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Planned Parenthood vs. Komen: Women's Health vs. Politics

Heather Borden Herve sees political pressure as he motivator in the Komen Foundation's initial cutoff of aid to Planned Parenthood and public outcry as the cause of the Komen Foundation's later reversal of that decision.

Whew! That was close ... for a moment there I thought someone was saying that politics was more important than the health of all women. I, and millions of others, were under the impression that once again women were being used as pawns in the political game.

That was the message sent by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, the leading fundraiser for breast cancer research and support money. Up until this past week, the organization had done much to further women’s health with its pink ribbon campaign of awareness and advocacy, and its far-reaching fundraising efforts.

But this week Komen made a move that shocked many: Seeming to bow to conservative pressure, they announced they were . Komen spokespeople said that the foundation adopted a new policy, one that barred financial support of organizations under governmental investigation.

For a moment, once again, politics trumped healthcare for women.

Planned Parenthood supporters—really, supporters of protecting women's health—rallied, big time. Petition campaigns, Facebook and Twitter posts, emails, editorial cartoons ... the Internet and news media was literally awash in outcry against the direct attack on women's healthcare. It was the loudest Internet protest I've heard, likely ever.

And, surprisingly, Komen listened.

Friday, they released a statement from Komen founder Nancy Brinker, apologizing for defunding Planned Parenthood, and reversing the move, saying they will continue to maintain their current level of support.

The breaking news definitely is reason to celebrate, but the events of this week are yet another reminder about how the health of women—most usually lower income and underserved women—is regarded as dispensible and negligible, and that it's under political attack.

 has been targeted this past year by Republican lawmakers pushing to defund the organization. Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) has launched an investigation to find out if public money was used to fund abortion procedures at Planned Parenthood facilities. 

The Komen policy was only added this past year shortly after Karen Handel joined the foundation as senior vice president for public policy. Handel ran an unsuccessful bid for governor of Georgia in 2010 on a pro-life platform, and has been an outspoken critic of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood was the only recipient of Komen funds affected by the new policy; moving forward the policy will only disqualify organizations under an investigation that is "criminal and conclusive in nature and not political," per Brinker's statement.

Planned Parenthood is one of the largest providers of reproductive and general health care of women in the country. They perform pap smears, breast exams and cancer screening; the test and treat sexually transmitted diseases and infections; they provide contraception; and they provide abortion services.

The last function is what’s at the heart of anti-abortion lawmakers and organization’s objection to any support of Planned Parenthood—and yet it is only 3 percent of the services the organization provides. Planned Parenthood has made sure that money coming from Komen did not support abortions.

According to the Huffington Post, Komen funding in the past has supported nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams to low-income and uninsured women. Without that funding it would be harder for women to get the life-saving care they need.

In the words of one editorial cartoon that made the rounds yesterday, “Thank you for cutting off funding for cancer screening programs in order to prove you are pro-life.”

As the CEO of one Planned Parenthood affiliate said: "Cancer doesn't care if you're pro-choice, anti-choice, progressive, conservative. Victims of cancer could care less about people's politics."

At stake was relatively small amount:  it was said to be about $600,000 that Komen gave annually to Planned Parenthood to support breast exams and referrals for mammograms, mostly for women that wouldn’t be able to afford such preventative and diagnostic care were it not for Planned Parenthood facilities. After Komen's initial announcement cancelling support, donations (including $250,000 from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg) poured in to Planned Parenthood, making up for what it would have lost.

It was quickly clear that Komen's move backfired in more ways than one. In addition to theresignation of its top public health executive because of the Komen choice to end funding, there was renewed criticism that its famous pink ribbon campaign is more marketing than life-saving: When news of the funding brouhaha broke, cartoons quickly popped up saying that “pink mugs, shirts and shoes don’t detect cancer, doctors do,” in a reference to the actual medical care that happens at Planned Parenthood.

But most damaging of all seemed to be the understanding that Komen cared more for political alliances than healthcare, and that hurt Komen financially. Komen’s Facebook page overflowed with posters angry about the decision, who vowed never to donate again. One post said, “You can keep your pink ribbon! For shame!”

Komen did great harm to their image, and despite Friday's move to correct it, it will take a very long time to repair it. When a blog like “Pink Badge of Cowardice” is but one of many that pop up just one day after news breaks, you’ve destroyed a good chunk of your long-standing brand image—and credibility—in no time at all.

Important to note, from the start of the brouhaha, the CT affiliate of Komen vowed to continue funding local Planned Parenthood offices, so that women in southern CT would have continued to be receive healthcare even without the national organization's help. You can thank them at theirFacebook page for standing defiant and tall in the face of harmful political pressure.

What else can you do? Consider donating to Planned Parenthood and speak up about how you feel—tell your representative, tell Komen, tell your friends. And thank Komen for doing the right thing.

The attacks will keep coming. Thankfully the multitudes spoke up to help defend women's health. And it seems it was a strong enough voice to make a difference, and get those who control the purse strings—and perhaps lawmaking—to listen.

After all, the best thing to prove you’re more than a pawn is to show the power of your voice.

Mike February 06, 2012 at 05:12 PM
stop with your specious arguments-they only make you look ridiculous. Being male, female, balck, white, green or whatever does not disqualfy one form an opinion. If we followed this specious argument we would still have slavery in this country. IAnswer the question sheila if PP is so interested in woman's health why would they unleash the mafia tactics they employed to severely hurt a non-profit who has provided marvelous help to woman over teh decades? If theyw ere so concerened about womans health, why do their executives rake in milliosn of combined doallrs and just bought a $35M office space in NYC. Why did PP employees direct potentail clients to violate the law and actuall offer to assist in covering up sex trafficing of minors?
Bob Ogden February 06, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Mike, I take it from your many posts that you are decidedly anti-liberal. Perhaps this quote from Lawrence O'Donnell may put the liberal in better focus for you: "What did Liberals do that was so offensive to the Republican Party? I'll tell you what they did. Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and hence lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended racial segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act. Liberals passed the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicaire. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act. *Liberals passed the Clean Water Act. And what did CONSERVATIVES do? They OPPOSED Liberals on EVERY ONE of those things, EVERY ONE. So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, 'Liberal', as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, IT WON'T WORK, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor." Lawrence O'Donnell Jr". Planned Parenthood didn't start this fight. It was started at the grass roots level by people who are well informed and tired of the way the government uses women as pawns to advance a political agenda. That is by the way just like the Tea Party, only from the opposite side.
Mike February 06, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Pete - Thanks for providing a quote from one of the lunatics from MSNBC to bolster the liberal agenda. Now perhaps if Mr O'Donnell and you cared about facts before posting an "opinion" piece on the virtues of liberalism in this country you would learn correct history. First off Abraham Lincoln, a Republican- freed the slaves. Second, the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution, giving African-Americans the right to vote was past in 1870 and guess who controlled the Congress- thos awful Republicans. Now as far as your or should I say the obvously dim-witted O'Donnells claim that Reps voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act is just patently wrong or a lie- take your pick. If you or he cared to fact check before posting nonsense you would see that it passed because of Rep support. A greater percentage of Reps in bothe the Senate and House voted in favor compared to Dems. In fact, one of the biggest liberal Dem senator of our lifetimes- Robert Byrd opposed civil rights legislation and in fact fillibustered this legilsation for something like 15 hours. BTW, he was also a card carrying member of the KKK- so much for civil rights support. This was, is and will always be a conservative country in terms of politics. Yes, there will always be the loose cannons like O'Donnel but and you are thankfully in minority.
SLJ February 06, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Anybody quoting Laurence O'Donnell might as well be quoting Al Sharpton, Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, and last, but not least, Keith Olbermann. They all deserve each other, with their blather.
Bob Ogden February 06, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Yes Mike Abraham Lincoln was a republican. That was in the 1800's. You want to hold on to that to show what the current Republican Party is like than be my guest but truthfully it's totally irrelevant to today's politics. Even Reagan was too liberal for today's conservatives. You may not have noticed but your party jumped the shark a long time ago.
Mike February 06, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Pete, you made a statement above that essentailly claimed Republicans were racists while libs were the saviors of the world. I have completely refuted your assertion with facts. Do you rescind your statement above? Or like Larry O'Donnel do you wear the liberal badge with honor eventhough liberals-dems were actually against civil rights? The problem with all of the posts from the radicall PP supporters on this site is that you write opinion as fact. You are entitled to your opinin as I am mine, but when you cross the line and confuse opinion with fact, then you all need to be called out on it. Perhaps Larry has a picture of Sen Byrd in his white hood on his wall? Afterall he wears his liberal badge with honor.
Flem Snopes Jr. February 06, 2012 at 08:23 PM
The last president who was a conservative was Dwight David Eisenhower. Every president since then has been a communist in practice if not name. Exeunt.
SLJ February 06, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Well, I am glad we cleared that up.
Francis T McVetty February 06, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Yes contribute to the BABY KILLERS. Sleep well at night for you know that you contributed to the deaths of many unborn citizens that have NO representation.
Bob Ogden February 06, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Flem Glad to hear you don't discriminate
Francis T McVetty February 06, 2012 at 09:23 PM
I guess that the Komen Foundation has SO much money that it can contribute money to other organizations. The trouble with that is the people that do contribute to this organization have the belief it is going into PREVENTING CANCER. I don't think these contributors think that there contributions are going to putting the unborn to death.
Bob Ogden February 06, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Thank you Francis, I do sleep well at night. Glad to hear you care.
ammiel schwartz February 06, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Greater NYC Komen, to whom I complained and suggested they split from the national unit just emailed me this. http://www.komennyc.org/2010_Redesign/images/spacer.gif We are very pleased to report that Susan G. Komen for the Cure headquarters in Dallas has reversed its position concerning funding criteria for grantee organizations. Thank you to all of you, our passionate supporters, who have called, emailed and posted on our social media sites to register your feelings about this unfortunate turn of events. Komen Greater NYC leadership has been working behind-the-scenes to express our own views and yours on this subject and we are happy to report that the Komen National Board of Directors heard our concerns. We feel that this is definitely a step in the right direction and hope all of you agree and continue to support our organization. In the end, it is the thousands of women and families we serve who will benefit most by our continued support. The official statement is below. Sincerely, http://www.komennyc.org/images/dara-sig-03.gif Dara P. Richardson-Heron, MD Chief Executive Officer, Komen Greater NYC
Francis T McVetty February 06, 2012 at 11:00 PM
What a load of BS!! They want to continue to save woman's lives. Really? How about the females that Planned Parenthood has MURDERED? That is what I call it, murder. Defenseless and UN-represented, that's what they are. Criminals get better treatment. At least they have legal representation.
Mike February 06, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Francis- as you noticed the commenters on these boards and the Patch editors are severely disingenous in villifying Komen who up until their dared to stand up to PPs continud shake downs of them were doing a fine job. Are they doing anything diffrent today than last week- of course not. They are providing a tremdous service in the area of breast cancer-something btw that PP does not provide. Yet, now these commenters want to see Komen go away advising people to give money to PP (as if $350M of tax payer dollars /year is not enough). But they make no mention of the fact that PP is under investigation and PP employees are on film aiding and abetting sex trafficors, telling potentail clients girsl as young as 14 to lie about their ages so they can get abortions. Isnt that just a great, upstanding and ethical organziation-one that you would be proud to give your hard earned money to.
spark2 February 09, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Hey Francis, how many cops did the NRA kill with its teflon, armor piercing bullets. Keep up the good work.
Frank J February 09, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Spark2 You're absolutely correct. Apparently it's OK to kill people but you need to wait until they're born
Mike February 10, 2012 at 12:25 AM
HErbert- again very specious arguments on your part and sparky, but am glad to see that you recognize that abortion is murder!
Frank J February 10, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Francis, Obviously sarcasm is not something you can recognize. Always found it a bit odd that you Anti-Choice folks think it's a terrible sin to destroy a fetus but are quite comfortable with guns and the death penalty. How does one justify these diametrically opposed positions?
Watchdog February 10, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Herb: The better question is why you are so comfortable murdering defenseless babies who committed no crime while not willing to execute a mass murderer?
notbob February 10, 2012 at 02:02 AM
This is not rocket science. A fetus, zygot, group of cells, whatever euphamism you use, has not made any choices in life. They haven't had the chance to murder or rape. They haven't made the decsion to use teflon coated bullets to kill a cop. They actually haven't been born and been given that opportunity. However a convicted criminal has had the opportunity to live and make decisions about killing cops, or blowing people up, or rape and murder. When you make those decisions society, through thier elected representatives has proscribed the death penalty as a punishment sometimes. The first case is what you call "Innocent Life", and the second case, "A Guilty Person". It's the difference between an SS Camp Guard killing a Holocaust victim and the Nuremberg Tribunal executing the Camp Guard. You can be against one and for the other. Unless of course you think that the victim is not worthy of life in the first place, then there is no difference at all.
Bjorn Olsson February 10, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Unless Komen actually starts building their own hospitals, the kind of HAVE to grant money away to put what they raise to work, no?
Francis T McVetty February 10, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Criminals that kill people and are convicted, had their chance to defend themselves in court. What chance did the unborn child have, Where is YOUR justice?
Francis T McVetty February 10, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Show me where the NRA had anything to do with Teflon bullets!! The NRA protects the rights of the American people and supports the Constitution of the United States unlike our PRESIDENT. Who thinks, by the way, that the constitution gets in the way of his agenda.
spark2 February 10, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Nobody likes abortion, but they have always happened and will always happen. Better safe than back alley, right!! Seeing how Mike and notBob sound like men, you really have no say in this. You wont get pregnant. This is just part of the church led attack on women, a fight that has been running for hundreds of years. 98% of catholic women use birth control, yet the church run hospitals cant provide it in their health plans. Why don't they excommunicate the 98% too. Notice how the Bishops Conference was ready to attack, just like they attack the victims of priest sex crimes. Vile acts by a few for sure, but the cover-up implicates the entire church. Women deserve proper health care.
Mike February 10, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Yes, nobody likes abortions, especially the babies who are being murdered. Your argument that being a male as made by other pro-death supporters is specious. It holds no wait. If we followed your line of logic, we would still have slavery in this country. Please provide the evidence that 98 percent of women use BC. If that were true we would have negative population growth. It's absolutely ridiculous. And yes, when all other arguments fail, bring up the sex abuse scandal because yes as you say the entire Church is at fault. Unbelievable
Watchdog February 10, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Tat is a disgustingly innacouate portrayal of the Catholic Church. The church has never attacked women, in fact Mary the Mother of God is a revered figure in the Catholic Church and it's teachings. Abortions are considered to be the killing of a defenseless baby and the fact that they occurred anyway is no reason to condone it and make it easier. And your comment about the Bishops attacking the victims of sex crimes had no foundation in fact. YOU are a pure and unadulterated CATHOLIC BASHER. Tolerance of others beliefs is clearly not your strong suit. Coming to he defense of any group should not be at the expense of another group.
Bob Ogden February 10, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Actually mike, 98% of Catholics do use birth control and 99% of women in this country also use birth control. Contraception doesn't mean you have no children, it just means that you choose when and how many. Your specious argument that if 98% of women use birth control you would have zero population growth makes no sense. That 98% figures comes from several different surveys that were taken over the past ten years. You have a computer, look it up.
Bushrod Washington February 10, 2012 at 09:59 PM
My aunt and uncle, Martha and George Washington, didn't have to use birth control because Uncle George was sterile. But he did birth a nation, which I suppose is something.
Bob Ogden February 11, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Bushrod, I love your Uncle and often carry his picture in my wallet. What do you suppose he would say about this mixing up of religion and politics? I myself suspect he'd be against it but then he had this obsession with individual rights.

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