Komen Foundation: Not So Pretty in Pink

InsideOUT editor Elise Hugus

- InsideOUT editor Elise Hugus

News of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation’s withdrawal of funding from Planned Parenthood had feminists seeing pink this week.

Now that they’ve reversed their decision, it just seems like they slapped some rose-colored glasses on the ugly truth.

Due to outrage from women’s groups, politicians, and regular folks on social media, Komen spokeswomen shifted into damage control mode, insisting that their decision had nothing to do with the fact that Planned Parenthood provides abortion services—instead, it was because they wanted their money to go to organizations that were not under congressional investigation for using federal funding for abortions.


While it may in fact be legitimate that Komen wants to give its fundraised earnings to groups that provide breast cancer prevention services (Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammography), media reports quickly pointed out the connection between the Foundation’s Dallas VP for Public Policy Karen Handel and the pro-life statements she made in an unsuccessful bid for governor of Georgia.

Coming of age in the free world

All the hubbub caused me to flash back to two memories as a teenager: getting my first Pap smear and George W. Bush’s first act as president.

What young girl in the United States doesn’t have fond memories of her first gynecological exam? In my case, age 14 and feeling totally in charge of my own health care, I marched right up to the local Planned Parenthood with a friend.

In the waiting room, I leafed through a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves and absorbed the self-affirming messages on posters on the walls. The staff was friendly, caring, and above all, non-judgmental. When it came time to pay, they punched my $200/week salary from my after-school job at a convenience store into a sliding scale and asked me for $5 in payment. Wow. Imagine that… and then imagine how hard it is for women in places like Mississippi to take charge of their own health as I could.

A few years later, in January 2001, George W. Bush was inaugurated as president. I had recently gotten my license and was driving around, listening to the radio, when the news came on about his first act as “leader of the free world”:

All federal funding for organizations at home and abroad that provide abortion services would be immediately cut. What a message to send to the women of the world, who relied on such aid for a variety of health services, including pre- and post-natal care and contraception.

Pro-choice donations

Now, with a federal witch-hunt being led by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), organizations like Komen are bowing down to the pressure. Who loses out? Mainly low-income women—and men—for whom Planned Parenthood is a beacon in this country’s dismally unequal health care system.

The breast cancer awareness, research, and prevention activities that the Susan G. Komen Foundation provides are not without merit. But its time that women do something a little more brave than wear a pretty pink ribbon. The Komen Foundation CEO Nancy Brinker has no idea what choices poor women have to make each day. She may insist that the decision was not politically motivated, but there is really no such thing in this world.

So next time you think about joining the Race for the Cure or buying a product with a pink ribbon on it think about what you’re really supporting.

There are plenty of other groups that could use your money and support instead. Planned Parenthood is one.


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