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Washing the pink out: Moving forward on breast cancer

On Feb 2,  Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the most visible fundraising organization for breast cancer research in the United States, announced that they would not be cutting funding to Planned Parenthood after all. The announcement came in response to the massive negative public response to Komen’s decision earlier in the week to cut all grant support of Planned Parenthood. The foundation insists their decision was not politically motivated but in accordance with their policy to cut funds to affiliates that are the focus of a Federal investigation.

In a statement released the morning of February 3rd, foundation founder Nancy Brinker expressed disappointment in the public for assuming that the move to cancel the grants for breast screenings was politically motivated or that the Komen Foundation could have any goal besides the health of women. Brinker admits that their policy to cut funding to any organization that is under Federal investigation must be amended to require those investigations be “criminal, conclusive, and not political in nature.” So that’s that, everything is fine now, right?

I’m sorry Ms. Brinker but no, we are not that stupid. To expect us to forget that the policy in question was adopted only recently, that of the thousands of organizations that receive Komen grants only Planned Parenthood was affected, that newly hired senior vice president Karen Handel has publicly connected her anti-abortion views to her disapproval of Planned Parenthood as a whole, is ridiculous.

The monopoly that the Komen Foundation has enjoyed in the fight against breast cancer will not continue as this episode revealed to the public how lacking their approach to cancer research is. Why should we be satisfied to only “Race for the Cure” when so many other organizations are also researching how to prevent it?

For so long supporting the breast cancer fight meant “thinking pink,” but Komen has demonstrated that they cannot be trusted, even by affiliates of their own organization. California and Connecticut Komen branches quickly denounced the policy and vowed to continue funding their state’s Planned Parenthood breast screening programs.

The Komen Foundation has also proven itself an unnecessary marketing middleman. In the wake of Komen’s announcement of funding cuts, Planned Parenthood has raised more than three million dollars in individual donations. In her statement, Brinker seemed more upset that her foundation had been caught buckling to political pressure than the thousands of low-income women who would not receive breast cancer care because anti-abortion activists threw their weight around.

This was not  a public relations misunderstanding but a revealing misstep by a juggernaut that has lost its way.