Susan G. Komen Foundation: Still Racing for the Cure, Just Not for All Women

I’ll admit that I’ve not always been a huge fan of the Komen for the Cure foundation. Through the years, we’ve had a rocky relationship; I even tried to be patient with the latent misogyny in the entire “Save the TaTas” campaign because I hoped that in making their message more appealing to young people in men, they were doing good things. I acquiesced after watching my grandmother die a very slow, painful death due to breast cancer. And then, I saw yesterday that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has decided to withdraw any and all contributions to Planned Parenthood as a result of anti-choice bullying and political pressure.

I wonder if people realize the breakdown of the services that Planned Parenthood actually provide. It seems to me that Planned Parenthood gets such a poor rap from ev’rybody-n-they-mama for abortions and what not but the majority of their services are preventative measures to ensure that women’s (and men’s too!) reproductive health needs are assessed appropriately. Planned Parenthood released a statement addressing their disappointment with the Komen Foundation succumbing to the pressure of the far Right, and the statement also included information about the very positive benefits of the former partnership:

Over the past five years, Planned Parenthood health centers with Komen program funding have provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams out of the more than four million clinical breast exams performed nationwide at Planned Parenthood health centers, as well as more than 6,400 mammogram referrals out of 70,000 mammogram referrals. Anti-choice groups in America have repeatedly threatened the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation for partnering with Planned Parenthood to provide these lifesaving cancer screenings.

Planned Parenthood’s quality, accessibility and affordability make it a leader in identifying breast cancer early when there is the best chance of successful treatment. 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.

Of course the Komen Foundation may get some money or support from some people or groups of people who do not support women’s rights. Breast cancer and women’s rights aren’t necessarily grouped in one, you know; in fact, as stated above, my opinion of Komen and their TaTas et aliae is that the organization has benefited in latent objectification of women cancer patients – even if for a good cause. People often think that because a person or group does good for one group of people, who may be disenfranchised in some way, the person or group cannot participate in acts that are detrimental to the group.

The outrage with the Komen Foundation’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood (who has taken a financial beating from all over the place, beginning with Congress) boils down to inequities in preventative healthcare. Planned Parenthood provides a number of resources to people who are uninsured or under-insured, and with their funds being eliminated daily, many women living in poverty are not able to receive services that are necessary. In 2008, 17% of the organizations resources were devoted to cancer screening and prevention. That may not seem like a large number percentage wise, but if you look at the numbers, you may be able to realize how substantial an effect defunding Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide cancer pre-screenings will affect individual women.

For the record, women are “poorer” than men in all ethnicities; however, Black women, followed Latinas are more likely to be in poverty in the United States. Black women are most likely of all women to die of breast cancer, even though they have a slightly lower incidence rate of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second most common cause of death among Black women. Even the Circle of Promise website, who is a project of the Komen Foundation specifically geared toward Black women, cites that the higher mortality rate in Black women may be the result of, “differences in access to and utilization of early detection and treatment.” I don’t know the ethnicities or socioeconomic background of the women (and men!) who access Planned Parenthood’s resources; I am going with the assumption that since they do not require that you have insurance, the majority of their patients do not have insurance and, as such, do not have the means for private healthcare. Caving to the pressures of the anti-choice movement wages a war on women’s bodies, poor women, and women of color.

That aside, I think that the Komen Foundation’s dissolution to its long term partnership with Planned Parenthood is foolish on a fundamental level because cancer research and contraceptive healthcare go hand in hand. Even Rick Perry acknowledges the validity in HPV vaccinations where most of the Right dismisses any weight in claims that science may make. (Yes, I know he did it wrong with proposing that the vaccinations be mandatory, but that is not the issue at hand.) The Anti-Choice movement has shoved a wedge between two causes for women (and women’s bodies) and the war is now between us, but we are the only ones suffering.

The Komen Foundation is pissing all over Susan G. Komen’s name and her sister, the CEO, should be ashamed. The organization released a statement this morning backpeddling and saying that the pressures to withdraw its support of Planned Parenthood was not political, as it isn’t a political organization and I call shenanigans. If you care about women, women’s bodies, TaTas or whatever the hell you want to reduce us to, care about all of our rights.