3 of my good friends created a Facebook group that was name-checked in the Washington Post. No big deal or anything, it’s not like I “know people” or anything. Anyway, one of those creators had the following to share with our dear readership. Please welcome Krissie as she sums up the events.
Unless your winter home is located under the nearest rock, you have heard the very recent news about the Komen Foundation/Planned Parenthood kerfuffle. But let’s recap anyway, shall we?
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, formerly known as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, is the largest, most-heavily funded, and certainly the most recognized breast cancer organization in the US. Susan Komen (née Goodman) died of the disease at the age of 38 in 1980. Her sister, Nancy Brinker, started the Foundation in 1982 in her memory (and currently serves as CEO). They promote early detection as the primary tool for preventing breast cancer deaths.
That last part bears repeating: they promote early detection as the primary tool for preventing breast cancer deaths.
That’s right. Remember that point later as we read on.
On January 31, Komen announced that they would cut all funding to Planned Parenthood. The reason cited was a “new rule” that bars that any organization under investigation from receiving funds. According, however, to Jeffrey Goldberg, journalist for The Atlantic, three inside sources in Komen have told him that the new rule was adopted solely as a means to an end – an excuse for cutting off Planned Parenthood. This seems to be corroborated by the immediate resignations of Mollie Williams, the organization’s top public health official, and Dr. Kathy Plesser, a Manhattan radiologist on the medical advisory board in protest. An internal Komen memo written by President Elizabeth Thompson and obtained by Goldberg states that if “an applicant or its affiliates” is under investigation “for financial or administrative improprieties by local, state or federal authorities,” then “the applicant will be ineligible to receive a grant.” Yet Penn State is currently under investigation by the federal government over the sexual assault scandal involving multiple counts of sexual abuse of children, and Komen has not cut their funding.
In fact, this new rule seems to apply to only a single organization so far.
Oddly, the reasoning behind the severing of funding to PP has changed in recent hours. Karen Handel, newly appointed Senior VP of Public Policy, has also stated a reason as “reprioritizing” the best use of funds. She has said that, since not every PP location has a mammography machine and offers patients referrals for this service, this qualifies as a “pass-through service” and that the organization is trying to “move away from pass-through services.” Can you think of any small, local clinics with full radiology labs on-premises?
But well, in due fairness, they need that money to fund the lawsuits when they sue smaller cancer charities that want to organize a fundraiser for copyright infringement. Yeah, really.
If you recall, the “Congressional investigation” into Planned Parenthood is an audit – launched and run solely by Rep. Cliff Stevens (R-Florida) – to determine whether PP violated the Hyde Amendment by using federal funding for abortion services (the organization is regularly audited to ascertain compliance with Hyde – no evidence of fund misappropriation has ever been found).
Recently appointed Handel claimed, in the aftermath, repeatedly that she is “troubled” that this is construed as a “political issue when it isn’t.”
In 2010, Handel ran (unsuccessfully) for governor of Georgia and was endorsed by none other than Sarah Palin (who would’ve thought she’d ever be relevant again?!) She made her dislike of Planned Parenthood and abortion a central platform of her campaign and she promised to “eliminate funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings provided by the organization.” Seems she kept her word. Komen founder and CEO, Nancy Brinker, is a long-time GOP donator and served as an ambassador under the Bush administration.
In addition to this decision, they’ve also recently cut finding to stem cell research – odd that an organization so dedicated to finding a cure that they will sue the pants off anyone who uses the word “cure” would cut funding to the actual research aspect. It’s also interesting to note that Komen reports that only about 20% of their income is allocated to research in the first place.
And then there’s this unequivocal official statement from Komen, issued in March 2011 (exactly one month prior to the hiring of BatShit Handel):
“Early screening through mammograms and education is critical to end the suffering from this disease: 98 percent of women treated for early stage breast cancer, before it spreads, are alive five years later. The widespread use of mammography and heightened public awareness of breast cancer both contribute to these favorable statistics. And while Komen Affiliates provide funds to pay for screening, education and treatment programs in dozens of communities, in some areas, the only place that poor, uninsured or under-insured women can receive these services are through programs run by Planned Parenthood. These facilities serve rural women, poor women, Native American women, women of color, and the un- and under-insured. As part of our financial arrangements, we monitor our grantees twice a year to be sure they are spending the money in line with our agreements, and we are assured that Planned Parenthood uses these funds only for breast health education, screening and treatment programs. As long as there is a need for health care for these women, Komen Affiliates will continue to fund the facilities that meet that need.”
Seems they were sure on their support of PP until Handel took the reigns.
And then there’s this story from Daily Kos contributor, Betty Pinson. Pinson writes:
“In 2000, when I first became a breast cancer activist, one of my first assignments was contacting the senators and members of Congress in my area to encourage their support for the Breast & Cervical Cancer Prevention & Treatment Act. The bill was to provide Medicaid coverage for uninsured women diagnosed through the Breast & Cervical Cancer Prevention & Screening Act, which had been passed several years earlier. IOW, the Treatment Act was necessary because uninsured women were getting no-cost breast cancer diagnosis, but still had no means to pay for treatment.
Upon calling my GOP senator and speaking with his aide, I was shocked to hear her tell me “Sen.__ can’t sign on as a co-sponsor to the bill because all the breast cancer groups aren’t in agreement on it.” Shocked, I asked her who was opposing it. She told me that Komen opposed the bill. When I asked her why, she explained that Komen felt that treatment for uninsured breast cancer patients should be funded through private donations, like the pink ribbon race. I was speechless, in shock. A phone call to another activist confirmed it was true – Komen was lobbying behind the scenes to kill the bill. A moment later, Sen.__’s aide called me back and begged me not to repeat our conversation to anyone, that she had given me the information by mistake.
Thus my lesson about Komen began in 2000. They spend a lot of money lobbying for a very different agenda. The bill passed anyway and Bill Clinton, who pushed hard in Congress for its passage, was happy to sign it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the end of Komen (and its founder, Nancy Brinker’s) political maneuvering to stall or kill legislation in Congress and in state legislatures that was supported by other breast cancer advocacy groups. They fought behind the scenes in my state to prevent the governor from adopting the Treatment Program. They worked for several years to stall or kill the Breast Cancer & Environmental Research Act. In the end, they eviscerated it by removing new funding for environmental research and substituting a panel to review all research on breast cancer & environment.”
But we’re supposed to believe that this wasn’t political? On the contrary, it appears this is how they roll.
What does all this mean? Planned Parenthood, as the largest nationwide provider of low-cost reproductive health services, is an invaluable resource to low-income women. With the current state of the economy in the US, trust me, that’s plenty of women who would have no access to these services otherwise.
So what is it that Komen is actually trying to accomplish? Early detection is (allegedly) their biggest platform. By contrast, organizations like the National Breast Cancer Coalition follow a medical consumerism model, in which individual women are educated by their physicians about their options and encouraged to make individualized, evidence-based decisions about their health care. Other organizations advocate for more research into the environmental causes of breast cancer. But the biggie Komen hammers on home is early detection and indiscriminate mammograms. So it makes absolutely perfect sense to stop funding an organization that hands out free breast cancer screenings like Santa on Christmas, right? No, wait …
Handel is quoted as saying she “does not support the mission of Planned Parenthood.” She doesn’t support the mission of providing low-cost healthcare to women? How could someone not support that – since, of course that IS PP’s mission. Their “mission” is not to peddle abortions. Their mission is to provide whatever low-cost healthcare services their patients seek. (Handel has also vocally supported the “noble work” of CPCs, but let’s not get into CPCs right now, lest I have a stroke and fall dead atop my laptop).
Aside from the initial logic fail of an organization dedicated to the eradication of cancer impeding access for any woman to a cancer screening, and the horror instigated at the idea of more deaths due to undetected cancer, there is much more going on under the surface. It seems Handel and Brinker are of the mind that … what, exactly? Poor women aren’t as deserving of quality healthcare as women of means? Because it’s their own fault for being poor – perhaps they should have not been so lazy and expecting of a handout and worked harder (or maybe not “spread their legs” and had children while un-rich)?
But my guess is that this is more about the notion that a woman who would step foot into and breathe in the air inside a PP perhaps deserve cancer? Certainly death by breast cancer is nobler and spiritually acceptable than having an abortion, or associating with anyone who has had one? Handel and Brinker appear of the mind that a woman who has an abortion is actually deserving of cancer, or at the very least, she should go to the back of the proper treatment line.
They appear to share this vein of thought with the pharmacist at an Idaho Walgreen’s pharmacy who, in January 2011, refused to fill a prescription of methergine for a patient. Methergine is an anti-bleeding drug prescribed for excessive uterine bleeding following an abortion, a miscarriage, or childbirth. When the pharmacist noted that the prescription was written by a nurse practitioner at the local PP clinic, she called the prescribing practitioner and asked if the patient had had an abortion. Citing confidentiality, she refused to answer. The pharmacist hung up and refused to fill the prescription. This means that it wasn’t that this pharmacist didn’t want to partake in an abortion – had there been an abortion at all, it was over and done with before this pharmacist laid eyes on this woman. It meant that in this pharmacist’s eyes, a woman bleeding excessively is deserving of death if she had an abortion. This seems to fall in line with the thought processes of anti-choice advocates who suggest that legal abortion preventing injury and deaths by “back-alley” abortions doesn’t have merit because if a woman dies while having an illegal abortion, she deserved it.
Bottom-line: cancer and women’s healthcare is not about bottles of pink perfume, pink measuring cups and spatulas, or pink glitter-infused nail polish. It’s a nasty, heartbreaking disease that – unlike Handel and Brinker – is indiscriminate. Susan G. Komen For the Cure should be utterly ashamed of themselves. They took a pot-shot at an organization that does the work that Komen has labored thirty years towards for the women who need it most, and they did it for no other reason than to lobby political favor. Did anyone bother to point out the bitter irony in that undergoing popular cancer treatments causes permanent infertility? Or that certain cancer treatments aren’t compatible with pregnancy and can lead to either more deaths or more abortions (due to the need to start immediate treatment)? Or that cancer treatment partnered with being un- or under-insured might lead to more abortions (due to the inability for a woman to afford a child upon the discovery that she is pregnant)?
Now kindly excuse Ms. Brinker as she runs over poor women on her way to dance on her beloved sister’s grave …