This week it became clear there are things more important to the Susan G. Komen Foundation--the fundraising giant that each year during breast cancer awareness month virtually swathes the United States in pink, a la Christo--than ensuring women are able to access exams for early detection of breast cancer. In a word: Politics.
This week it became clear there are things more important to the Susan G. Komen Foundation--the fundraising giant that each year during breast cancer awareness month virtually swathes the United States in pink, a la Christo--than ensuring women are able to access exams for early detection of breast cancer.
What could be more important to an organization ostensibly dedicated to the elimination of breast cancer? Answer: The politics and personal agendas of the organization's senior staff and board, both of which have been infiltrated by right-wing ideologues and both of which were instrumental in a decision to deny further support from Komen affiliates to Planned Parenthood clinics that provide breast exams. In fact, it is now clear that Komen has been infiltrated at various levels by anti-choicers willing to actually sacrifice women to breast cancer to satisfy their own agendas.
Nationwide, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses provide nearly 750,000 breast cancer screenings annually, offering risk assessments, breast exams, breast health information and education, and diagnostic and surgical referrals. Over the past five years, Planned Parenthood health centers have conducted nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams with funds from Komen, out of a total of more than four million clinical breast exams performed nationwide by Planned Parenthood clinics. Komen grants also supported more than 6,400 out of 70,000 mammogram referrals made by Planned Parenthood.
A large share of the clients served at Planned Parenthood clinics are low-income African-American and Latina women. The National Cancer Institute identifies lack of access to early and effective screening for breast cancer (and hence lack of early treatment) as a primary reason that African American and Latina women die of breast cancer at higher rates than the general population. In fact, Komen itself recognized these links in a 2011 statement on its relationship with Planned Parenthood:
While Komen Affiliates provide funds to pay for screening, education and treatment programs in dozens of communities, in some areas, the only place that poor, uninsured or under-insured women can receive these services are through programs run by Planned Parenthood.
Komen further stated:
These facilities serve rural women, poor women, Native American women, women of color, and the un- and under-insured. As part of our financial arrangements, we monitor our grantees twice a year to be sure they are spending the money in line with our agreements, and we are assured that Planned Parenthood uses these funds only for breast health education, screening and treatment programs.
As long as there is a need for health care for these women, Komen Affiliates will continue to fund the facilities that meet that need.
But apparently those women no longer matter as Komen's support has now been withdrawn. Last month, the national office of the Komen Foundation, which maintains tight control over its state affiliates, sent a memo barring those affiliates from using money they had raised at the local level to partner with Planned Parenthood clinics in improving access to breast exams.
Why? Not science, not evidence, not concern for women.
Politics and personal ambition, pure and simple.
It's no secret that anti-choice legislators at the state and national level have made Planned Parenthood the central focus of their anti-woman agenda, spending well over half of entire legislative sessions in some states focused on cutting funding and limiting access to reproductive health services. At the national level, the ongoing witch hunt aimed at PPFA has taken many forms, one of which includes a Congressional inquiry launched by House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.). Stearns sent a letter to PPFA in late September 2011 asking for an avalanche of documents to "investigate" whether PPFA has used federal funds to provide abortion services.