Last week, the Susan G. Komen Foundation really stepped in it when they refused to renew their grants to Planned Parenthood. The backlash was immediate and deep, and the non-apology explanation from Komen was weak, to put it nicely. But what’s most infuriating is the fact that their crass, political decision has the potential to hurt millions of women, particularly women of color.
This issue is personal to me, and not just because I’ve given donations to Komen for years. Someone close to me is a breast cancer survivor. She has excellent health care coverage, and caught it early during a routine mammogram. She got necessary treatment, post-surgery drugs, and, knock on wood, has been in remission for years. I am not so naïve to think that her situation is the norm in this country. That first fact about her having excellent health care coverage is, for too many women, way out of reach. There are women who cannot afford to see a doctor when they are extremely sick, let alone for preventative care like a mammogram.
For women of color, the breast cancer stats are still dire. Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other race. Latinas are more likely to have large, late-stage tumors. And women of color are more likely to not have adequate health care coverage than white women.
And that’s where Planned Parenthood comes in. In many communities across the country, they are the only source of health care for women, serving almost 3 million women, men, and young people annually. They provide preventative care and yes, reproductive care. That’s really what this is all about, isn’t it?
Komen claims that they pulled their funding because of the “investigation” going on in Congresshat is complete malarkey. The right-wing in Congress has been fighting to take away Planned Parenthood’s funding for years because a mere 3 percent of the services they provide are abortions.
Maybe Komen was spooked by the pink-bible outrage that happened when conservative religious leaders found out that Komen gives money to Planned Parenthood. Forget the fact that no federal money goes toward providing abortions, and of course the Komen money never went toward that.
This is all about the right’s never-ending drive to control women’s bodies and punish those organizations who dare to help the most vulnerable amongst us.
Everyone can see that this investigation is a sham. And for Komen to use that as an excuse to pull funding for services that help millions of women was a disgrace. But maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised. The new leadership over there definitely has a strong anti-choice bent. In theory, their ideology shouldn’t have anything to do with Komen’s funding choices. But when it starts to impact life-saving decisions, it is indeed a very big problem.
Planned Parenthood has reported a huge spike in fundraising since this story broke. That’s great. But they shouldn’t be in this position at all. They provide a vital service to millions of women: saving lives by detecting breast cancer early. And if Komen’s mission is all about saving women’s lives, then they should restore their funding right away. If they don’t, they’ll be sending a clear signal that they care more about politics than helping women.
Well, surprise of all surprises, after a huge backlash, mostly fueled by social media, Komen backtracked. But people need to continue to hold their feet to the fire. Because I didn’t see a guarantee that Planned Parenthood will get funding in the future—just that they would be eligible to reapply. As more and more comes out about recently resigned Vice President Karen Handel and Ari Fleischer’s role, you’ll forgive me if I don’t quite trust that Komen won’t try to do this again when the dust is settled and we aren’t paying attention.
Daniella Gibbs Leger is VP for New American Communities Initiatives at the Center for American Progress.