Pink Hypocrisy: Susan G. Komen Yanks Funding from Planned Parenthood

Susan G Komen cuts off Planned Parenthood using a lame excuse and tries to claim it’s not political.

Shame on the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The organization blankets this country with all manner of pink marketing baubles proclaiming to care about women’s health, yet on January 31, SGK announced that it will cease future grant funding to Planned Parenthood, an organization that arguably does more for women’s health than any other by serving women without health care.

For SGK to claim that their focus is women’s health education and prevention and then to cease to support an organization dedicated to it is completely hypocritical, especially since it has a long history of funding Planned Parenthood. The LA Times reports that “over the last five years, Planned Parenthood has provided about 4 million breast exams and referrals for 70,000 mammograms nationwide. Funding from Komen covers about 170,000 of the breast exams and 6,400 mammogram referrals. Although mammograms and biopsies are referred out, Planned Parenthood doctors manage their patients’ cases.”

SGK tried to wriggle out of it by saying that they recently adopted criteria that prohibits the organization from funding any other that is under federal investigation, and conveniently, Planned Parenthood is the subject of a witch hunt launched by Cliff Stearns (R-Fla). To hide behind this technicality only highlights the fact that they are buckling to pro-life pressure. It shows that their concern is not women’s breast health in its entirety, but aligning itself politically behind a single issue that has nothing to do with breast cancer.

And that, Kivi Leroux Miller points out, is a giant branding mistake for which there is no going back now, ever. Before this, SGK managed to occupy neutral ground in the abortion debate, allowing them to appeal to women and sponsors on both sides of the issue, but now they have taken sides and unleashed “an entirely avoidable and deeply regrettable controversy.”

It started when SGK hired Karen Handel, an anti-Planned Parenthood, pro-life advocate, as VP for public policy in April 2011. Then Stearns launched an investigation into PP in September 2011, and soon after there was a new policy in place that conveniently cut funding to PP. Three sources within SGK told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that SGK manufactured that policy specifically to exclude PP, who seemed to be caught completely off guard by this decision.

After Susan G. Komen’s death, her sister, Nancy Brinker, vowed to do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. Funding Planned Parenthood and its education and prevention services is within SGK’s power, and by ceasing funding, it just took a big step backward in the fight.

Planned Parenthood has taken all of this abuse and funding cuts, and for what? Because they provide a legal service that makes up 3 percent of their services? (And no federal or SGK funds go toward abortions, by the way.) All this does is punish millions of women who rely on Planned Parenthood – the vast majority of whom are not there for an abortion.

What will happen if funding continues to decline for Planned Parenthood and the organization is finally forced to close its doors? Will pro-life advocates calling for the demise of PP feel righteous when all the low-income or unemployed women and men, uninsured adolescents, recent college grads and freelance and contract employees who can’t afford full health care coverage have nowhere to go for competent health care?

As the numbers of the uninsured grow to not only encompass the poor, but creep into the middle class, this attack on PP demonstrates an extreme lack of compassion for a large number of people in this country. Boiling all these arguments down to one issue and mounting a relentless assault on an organization because they provide one service is to be willingly blind to all the other facets of women’s health care. For SGK to place its own political agenda above its stated mission is selfish, especially knowing full well how much PP relies on their funding.

SGK should really rework those marketing materials to say: “We race for the cure for women who can afford not to go to Planned Parenthood.” In big pink letters.

image: ladybugbkt via Flickr cc (some rights reserved)

Andrea Newell

Andrea Newell is a Michigan-based writer specializing in corporate social responsibility, women’s issues, and the environment.