As most of you have likely heard by now, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the country’s leading breast cancer charity, is revoking its grant to Planned Parenthood. Komen says it is because of a policy not to fund organizations under Congressional investigation—and Planned Parenthood is under such investigation. But when the investigation was started by a conservative Republican pressured by anti-choice groups, it seems much more likely that politics, not true organizational misconduct, is involved. Komen also, as the Washington Post noted, “hired a vice president last year who had previously advocated for the group’s [Planned Parenthood's] defunding in her run for Georgia governor.” (HuffPo has more.)
According to the AP (via NPR), the Komen grants to Planned Parenthood “totaled roughly $680,000 last year and $580,000 the year before, going to at least 19 of its affiliates for breast-cancer screening and other breast-health services.” That money paid for nearly 170,000 of the 4 million breast exams Planned Parenthood performed over the past five years.
There are many strong and thoughtful responses appearing in response to the news. Colorlines has a good piece on the implications of the Komen decision on low-income women, immigrant women, and women of color. And Dr. Susan Love, a leading breast cancer researcher and advocate (and lesbian mom), noted, “Investigation does not mean guilt. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?” and suggested, “Let’s redirect all the money that will be spent on investigating Planned Parenthood into funding studies looking to find the cause and prevent the disease once and for all.”
I don’t write a lot about being pro-choice here. A little focus is a good thing, and writing about LGBT equality keeps me busy enough. I was a pro-choice feminist before I was an out lesbian, however, and those roots go deep. Not to mention that my father and several other relatives have died of cancer. I’m appalled by the defunding of an organization that helps hundreds of thousands of women—including many low-income women—get screened for cancer each year, especially when the money is but a drop in Komen’s deep, pink, bucket.
Not that many, many other health care funding decisions aren’t driven by politics. (See the history of HIV/AIDS funding for an object lesson.) But that doesn’t mean we should let such decisions go unremarked or unchecked.
It’s good to see private funders are stepping up to help Planned Parenthood. Their defunding by Komen might in the long run be a good thing, in that it may help them attract even more money and raise awareness of the wide range of health care services they provide. Let’s hope.