Nearly a year after the United States House of Representatives launched the first of many attacks on Planned Parenthood, the "pro-life" agenda managed to overshadow women's health once again. But this time, it was a beloved nonprofit jeopardizing the lives of low-income women.
After attempting to yank $680,000 in funding from Planned Parenthood last Tuesday, the now infamous breast cancer foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure uploaded this contradictory YouTube explanation. In a rather guilt-ridden personal message, founder and CEO Nancy Brinker claimed she was still committed to the women who needed her most:
And she would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for those meddling journalists, feminists, internet activists, politicians, tweeters, bloggers, concerned citizens and logical thinkers.
Despite Brinker's assurance these were just ordinary financial revisions, many continued to suspect politics were influencing the organization's budget cuts. And critical voices would not be quieted until Komen reversed its decision-- which it did, just three days later.
While others responded with shock, horror and disbelief, I was reminded of my previous complaints about the pink juggernaut-- like Komen dominating awareness ribbons until the world became more concerned with breasts than the well-being of an entire woman.
For instance, this much sexier cause overshadows heart disease, which kills more women each year than all the cancers combined. And while February is (appropriately enough) American Heart Month, it pales in comparison to Komen's yearly takeover of Pinktober.
As we incessantly race for a cure, the unmistakable color has inseparable connotations of cleavage, reminding us the marketing of all things pink isn't just for little girls anymore. It's also wildly popular. Bloomberg Businessweekreported "Komen was the most valuable nonprofit brand in the world"-- before their blunder, of course.
Komen's foundation reported almost $500 million worth of total assets in 2011; nearly $30 million more than the year before. Given these figures, Tuesday's denial of less than $700 thousand to an organization offering breast exams for women without health insurance seemed to be splitting a fiscal hair.
The decision was disguised as a new policy denying any grant applicants currently under government investigation. Yet the sudden change only affected Planned Parenthood. An aftershock of the dreaded Pence amendment limiting Planned Parenthood's federal funding, Cliff Stearns (R-Flo) has officially "inquired" whether the health center used any government dollars for abortions-- and this was the Komen loophole.
The New York Timesreported Brinker was pressured by "pro-life" supporters threatening to demonstrate on the sidelines of her races. Unless they were appeased, these ruthless protesters would reveal the foundation's dirty little secret; Komen gave money to clinics offering affordable breast exams, as well as abortion services.
Since last year's socially conservative republican campaign to collapse Title X, Planned Parenthood and abortion have become synonymous. Yet the healthcare provider's own statistics paint a very different picture.
In the nearly 800 establishments visited by five million men and women across the nation each year, only three percent of their services are abortions. Yet 770,000 pap tests screening for cervical cancer are administered annually, as well as 750,000 breast exams-- paid for by the Susan G. Komen foundation.
Many were concerned when they realized a cut of almost $700,000 in annual funding would compromise healthcare for the 1 in 5 American women who will visit a Planned Parenthood in her lifetime. But after recognizing the action was a transparent bow to anti-abortion advocates, supporters of Planned Parenthood were rightfully outraged.
Some called for the de-funding of Susan G. Komen, reinforced a Facebook page with over 19,000 fans. The controversy dominated Twitter. And Komen received a letter from two dozen democratic senators on behalf of Planned Parenthood. Even employees within the foundation itself were angered enough to break ties.
Ex-managing director of Komen's community health-programs Mollie Williams refused to comment, honoring the confidentially of her previous employer. However, the Atlanticreported Williams, who was responsible for distributing the foundation's grants each year, resigned immediately following the board's decision to cut off Planned Parenthood.
Of course the most productive objections were the counter-donations Planned Parenthood received in the midst of this unfortunate event. The health center earned $3 million from more than 10,000 donors in just a few days.
But the best was yet to come, as Friday brought the reversal of Komen's decision. Brinker apologized “for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives," in an official statement featured on the foundation's website.
More importantly, the entire Komen camp continued to insist their motives were apolitical.
"We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not," said the board of directors.
Yet, yesterday morning the Huffington Postreported emails from Komen's vice president for public policy proved otherwise.
Karen Handel, already a person of interest in this charity scandal, ran for governor of Georgia in 2010-- right before she entered her position at the Komen foundation. Her campaign was endorsed by Sarah Palin who surely approved of Handel's firm stance against abortion. Handel described herself as "pro-life," which she believed explained why she did not support Planned Parenthood.
Since taking her new job, Handel has focused solely on the demands of abortion opponents. Apparently it was her idea to blame government investigations. And Friday, when the rest of the Komen foundation was ready to cave, HuffPo's confidential source said Handel wanted to continue fighting her losing battle.
While Handel should most definitely be punished for her misuse of power within the nonprofit, there's an entire board of directors who went along with her evil plan-- including Brinker. Following through with all parties involved is a must, sending the American people's message that deceitful philanthropy will not be tolerated and liars will be held accountable.
It's true what they say; it takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and only a moment to destroy it. But, as the Susan G. Komen foundation falls from its pink pedestal, there may be a silver lining-- like other causes finally garnering some attention and their respective ribbons reaping the financial benefits of valuable product placement.