Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast cancer charity which until recently had an enviable reputation as being totally impartial and focused purely on saving women's lives, may have caused itself irreparable damage. By announcing a few days ago that it would stop awarding funds to Planned Parenthood, a sexual health organization; it found itself in the middle of an enormous public outcry. Many say this single act might well have been a self-inflicted kiss of death.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. is also a charity, which is known to deliver reproductive health care, sex education and information to millions of women, men and young people globally. Planned Parenthood is pro-choice - it offers abortion advice as part of its service, and believes it is up to the pregnant woman to decide whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure (Komen) awarded Planned Parenthood substantial sums to carry out breast scans (mammographies), predominantly for women from poorer households. According to Komen in December 2011, its funds which went to Planned Parenthood paid for 139,000 breast exams during that year, as well as over 5,000 mammograms - 117 breast cancer cases were identified.
A few days ago, Komen said it was not going to give Planned Parenthood any more grants. The charity said it was because Planned Parenthood was being investigated by US authorities. However, most people believe the move was political - there is a Komen board member who is pro-life (anti-abortion) - that Komen was forced cut its ties because of Planned Parenthood's pro-choice stance. The new Komen chief is Senior Vice President Haren Handel, a known conservative.
Planned Parenthood made a public appeal, saying that approximately $700,000 in funding it used to get from Komen would need to be raised. The appeal, amazingly, raised over $400,000 in 24 hours. It was clear it would not be long before the $700,000 was reached. Some famous figures came forward, offering personal donations, such as NY City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who pledged $250,000.
Today, news sources say Planned Parenthood has raised $3 million. Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, says this extra money will be used just for breast screening services.
Commenting on national support by over 10,000 donors so far, Cecile Richards said:
"When it broke, it just caught fire. This is an extraordinary
outpouring of support."
Komen risked not only becoming irrelevant for Planned Parenthood's breast health services, but also being known as the charity that succumbs to political pressure, regardless of women's health. Experts clearly stated that Komen's move would make no difference to the number of abortions being performed, but would seriously affect poorer women's access to breast screenings and advice on breast health.
As criticism for Komen's move grew, so did in-fighting within the charity. Eventually, Komen made an announcement which can only be seen as a funding u-turn. It announced that it was reviewing its funding policies, and that most likely Planned Parenthood would be back on its list of grantees.
Bioethicists are now saying that Komen's final change of heart may be too little, too late. Perhaps the only way Komen can have a chance of eventually regaining its pristine image, is to start by getting rid of its leadership and board - for they were the ones who clumsily landed the charity in its present undesirable spotlight. Otherwise, far from being the envy of charitable organizations, it may simply end up being just one of hundreds of charities in the USA asking people for donations.
In 2010, Harris Interactive reported that Komen was the most valuable non-profit brand on the planet.
Background reading, some articles published over the last couple of months:
- "Dropping Planned Parenthood Is Not Political, Says Susan G. Komen For The Cure"
- "Susan G. Komen Starts U-Turn After Planned Parenthood Cut-Off"
- "Pink Bibles Recalled, Linked To Planned Parenthood Funding"
Written by Christian Nordqvist