Parenthood for cancer screening services. The outrage flared almost instantly.
Many Komen donors threatened to redirect their support to Planned Parenthood, and Komen’s website was hacked the following night.
By Thursday, three high-level Komen employees had resigned, and 26 senators had asked Komen to reconsider their decision. They did by Friday, but the damage had already been done.
The once nigh-untouchable organization is now the subject of Facebook pages like “Defund the Komen Foundation” and affiliates all over the country are losing donors and sponsorships.
Komen Founder Nancy Brinker — sister of late Susan G. Komen, who died of breast cancer in 1980 — announced that the foundation has gone into PR red alert and will ask Ari Fleischer, former Bush administration White House press secretary and previous Komen consultant, to manage the PR crisis. Why did Komen de-funding Planned Parenthood make people so angry?
The Komen grants provided to Planned Parenthood were used to provide cancer screenings and mammogram referrals to women who otherwise would not have access to such preventative care. Komen pulled their grants due to political pressure at the expense of women’s health — the very thing they were supposed to stand for.
Brinker is Republican and donates to Republican candidates, but the Komen Foundation has remained apolitical, at least until recently. Last year, the foundation appointed far-right leaning, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel to the position of senior vice president of public policy. Handel has publicly voiced her opposition to Planned Parenthood.
Many Komen employees claim that she made the decision to cease the grants to Planned Parenthood, and that Fleischer was heavily involved as well. The Komen foundation claims that the decision to de-fund Planned Parenthood was made because of a new rule created by Handel that would prohibit them from supporting an organization under investigation.
Never mind that Komen is still funding multiple other organizations also under investigation or that the investigation into Planned Parenthood is motivated entirely by politics.
The Hyde Amendment — a rider routinely attached to annual appropriation bills since 1976 — prevents Planned Parenthood from using federal funds for abortion services. Every few years, a Senator decides to inspect Planned Parenthood’s books and make sure that the funds are being used accordingly. So far, none of these investigations have produced anything suspicious, and neither has Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns’ current investigation.
Planned Parenthood provides abortion services, which many people do not agree with, but abortions account for only three percent of the services that Planned Parenthood offers. The rest is preventative care, contraception and OB/GYN care.
The grants that they receive allow them to provide subsidized care to women who otherwise would not have access to health care. The Komen grants were used to provide breast cancer screenings and mammogram referrals.
When Komen pulled their funding from Planned Parenthood they showed the world they had become, in effect, a political organization.
Pandora’s box has been opened, and now many other instances of the foundation’s unsavory behavior are coming to light.
For example, Komen officials have been seeking legal action against other charity organizations for using the phrase “for the cure” as well as the color pink — as if cancer awareness is a profitable brand identity to be protected.
In one week, Komen has fallen in the public eye from a model charitable foundation to the evil empire of non-profits. Planned Parenthood, on the other hand, has garnered an outcry of public support and over $3 million in donations. The country stood up for women’s health, but the victory feels somewhat hollow.
We won a battle last week, but we lost the soul of a great force for women’s health to politics.
Emily Brooks is an economics senior and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.