By now, you’ve seen the news about Komen’s recent decision to cut its financial support for Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides millions of women with critical early detection services like breast exams.
The outcry has been absolutely incredible, dominating every social channel known to man. Main stream media, blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr (Fuck Yeah Planned Parenthood! and Planned Parenthood Saved Me), YouTube, Reddit…you name it. Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken a stand, pledging $250,000 to Planned Parenthood. Heck, even Komen’s own state affiliates are publicly revolting.
So yes, the organization associated with the pink products America has grown to know and love (ehem, pinkwashing anyone?) has once again captured America’s attention for something that seems to fly in the face of not only science, decency, and common sense — but also its mission.
Let’s review Susan G. Komen’s ‘About Us’ mission statement, shall we?
Susan G. Komen for the Cure is fighting every minute of every day to finish what we started and achieve our vision of a world without breast cancer.
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen for the Cure is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.
In the past five years alone, Planned Parenthood has provided over 4 million breast exams — of which 170,000 were supported by grant money from Komen. Early detection saves lives, a plain and simple fact that Komen itself does not dispute. And Planned Parenthood, an organization dedicated to providing affordable health care services to those who might not otherwise be able to afford such services, is one of the nation’s leading providers of preventative, primary care. In fact, about 90 percent of the health care Planned Parenthood provides is preventative, primary care — such as screening for cancers. Planned Parenthood is saving lives, empowering people, and ensuring quality care for all. Does that sound familiar? It should — it is part of Komen’s mission statement. Those are the facts.*
The world’s reaction to Komen has been full of shock and surprise. After all, how can an organization make a decision that so clearly goes against its own mission — taking them steps away from creating a world free of breast cancer?
But folks, it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Let’s take a step back and review just a couple of Komen’s decisions leading up to this moment.
- Komen’s corporate office relentlessly pursues hundreds of small groups and organizations that are using “for a cure” in the name of their group, event, or organization. (Wait, aren’t we all for a cure? I thought the idea here was to create a world free of breast cancer. If you ask me, you shouldn’t even be able to trademark that!). In many such cases, we’re talking about a tiny operation — a couple family members who are spending what little extra time they might have to raise money to fight breast cancer. So what does Komen do? Hunts them down and threatens them with lawsuits that will bankrupt them before they ever see a verdict. Meanwhile, those groups are forced to spend their time fighting a lawsuit instead of raising money to find a cure. If Komen was really interested in fighting breast cancer, it wouldn’t pursue these groups. It would support them. It would urge them to continue and cultivate these grassroots movements.
- Komen partners with Kentucky Fried Chicken for a “Buckets for the Cure” fundraising campaign. KFC is part of the problem. Even Komen’s own website urges women to maintain a healthy lifestyle (which, they explain, has rewards even beyond breast cancer prevention — such as lowering your risk of other types of cancer and chronic diseases!) by exercising, eating whole grains, avoiding fatty foods, and limiting processed meats. Remember Komen’s response to that when public health advocates pointed out the problem?
I think while the world is paying attention, we need to look at the bigger picture. As of late, Komen has consistently demonstrated that they are more interested in a world full of pink products and strong brand recognition than a world without the need of Komen — a world without breast cancer.
This could easily be a turning point for Komen, an organization that — like any other nonprofit — relies heavily on the support of its donors. So my question for you is, what’s next for Komen? I think we get to decide.
Contact Susan G. Komen. Tell them you’re angry. And let them know you’ll only stand behind organizations truly dedicated to finding a cure: http://ww5.komen.org/contact.aspx
* If you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere and would like additional facts (or perhaps new developments in the story — such as the resignation of several top officials within Komen or the discovery that Penn State also violates the brand new ‘policy’ Komen is attempting to use to justify their decision), here are a few stories I would recommend. Alternatively, let me Google that for you.