01 February 2012

The cowardice of Susan G. Komen

So yesterday a friend pointed this out on Facebook:

The nation’s leading breast-cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates — creating a bitter rift, linked to the abortion debate, between two iconic organizations that have assisted millions of women.

The change will mean a cutoff of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, mainly for breast exams.

Planned Parenthood says the move results from Komen bowing to pressure from anti-abortion activists. Komen says the key reason is that Planned Parenthood is under investigation in Congress—a probe launched by a conservative Republican who was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.

Komen cites a new policy to the effect that they have to cut off ties to organizations that are "under investigation." There's also some possible influence from a new, anti-abortion Vice President for Public Policy at the cancer charity. But what this boils down to is cowardice.

Susan G. Komen for the cure is an immensely well-regarded organization, with influence and visibility many other charities can only dream of—they're part of a movement that got NFL players to wear pink, for crying out loud. Faced with controversy trumped up around one of their partner organizations—and a partnership that specifically works to provide breast cancer screenings to women who can't afford them—Komen could have cashed in on some of that goodwill capital to say "We know Planned Parenthood does good and important work, and we're standing by them even though some ideologues in Congress are out to get them."

That would've been a little risky, but it also would've demonstrated that Komen's priority is womens' health, not political gamesmanship.

Instead, Komen decided they'd rather cut services to poor women than risk even a little "controversy." That's straight-up cowardice, as I said last night on Twitter. It's capitulation to political bullies, and it gives the lie to anything Komen might say about the importance they place on fighting and treating cancer.

I'm still getting retweet notifications from my little blast of online indignation; I'm far from the only person who finds this reprehensible. Let me suggest a way we can help Planned Parenthood make up the lost funding, and let Susan G. Komen know exactly how we feel about it: Send Planned Parenthood a donation, and when you get the e-mail confirming it, forward that message to news@komen.org, Komen's PR contact address. [Edit: When you forward that e-mail, make sure you first delete any personal information that you don't want Komen to have! I've just sent mine.]

Further edit: I am advised by Balloon Juice (via Dan Savage) that Planned Parenthood has established a fund specifically for donations to cover the breast exams Komen is no longer funding. So that's probably your best bet; I've updated the donation link above accordingly.

Still further edit: You can also help make up the funding to Planned Parenthood's breast cancer screening by buying John Scalzi's e-books, if you buy before 8 Feb. ◼

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