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Friday, December 9, 2016

We Can’t Let Bishops Slow Down Race For The Cure

Last weekend, the Roman Catholic bishop in Toledo, Ohio, Leonard Blair, issued a letter banning parishes and parochial schools from raising money for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.

If you are surprised that anyone would do this to a group committed to finding a cure for breast cancer, you’re not alone.

Mary Westphal was stunned. She is the executive director of the bishop’s intended target, Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s northwest Ohio affiliate.

“I found out about it from the media and from friends,” she said in an interview Monday. “We did not get a copy of the letter from the diocese, nor did we have any conversation with the bishop before he made his decision.”

In a letter, the bishop expressed concern that Komen may one day fund embryonic stem cell research to find a cure for breast cancer.

Not now. But someday.

“For some time, moral questions have been raised from various quarters about the research funded by the Komen Foundation,” he wrote in his letter. “The Bishops of Ohio have discussed this and have looked into the matter. As best we can determine, at present the Komen Foundation does not fund cancer research that employs embryonic stem cells. However, their policy does not exclude that possibility.”

That’s true, spokeswoman Andrea Rader said in a phone call at Dallas headquarters. “We’re not funding any stem cell research now, but we don’t categorically rule it out. We are always looking to move the needle on research that, in the shortest amount of time, will find a cure for breast cancer.”

Every proposal, she said, is subject to rigorous review.

“We have a panel of 68 scientists and advocates who look at every proposal,” Rader said. No proposal for embryonic stem cell research has made the cut. Yet.

The bishop’s letter took a swipe at Planned Parenthood, too.

“(Susan G. Komen for the Cure is) also (a contributor) to Planned Parenthood, which, though it may claim to provide needed medical services to poor women, is also the largest provider of abortions in our country.”

The bishop’s letter illustrates why we must continue to repeat the facts: Ninety percent of Planned Parenthood’s patient services are preventive, primary care. This includes birth control, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and screenings for breast cancer.

For many poor and uninsured women, a Planned Parenthood clinic is the only option for this crucial care.