Yesterday, Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced that it would no longer provide funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates for breast cancer screening and education programs. Komen, the world’s largest breast-cancer organization, had been providing grants to local clinics for at least six years; last year, Planned Parenthood affiliates received nearly $700,000 from the group.
Given that Komen’s mission statement includes the promise that “we’re working together to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures,” why would the organization cut funding for programs that help so many women receive potentially life-saving care? Komen’s official reason is that it recently adopted guidelines that prohibit funding organizations that are under congressional investigation. Last fall, Rep. Cliff Stern, a Republican from Florida, announced an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s use of federal funds.
Of course, the Hyde amendment and other laws have long barred the use of any federal money from going to abortion care. And the ways in which Planned Parenthood spends and reports its money have already been exhaustively detailed during last year’s congressional fight to defund the organization. Komen’s decision seems more motivated by politics than anything else, especially when you consider that the group’s founder, Nancy Brinker, contributed over $200,000 to George W. Bush; and that last year Komen hired a vice-president who spoke out in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood during her unsuccessful run for governor of Georgia.
Susan G. Komen has come under fire by activist groups in recent years for so-called “pinkwashing,” or using the emotions surrounding breast cancer to sell products that are at best tangentially related to the disease. Last year, for example, Komen was selling its own brand of perfume, which reportedly contained chemicals that were known to have adverse health effects (and which contributed only about 3% of its purchase price towards breast cancer research). Now, by withdrawing crucial support from health clinics that are, for many women, their only accessible and affordable source for comprehensive care, Komen is once again opening itself up for well-deserved scrutiny of its politics and practices. The organization has not yet said if the money will go towards other community health clinics.
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.