Planned Parenthood: Protecting Women’s Rights

Susan G. Komen’s Decision to Pull Funding Results in Backlash




Komen’s recent actions have done more harm than good to women’s health, according to many critics. (Natalie Cuadill/Dallas Morning News/MCT)

The initial decision of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, America’s leading breast cancer organization, to pull funding from Planned Parenthood has since been reversed due to massive backlash from the public primarily though social media. As someone strongly in support of protecting women’s rights, I was outraged when I first read of Komen’s announcement that they were going to violate the right to health care by stopping the funding of breast cancer screenings and diagnostic services at Planned Parenthood. And yet, I was more confused by the decision to pull funding.

It blew my mind that a foundation centered in research and prevention of breast cancer would not support Planned Parenthood, an organization dealing wholly in women’s health.  They would cut funding that would be used for breast cancer screenings and other breast-health services.  Is that not what Komen is all about, ending breast cancer?

I’m quite sure that it would be beneficial for their cause to have as many institutions providing such services to women as possible.  Komen, after all, claims to be working to “save lives, empower people” and “ensure quality care for all,” according to their website.  If these are amongst their goals, it seems clear that Planned Parenthood, with their agenda to provide affordable health care to women of all incomes, would be a wise investment to maintain.

The reason Komen stated for abruptly cutting funding was extremely vague — something about a new policy of theirs that prohibited giving grants to institutions under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. Yet there is no proof that Planned Parenthood was under such investigation. Sorry, Komen, but I’m not buying it. In fact, no one in the media did, and the real reasons for the cease of support have surfaced: pressures from anti-abortion organizations and a right-wing former politician who was calling the shots for Komen.

The main force behind the push to defund Planned Parenthood was the vice president of public policy of Komen, Karen Handel.  Prior to being hired as the foundation’s VP last year, Handel openly opposed pro-choice organizations, specifically Planned Parenthood, on her failed campaign for governor of Georgia in 2010.

I don’t understand why Komen hired this woman. With all due respect, Komen, while you have a heavy hand in the funding of the Planned Parenthood institution, you probably should not have appointed someone who so ardently opposes it as the vice president of your organization. That, in and of itself, was a red flag.

What Handel was attempting to do was use her position of authority to advance her own pro-life political agenda.  The price of this would be the lives and well-being of nearly one million women who annually seek breast care services from Planned Parenthood. Many of these women are low-income and depend on the institution as a means of affordable health care.  This move would have cut such women off from life-saving resources, thus countering everything the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation stands for.

Planned Parenthood abortion procedures make up a mere three percent of the services the institution offers, according to their 2010 annual report.  None of Komen’s money, as in zero dollars, goes towards abortions, contraception or anything other than breast cancer screenings and diagnostic procedures.  Cutting funding to Planned Parenthood would be meaningless for Handel’s pro-life protest anyway.

Handel, nevertheless, continued to show her opposition after resigning from her position as VP last Tuesday.  She wrote in her resignation letter to Komen CEO Nancy Brinker that was released to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “I openly acknowledge my role in the matter and continue to believe our decision was the best one for Komen’s future and the women we serve.”

Come again?  Ending vital health services, such as breast cancer screenings, at affordable costs is the best decision for the women you claim to be serving…through your foundation against breast cancer? That just seems a bit counterintuitive to me.

Judging by the overwhelming Twitter and Facebook responses to this decision, I am not alone in thinking it was ridiculous.  The negative public feedback and bad press obviously pressured Komen to rethink their move and continue funding Planned Parenthood.

After all was said and done, I actually found hope in this whole ordeal.  It just showed that, while there will most likely always be a bunch of powerful individuals running our lives with little regard for our well-being, there could also be a much greater group fighting back and refusing to allow such injustices to occur.