Susan G. Komen: A shaky foundation
Since 1982, Susan G. Komen for the Cure has provided almost two billion dollars to combat breast cancer through research, education, political advocacy and patient services. With over 100 affiliates worldwide and more than 100,000 volunteers since 2010, Komen has become, according to its own website, “the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.” That may all change given the backlash following the announcement that the foundation intended to cut a $700,000 grant to Planned Parenthood. While many of Komen’s higher-ups insisted that there was no political motivation, recently-resigned Komen vice president Karen Handel was reported by The Los Angeles Times to have spoken quite often about “yanking state funding from Planned Parenthood” during her failed 2010 Georgia gubernatorial campaign.
As more information about Handel’s political career began to circulate throughout many media sources, the most visible outcry coming from places like Facebook and Twitter, many pro-choice advocates from both sides of the political spectrum began to question the motives behind the move, and even more of the foundation’s more liberal supporters began to feel alienated by the alleged political impetus.
Regardless, Komen’s biggest mistake was going back on its original cut, which unfortunately did not quell the criticism, but rather igniting it and by the time Handel stepped down on February 7, the bulk of the charity’s supporters were questioning not only it’s morals, but the foundation on which it stood.
Despite Handel’s later claims that Planned Parenthood (PP) acted as a “gigantic bully,” one has to take into account that she stated less than 48 months before stepping into her position at Komen that she intended to eliminate her state’s funding to the organization, most notably in a July 2010 blog where Handel stated, “since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood... in fact, state and federal law prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for abortions or abortion related services and I strongly support those laws. Since grants like these are from the state, I’ll eliminate them as your next Governor.”
Personally, it is almost impossible to draw parallels between Handel’s campaign and the dogmatic changes at Komen following her appointment. The fact of the matter is that Komen’s grants to Planned Parenthood were not being sent blindly to the Planned Parenthood umbrella, but was specifically allocated to providing mammograms to women who could not otherwise afford them.
This move seems to be part of an inescapable trend of extremist politics impeding on the private sector. Yes, politics of some sort are inescapable in any American setting, but the strictly polarized attitude, whether it’s liberal versus conservative or secular versus religious, seems to be taking precedent over issues where political stances or religious backgrounds should hold no bearing because the harsh truth is, cancer can hit anyone.
While it may represent an irreversible descent in Komen’s remarkably strong image, the cut and its resulting outcry have allowed this particular sector of Planned Parenthood to thrive, gaining thousands of dollars from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other independent donors.
I know that I am not unique in that I have a family member battling breast cancer at this very moment, and I am even more certain that my family is not the only one that Komen has touched in some way. Due to both the fiscal and emotional impact Susan G. Komen for the Cure has had domestically and internationally, we can’t forget that the foundation is first and foremost a charity that has changed the lives of thousands of people.
That said, in a modern world where not-for-profits are viewed very similarly to corporations, we, the consumers, need to be well-researched in terms of where our money is going. Just because something is the biggest or most well-known does not mean that it is necessarily the best for us as individuals. If Komen still speaks to you then there is no reason to stop supporting it, but if you find yourself questioning Komen, or find anything fishy about these last few weeks, it may be time to look for a new organization.