“Every woman needs to know the facts. And the fact is, when it comes to breast cancer, every woman is at risk.” – Debbie Wasserman Schultz
The Susan G. Komen Foundation has reversed their decision to drop funding for Planned Parenthood. The SGKF says its mission is to ensure women are able to access exams for early detection of breast cancer, and this reversal is evidence that their initial break from Planned Parenthood had more to do with politics and personal agendas. Members of SGKF’s senior staff who represent religious right-wing, anti-choice ideologies tried unsuccessfully to sacrifice poor women on their bronze-age altars of ignorance.
The poor are usually the ones clinging onto the shit-end of the religious right’s stick of judgement, and had their decision to block funding been upheld, it would have ended the nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and 6,400 mammogram referrals that Planned Parenthood is able to provide through Komen funds
A Win For Minorities…
A lion’s share of the women who use Planned Parenthood are low-income African-Americans and Latinas. According to the National Cancer Institute, the lack of early access to breast cancer screening that leads to early treatment is one of the primary reasons African-American and Latina women have a higher rate of death from breast cancer over the rest of the population.
Historically, African American and Latina women make up a huge chunk of the poor, uninsured or under-insured population, along with Native American women, as well. Planned Parenthood remains, for many of them, the only place where they can go to receive breast cancer screenings, mammograms, etc.
The Lameness… It Burns…
The excuse, and it is an excuse, that SGKF used to initially defund PP was,
“Currently, however, various authorities at both the state and federal levels are conducting investigations involving [Planned Parenthood] and some of its local chapters, and the organization is barred from receiving government funding in numerous states. Under these new criteria, Planned Parenthood will be ineligible to receive new funding from Komen until these investigations are complete and these issues are resolved.”
This initial decision blew up in their face, which is is apparent by today’s statement:
“We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women`s lives,” Komen said in a statement on Friday.
“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.”
Komen said it will amend its new funding criteria to “ensure that politics has no place in our grant process.”
This came after it was discovered that there were no “authorities”investigating Planned Parenthood, nor was Planned Parenthood barred from receiving federal government funding anywhere. It was just another witch-hunt brought on by the religious right. The “investigation” in question stemmed from a Congressional inquiry at the request of House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.). He sent a letter to Planned Parenthood in September of last year requesting documents to determine whether or not Planned Parenthood used used federal funds to provide abortion services.
A Little Background…
Last year, SGKF brought on board a woman named Karen Handel. We know her very well here in Georgia from her bid for Governor. She is a well-known anti-choice politician, and part of her platform (endorsed by Sarah Palin) was a promise to defund Planned Parenthood. As a side note, her gubernatorial race was endorsed by Mitt Romney, who contributed funds to her campaign. Romney has also promised a federal personhood amendment as well as to defund Planned Parenthood.
To add insult to injury, SGKF added Jane Abraham to it’s Advocacy Alliance Board. Abraham is the General Chairman Susan B. Anthony List, which is also a pro-life organization. She also runs it’s PAC and is a director of an organization called “Nuturing Network,” which routinely spreads ideological propaganda via nefarious methods. Interestingly enough, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s wife, Maureen, is also on their board.
In an article written by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, it is made clear that SGKF’s initial decision to eliminate breast-cancer screening grants to Planned Parenthood affiliates was a political decision. He writes,
“But three sources with direct knowledge of the Komen decision-making process told me that the rule was adopted in order to create an excuse to cut off Planned Parenthood. (Komen gives out grants to roughly 2,000 organizations, and the new “no investigations” rule applies to only one so far.) The decision to create a rule that would cut funding to Planned Parenthood, according to these sources, was driven by the organization’s new senior vice president for public policy, Karen Handel, a former gubernatorial candidate from Georgia who is staunchly anti-abortion and who has said that since she is “pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood.”
Nicholas Jackson, also of The Atlantic, offers an excellent commentary as well, including,
“…the fact is that the organization devotes most of its money and manpower to screening for breast, cervical, and testicular cancers; treating menopause; testing for sexually transmitted diseases; and more.
The money provided by Susan G. Komen for the Cure went to just a fraction — about 19 according to one report — of Planned Parenthood’s more than 85 affiliates. And it was all — roughly $680,000 last year and $580,000 the year before that — used for breast-cancer screening and other breast-health services for low-income, uninsured, and under-insured women.”
Can I Get A Witness…?
But what it all comes down to are the women. I would be remiss if I did not offer you, dear readers, some personal testimony from women who’s lives have been saved through the efforts of Planned Parenthood. You can check out the “Planned Parenthood Saved Me” website, which includes real letters from real survivors, such as,
“I was 19 years old, sexually active for the first time in my life, confused and wanting to know what options I had. I also had no insurance and a part time job. They examined me, instructed me on breast self examinations and gave me birth control pills. The entire time they treated me with nothing but compassion and dignity. A few years later I had irregular bleeding and pain, turned out to be nothing serious, but again, there was PP to help me and make sure I got the care I needed. Anybody who opposes Planned Parenthood really has no idea what kind of a wonderful organization they are. Many women would be very sick, wounded or dead if it not for Planned Parenthood. Please, don’t let politics get in the way of providing much needed health care to women. This is absurd.”
“Three decades ago when I was iIn my early 20s I was a student, working full time with no insurance. Planned Parenthood was my only option for my examinations. One exam found early stages of cervical cancer. Planned Parenthood arranged for treatment for me at no cost. Without them, I doubt I’d be here today. Thank you for saving my life.”
You will find pages and pages of similar stories by regular women who are thankful for the services that Planned Parenthood provided.
Abortion Just A Small Percentage…
The website of MoveOn offers information about the scant 3% of Planned Parenthood’s patient care actually going to abortion services. They reiterate that, according to federal law, government funds cannot be used for abortion procedures, so defunding of Planned Parenthood would have only resulted in poor people who are in need of cancer screenings, contraception, and STD testing getting hurt. Here’s a handy chart for you:
As you can see, most o the services provided by Planned Parenthood have nothing to do with abortion.
The decision of the SGKF to reverse their mandate to defund Planned parenthood was aided by twenty-six United States Senators who signed a letter urging Komen to reverse its decision. Here is the contents of that letter, addressed to Susan G. Komen for the Cure Founder Ambassador Nancy Brinker:
Dear Ambassador Brinker,
We write to express our disappointment with Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s decision to cut funding for breast cancer prevention, screening, and education at Planned Parenthood health centers. This troubling decision threatens to reduce access to necessary, life-saving services. We urge Komen to reconsider its decision.
Planned Parenthood is a trusted provider of health care for women and men. More than 90 percent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood are primary and preventative including wellness exams and cancers screenings that save lives. Each year, Planned Parenthood health clinics provide 750,000 breast exams, 770,000 pap tests and nearly 4 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases. Twenty percent of all women in the U.S. have visited a Planned Parenthood health center.
For the past five years, grants to local affiliates of Planned Parenthood have been an important part of Planned Parenthood’s work to protect women from breast cancer. Komen funding for Planned Parenthood has provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and resulted in 6,400 referrals for mammograms. In 2011 alone, grants from Komen provided Planned Parenthood with roughly $650,000 in funding for breast cancer prevention, screening, and education. According to a recent statement by Komen, “In some areas of the U.S., our affiliates have determined a Planned Parenthood clinic to be the best or only local place where women can receive breast health care.”
It would be tragic if any woman —let alone thousands of women — lost access to these potentially life-saving screenings because of a politically motivated attack.
We earnestly hope that you will put women’s health before partisan politics and reconsider this decision for the sake of the women who depend on both your organizations for access to the health care they need.
This letter has been signed, at the time of this writing, by,
- Frank Lautenberg (NJ)
- Patty Murray (WA)
- Barbara Mikulski (MD)
- Barbara Boxer (CA)
- Maria Cantwell (WA)
- Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)
- Robert Menendez (NJ)
- Ron Wyden (OR)
- Richard Blumenthal (CT)
- Jeanne Shaheen (NH)
- Mark Begich (AK)
- Jeff Merkley (OR)
- John Tester (MT)
- Daniel Akaka (Hawaii)
- Bernie Sanders (VT)
- Sherrod Brown (OH)
- Leahy, Max Baucus (MT)
- Ben Cardin (MD)
- Dianne Feinstein (CA)
- Al Franken (MN)
- John Kerry (MA).
If these are your representatives, I would strongly suggest that you write them a note of appreciation.
Next Stop, Stem Cell Research…
As reporded on Daily Kos, a statement released at around the same time as the Planned Parenthood defunding was being planned, the Komen Foundation will also be denying any funding for cancer research that uses embryonic stem cells [PDF].
“This was another demand from the far right, after they learned that the Komen Foundation worked with research groups that had apparently unrelated embryonic stem cell research programs, like the National Cancer Institute and Yale, and apparently one the board of the Komen Foundation were just as eager to acquiesce to.”
We still have work to do, my friends. We have won one battle, but…
There are several members of my family who have been touched by breast cancer. Some of them are survivors, some have succumbed. The efforts of the religious right to relegate a huge percentage of our population was squashed by activism. The indignation that was unleashed by hundreds of thousands of individuals, including the politicians above, is what caused the SGKF to reverse their decision. It is highly unlikely that those who caused the decision to defund had a change of heart.
It was you, dear reader, who came together in one of the largest grass-roots efforts that I can remember, that are to thank. Activism works. Thank you for speaking out. Thousands of women will now get to live because of you.