Susan G. Komen Foundation Plays Politics With Women's Lives

Komen for the Cure withdraws grants to Planned Parenthood used mostly for screenings.

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LAKEWOOD, COLO.–As the Associated Press reported on Tuesday, thanks to political pressure, the nation's largest breast cancer charity, Komen for the Cure, is halting its grants to Planned Parenthood's health centers to help mostly low-income women with breast cancer screenings. The grants have provided 170,000 clinical breast exams over the past five years.

In response, I'm going to start this column with someone else's words—those of breast cancer survivor Theresa Trujillo from Pueblo, Colo.:

As a breast cancer survivor, I was shocked to learn that under pressure from anti-women's health political organizations, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has announced that it is ending future funding for lifesaving breast cancer screenings and breast health education at Planned Parenthood health centers.

During the course of my diagnosis, treatment, and recovery--I was certainly conscious of the great contribution Komen makes to the fight against breast cancer. Because of their work, I have been willing to use my voice and my story to support and raise money for Komen. But, Komen's actions today make it impossible for me to donate or assist in future fundraising events.

By pulling funding, Komen puts at risk low-income women, many located in rural and underserved communities. So, I am redirecting my efforts to try and help make up for the $680,000 funding shortfall that Planned Parenthood must now compensate for to provide breast health education, screenings, and referrals for mammograms--lifesaving care for women where Planned Parenthood is their only source of health care. My contributions will barely make a dent in that shortfall but I am compelled to find some way to contain my frustration, disappointment and outrage.

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Theresa makes the personal case far more eloquently than I could, as does former Colorado first lady Dottie Lamm, another breast cancer survivor and supporter of both organizations.

"It really makes me sad," said Lamm, wife of former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm. "I kind of suspect there's a political agenda that got to Komen ... I hope it gets worked out."

In the meantime, Komen has a lot of explaining to do, starting with the fact that Komen's decision was clearly and shamefully political. As Washington Post healthcare writer Sarah Kliff noted in a Tweet, "Relevant: Komen Policy VP Karen Handel ran for public office on a platform of defunding Planned Parenthood." Handel was a 2010 Republican candidate for governor of Georgia, and her website states, "I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood."

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Not coincidentally, Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida has launched an "investigation" (Joe McCarthy, call your office) of Planned Parenthood funding. So Komen found a convenient excuse to opt out of grants to Planned Parenthood to provide breast cancer screenings to low-income women.

According to the AP story,

Komen spokeswoman Leslie Aun said the cutoff results from the charity's newly adopted criteria barring grants to organizations that are under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. According to Komen, this applies to Planned Parenthood because it's the focus of an inquiry launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., seeking to determine whether public money was improperly spent on abortions.

Reaction on Twitter and Facebook has been swift and furious, with a tidal wave of negative "you'll never see another dime from me" comments on Komen's Facebook page and @komenforthecure Twitter account. Komen apparently tried to delete negative comments on Facebook, but couldn't keep up. Sample from @ClinicEscort: "Deleted from @komenforthecure's FB: 'My friends & I raised $21K a few years for Susan G. Komen. I will be looking for a new charity to (sic) support.'"

If social media is any gauge, Komen's foolish decision may have irreparably damaged its brand--and more importantly, irreparably damaged the health of hundreds of thousands of women. As more than one commenter has noted, breast cancer doesn't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican.