The Politicization of Women’s Health

Earlier this week, the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced that it was discontinuing funding to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings. For an organization that ostensibly cares so much about the lives of women, this decision seems to indicate that they care more about saving face under pressure from certain interest groups than they do about saving lives.

The nation’s leading breast-cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates — creating a bitter rift, linked to the abortion debate, between two iconic organizations that have assisted millions of women.

The change will mean a cutoff of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, mainly for breast exams.

Planned Parenthood says the move results from Komen bowing to pressure from anti-abortion activists. Komen says the key reason is that Planned Parenthood is under investigation in Congress — a probe launched by a conservative Republican who was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.

Source: Associated Press

Komen – which is no stranger to controversy – has been facing pressure from many anti-choice groups lately. The organization also recently brought former Georgia GOP gubernatorial hopeful Karen Handel on board as their new VP of Public Policy. It then announced its decision to un-fund Planned Parenthood after implementing “newly adopted criteria barring grants to organizations that are under investigation by … federal authorities.” I find it hard to believe that the timing  of this decision was entirely coincidental with Handel’s arrival, especially given the fact that during her run for the Governor’s Mansion, she stumped for the elimination of state funding to any organization that provides abortion-related services (even though that funding, by law, would never directly fund abortions).

The Real Deal

With so much media attention and political chatter swirling around this issue, I thought it might be helpful to provide a few of the salient facts:

  • The funding provided by Komen was never used to provide abortions. In fact, it was specifically earmarked for breast cancer screenings.
  • A mere 3% of all services provided by Planned Parenthood are abortions (and an estimated 277,000 abortions are prevented each year through their provision of free and low-cost contraceptive services).
  • Cancer screening and prevention constitute 16% of their services annually.
  • Funding from Komen to Planned Parenthood covered 170,000 breast cancer screenings each year.
  • 1 in 5 women have visited a Planned Parenthood facility in their lifetime.

Source: Planned Parenthood;

The bottom line is that the vast majority of the services provided by Planned Parenthood are health and wellness screenings and contraceptive services for women who are low-income and/or un- or under-insured – services that save lives and prevent unintended pregnancies (thereby averting thousands of abortions).

The Silver Lining

The good news that has come from this controversy is that within the last 48 hours, Planned Parenthood has received $650,000 in donations – almost enough to replace the funding from Komen – so it can continue to provide life-saving screening services to those who couldn’t otherwise afford them.

I know many people (including my grandma) who are withdrawing their support from Komen, but are unsure where to redirect their contributions. Some are giving directly to Planned Parenthood, while others want to continue to support organizations dedicated to breast cancer research, prevention and/or treatment. If you fall into the latter category, here are some ways you can ensure your charitable contributions are as effective as possible.


This entry was posted by Erin Fortney on Thursday, February 2nd, 2012 at 2:02 am and is filed under Life. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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