There’s a storm brewing in the skies above America. It’s pink-tinged clouds are hurling bolts of incendiary lightning back and forth, and there’s little indication as to when the skies will clear. Indeed, this is a storm of a feminine nature and scope; a fiery debate of breasts and babies. One would think that these two things would be complimentary of each other, like pie and ice cream or a burger and a bun… but not, it seems, when it comes to the national debate over Roe v. Wade.
Pretty pink ribbons have adorned store walls, products and ads for sometime now, all due to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. The endeavour was started in 1982 by Ms. Nancy Brinker, a former U.S. ambassador to Hungary and Chief of Protocol under the Bush (43) administration, as a result of her sister’s death from breast cancer. Since then, the foundation has grown to encompass several areas of breast cancer activism, including advocacy, research, education and supportive services, and is one of the most trusted 501c non-profit organisations worldwide. Through the funding of Planned Parenthood, Komen has provided opportunities for low-income women to receive breast cancer screenings and other supportive services, however as the latest news would have it, that has changed…or has it?
About two days ago, Komen announced that it was cutting funding to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for it’s breast cancer screening program. According to the Komen Foundation, this action was taken as a result of the recent adoption of stricter criteria that bar grants to organisations that are under investigation by the government. Of particular added interest in this story, is the recent (April, 2011) hiring of new Komen vice-president Karen Handel, former Georgia Secretary of State and vociferous abortion opponent. Also, Ms. Brinker has stated that the Komen Foundation is not in fact “defunding” Planned Parenthood per se;
“We have three grants that will go on this year, and they will probably be eligible for the next grant cycle…”
According to Planned Parenthood advocates, the decision to cease funding of PPFA is politically-motivated, resulting from pressure by anti-abortion advocacy groups, which are also responsible for prompting the government investigation of PPFA. Supporters of PPFA are also citing the Handel connection in their assertions that Komen has bowed under pressure. But let me back up for just a second, and mention that the Planned Parenthood Federation of America is currently being investigated by a congressional sub-comittee, due to concerns that taxpayer money may have been used to fund abortions. Since the announcement, both groups have seen a significant increase in donations; Komen from pro-life advocates, and PPFA from pro-choice’ers.
To the weather eye, it appears that Komen might be concerned that their funds are also being used to pay for abortions, which would explain their announced decision to break with PPFA, since those funds are supposed to be being used for breast cancer screenings and other related services. According to a Christian Science Monitor article on the matter, “…the bottom line is that Komen has cut funding for breast-cancer screening and other breast-health programs at Planned Parenthood affiliates.”(1) If Nancy Brinker is to be believed though, this is not quite the case. Ms. Brinker has also stated that Karen Handel played no part in the funding decision, which I find to be a problematic statement at best.
Either way, the issue has women on both sides of the debate worked into a frenzy, and rightly so. During my evening on Facebook, I have noted several comments made by female friends of mine, posted to the Komen page. A few hastily-drawn pictures have even found their way into my newsfeed, one of them posted to the right in this article so that you, my fine young readers, can get an idea of some of what’s being said.(2) As I stated in the opening of the article, this is one storm that is just rolling in, and I don’t think we’ve seen the full amount of precipitation that it will bring just yet.
UPDATE, February 3, 2012: It seems that Komen has now reversed its previously announced plans for defunding PPFA, amidst the firestorm of controversy. Now they’ve bowed to pressure…from the public!(3)