The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation has severed its ties with Planned Parenthood.
As a result, hundreds of thousands of dollars — nearly $700,000 last year alone — no longer will fund breast cancer screenings and other breast-related services for low-income and uninsured women at 19 Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country.
Komen made the decision in December, but the news didn’t get out until this week. Before Komen went into lockdown mode, a spokeswoman told The Associated Press that this decision had nothing to do with the relentless pressure from anti-abortion groups that want to drive Planned Parenthood into extinction.
So why did an extremist anti-abortion group brag online about the funding cuts two weeks before Komen told Planned Parenthood?
On Dec. 2, 2011, Doug Scott, president of Life Decisions International, announced on its Facebook page that Komen was off its boycott list because it no longer was funding Planned Parenthood.
“Please keep in mind that if the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation deserved to be included in The Boycott List, it would still be there,” he wrote. “There is reason to celebrate. Just do not do it too loudly.”
That post has since evaporated.
When I asked Scott how he had found out about the cuts, he hesitated and then started to laugh. “I probably shouldn’t comment on that, actually. It’s probably best if I say nothing.”
When I asked whether he’d heard it from the Susan G. Komen foundation, he laughed again.
“Might be true we heard it from Susan G. Komen. Might not be true. Maybe I heard it from an organization affiliated with Komen. Or maybe I heard it from an organization affiliated with an organization affiliated with Komen.” More laughter. “How’s that for confusing?”
On Dec. 16, Komen President Elizabeth Thompson finally told Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards that their relationship was over. Rules are rules, she said, and Komen’s had changed to prohibit funding for organizations under government investigation.
This is how easy it is to trigger that new rule: Last September, a single member of Congress — in this instance, anti-choice Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns — called for an audit of Planned Parenthood, which has long been a target of conservatives. Komen threw up its collective hands and claimed it had no choice but to abandon thousands of women who depend on Planned Parenthood affiliates for breast cancer screenings.
Curiously, only months earlier, in June 2011, Komen posted on its website a statement in support of Planned Parenthood: “During the past five years, Komen Affiliate grants to Planned Parenthood have funded 139,000 clinical breast exams and nearly 5,000 mammograms, enabling the detection of 177 breast cancers. … As long as there is a need for health care for vulnerable populations, Komen will fund the facilities that can best meet those needs.”
That statement recently evaporated from Komen’s website.
There are a lot of questions I would have asked the Komen foundation, had it responded to my numerous requests.
I’m wondering about those disappearing website posts. I’m also curious about the influence of Komen’s new senior vice president, Karen Handel. During Handel’s 2010 unsuccessful bid for governor of Georgia, she made clear that she was anti-choice and anti-Planned Parenthood. She vowed to strip PP affiliates of any funding for women’s services. She lost and joined Komen last April.
As of Wednesday evening, the only new information I could get from the Komen foundation was posted on its Facebook page. The site moderators took a break from deleting negative comments to post a statement meant to address the avalanche of criticism from disappointed donors and to chastise Planned Parenthood, which had the gall to start raising money for a breast cancer fund.
“Grant making decisions are not about politics — our priority is and always will be the women we serve. Making this issue political or leveraging it for fundraising purposes would be a disservice to women.”
That apparently was meant to be a serious statement.
Breast cancer always has been a political issue because it is overwhelmingly a woman’s disease. It took decades of lobbying — by breast cancer survivors and advocates — to get crucial funding for research and treatment. We still are waiting for a cure.
For at least the past six years, the Susan G. Komen foundation and Planned Parenthood have been partnering giants in this fight for women’s health.
Now Komen has let the relentless war on women derail this mighty force for justice.
Just like that: Poof! Gone.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (firstname.lastname@example.org) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.