Sufficient Scruples

Bioethics, healthcare policy, and related issues.

February 1, 2012

Susan G. Komen Foundation: Cowardice and Hypocrisy

by @ 4:46 PM. Filed under Access to Healthcare, Autonomy, Disability Issues, General, Global/Community Health, Healthcare Politics, Provider Roles, Reproductive Ethics, Women's Issues

You’d think one of the most high-profile women’s health organizations in the country would steer clear of misogynist religious-right campaigns to curtail woman-centered healthcare. You’d be wrong.

Yesterday, the Susan G. Komen Foundation  – the “pink ribbon” breast-cancer research and treatment organization – announced it was ending its long-standing annual grants to Planned Parenthood clinics to perform breast-cancer screenings and referrals for low-income women. The given reasons are as disingenuous as they are shameful: in short, SGK hired a new Vice President who, in a recent losing bid for the governorship of Georgia, had explicitly pledged to defund healthcare services at Planned Parenthood in that state. Within months of her hiring at SGK, SGK just happened to create an internal rule declaring that it would not fund any programs at organizations that were under Congressional investigation; that policy just happened to apply only to Planned Parenthood, which just happens to be the target of a fishing-expedition investigation by a virulently anti-choice member of Congress. So: the right wing has been demonizing and targeting PP for years; one jackass Congressmember creates an investigation simply to grandstand; SGK hires an avowed anti-choice opponent of PP; SGK then creates a new rule about “investigations” that applies only to PP; SGK then abandons its own PP-mediated cancer screening programs and claims it had no choice because of the bogus investigation. Well played, but hardly subtle.

This is as sickening as it is tragic. The results will be, literally, death for a predictable number of women who would have been referred for mammography and received a positive cancer diagnosis, and appropriate treatment, following examination at Planned Parenthood, but who will now go undiagnosed after those screening programs are shut down (assuming adequate replacement funding is not obtained).

I’d like to encourage SGK to reverse their decision – to consider all the benefits that come from these screening programs, and the need there is in the community for the irreplaceable medical resources they provide. I’d like to remind them that Komen Affiliates have funded breast health services through Planned Parenthood programs that have provided breast health education and breast screenings for hundreds of thousands of low-income, uninsured or medically under-served women, and that, in some areas, Planned Parenthood may be the only local source of breast health care. I’d like to point out that women served at Planned Parenthood may receive a clinical breast exam, and when further screening is needed, a referral to either a state program or a private mammogram provider. It would be useful to consider that because SGK only works with non-profit organizations, these women’s  mammograms may be paid for by the Komen-Planned Parenthood grant, since many mammography providers are for-profit but Planned Parenthood works on an entirely non-profit basis for all its services.  Surely they recall that during the past five years up to 2011, Komen Affiliate grants to Planned Parenthood paid for:

But I may not need to tell them all that. They already know it. I’m sure of that because every bit of the above information comes from a letter SGK itself posted, on their pink-ribboned letterhead, on their own website, back when the religious right was pressuring them to cut off cancer screening to low-income women as part of their misogynist anti-sex witch hunt.

In that letter – aimed at deflecting criticism from anti-Planned-Parenthood crusaders, and written before SGK hired its own anti-choice crusader as VP – SGK extols its work with Planned Parenthood, and rightly notes not only that the screening programs it funds serve hundreds of thousands of women, and identify thousands of previously undetected potential cancers, but that these programs are carried out in many cases by the only provider willing or available to do them, and thus are literally irreplaceable. In publishing that letter, SGK took a strong stand in defense of women, and of those who provide the vital – in the most literal sense – services that no one else will or can do. It openly and forthrightly documented the need women – almost exclusively low-income women, and disproportionately women of color – have for Planned Parenthood, and the great benefits they got from the Planned Parenthood programs made possible by SGK’s funding. The letter expresses a clear and unambiguous commitment to serving women (even while mush-mouthing on the issue of abortion), and takes a bold stance in the face of harassment and misogynist bullying.

That letter is no longer available on the Susan G. Komen website.

In fact, as of this writing there is no news whatsoever on SGK’s on website regarding its abandonment of the cancer screening programs it once supported Planned Parenthood in providing, and a search for “Planned Parenthood” on that site returns only a single, obscure, broken link. That link turns out to be the page that once held the letter mentioned above. It’s not accessible or advertised. Some careful Googling, however, locates the letter in an unlinked section of SGK’s site. The letter defending Planned Parenthood, its patients, and SGK’s support for them, still exists – but they won’t let you see it.

Here it is, in its original full-color form: Susan G. Komen letter describing benefits from Planned Parenthood cancer screenings.

I’d like to think that “as long as there is a need for health care for vulnerable populations, Komen Affiliates will continue to fund the facilities that meet that need.” After all, they said so – barely 8 months ago. But obviously they’re no longer willing to stand by their word. In fact, they’re no long willing to admit they ever gave their word. They’ve shown us what courage and fidelity to women truly amount to – for them.

17 Responses to “Susan G. Komen Foundation: Cowardice and Hypocrisy”

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    Los Angeles Susan G. Komen executive director resigns, citing “decisions Komen has made in the past year,” KCBS/KCAL reports.|ProducerMatthew|Just in: Los Angeles Susan G. Komen executive director resigns, citing “decisions Komen has made in the past year,” KCBS/KCAL reports.

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