Susan G. Komen Foundation Feels the ‘Law of Unintended Consequences’ Firsthand

The first rule of a health-centric charity – don’t get political.

UPDATE: The Komen group annouced they were reversing their decision, stating “it will “amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political.”

“Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process,” the group said.”

My wife did the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure a few years ago when we lived in the Boston area. Her father had died of cancer, and she used that as her focus as she rallied support and gathered the thousands of dollars in required donations to the fund. When the news broke this week about the Komen foundation pulling breast cancer screening, she was dismayed and upset to find that one of the key areas that Komen fought for – grant funding to support breast pre-screening for women without insurance support – was being eliminated through Planned Parenthood.

There are many claiming that the move is politically motivated, while the head of the foundation claims it is based on a policy change and other internal decisions regarding how to allocate their funding and for which types of pre-screening.

Do I KNOW what is happening? No – but sometimes in my day job I have to use scientific skills such as ‘inference triangulation’ in order to come to a decision. Let’s look at some of what we know:
– Late last fall the Komen foundation hired Karen Handel as a VP. Handel had just lost an election race in Georgia in which she touted her anti-abortion stance and frequently targeted Planned Parenthood as a source of great evil.
– Also late last year a politically motivated ‘investigation’ was launched against Planned Parenthood to see if they were using federal funds for abortions, which is one of those odd half-win laws that Christian Conservatives pushed through as a means to slowly whittle away at the law of the land without actually directly addressing the law itself.
– Now a new set of regulations for Komen springs up ‘under review since 2010’ that says they will not fund anyone ‘under investigation’.
– Based on that regulation they simply HAD to pull funding from Planned Parenthood.

Seems a little convenient – like my ‘Fact or Crap’ from the other day.

So whether or not the move is political IN FACT, the appearance of a direct political motivation is compelling enough that many have taken a stance – one way or the other. Pre-lifers HOPE it was the rationale, as then it wouls suggest that Komen would use its’ considerable resources and influence to ONLY support breast-screening centers that are similarly Pro-life. Pro-Choice supporters are saddened because they see it as having choose between supporting the GOOD work that Komen does, and supporting centers that under enormous political pressure and threats (and reality) of violence uphold the law of the land such as Planned Parenthood.

Pretty much all of the criticism on Planned Parenthood is related to the fact that they provide abortion services. In fact Republican John Kly famously stated on the House floor last year that “If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does”. But what it REALITY? Given that Kyl’s statement was immediately shown to be laughably wrong, it is worth noting the distribution of services:

Contraception (including reversible contraception, emergency contraception, vasectomies and tubal sterilizations): 4,009,549 services
Sexually transmitted infections testing and treatment: 3,955,916 services
Cancer screening and prevention: 1,830,811 services
Other women’s health services (including pregnancy tests and prenatal care): 1,178,369 services
Abortions: 332,278 procedures
Miscellaneous (including primary care and adoption referrals): 76,977
Total services: 11,383,900

If you look at the distribution, you see that cancer screen is more than 15% of services as of mid-2011, impacting nearly 2 million women around the country.

So why do I talk about the ‘law of unintended consequences’? Because it reminds me of what just happened with MegaUpload in many ways – the goal was to kill the file sharing site under direction of the MPAA/RIAA and other big corporate interests under the guise of piracy and IP infringement. Yet there are millions of VERIFIED files that are legal and belong to people who used the site – and others that have closed access to the US following the raid – and whose personal property has effectively been siezed and slated for destruction by the government without consent, warrant or reasonable cause.

Now we have news that Planned Parenthood has already MORE than replaced the $680,000 in funding from Komen, and it is clear that since Planned Parenthood has been in the crosshairs of conservatives for some time that they are already used to the attention and have aligned supporters. But the interesting thing that has happened is that it isn’t a political move to support Planned Parenthood this week – it is actually a move to say ‘we support screenings and WILL NOT allow political pressure to cause ONE breast cancer death due to a lack of access’. The support is coming from almost every corner with one very notable exception.

Komen on the other hand has been the beneficiary of almost universal support – at a time when too many young women die of breast cancer and insurance companies seek to push the age for screenings and mammograms higher and higher, Komen has helped fund preventative work, as well as research to seek a cure. It is something that seemingly everyone can stand behind – and as a results they have seen millions of dollars pour in every year, with the thought that it was all being singly pushed towards women’s health and a cure for breast cancer.

That all changed this week. Now the group has also seen an increase in funding of their own, but almot singly from Christian conservative interests who would – according to more than a couple of blog commenters on various news sites – rather see a women get breast cancer (because it is treatable) due to lack of screening than have someone think abortion is acceptable (because it is not treatable). The great thing about America is that we are free to support whomever we want with our voices and financial support, but while in the past Komen has been a great nexus of support for women’s health, now true or not it is being singles out as a tool of the religious right.

So Planned Parenthood may have already been used to being on the political front lines … but I am not sure that Komen had really planned to become a part of the ‘Christian Conservative Political Alliance’. But they are … oh, boy they are – and it is unlikely that the reversal of their decision will change that anytime soon. Right now it looks like caving to political pressure … again.

The other thing worth noting – again – is the power of social media in this. Since I was driving I heard about it on both NPR and the ‘Family News Network’ (a Christian conservative radio network, as I learned), but when I arrived at my hotel it was all over my Facebook and Twitter as well as emails … the power of Social Media to quickly disseminate information and influence change is stunning.

Categories: News, Rants and Raves

5 replies

  1. Komen hasn’t definitively said that they reversed their decision to fund PP – they just said that an organization that was under congressional investigation would no longer be automatically denied grants. However, the day before, Nancy Brinker said that the real reason that they were no longer offering most grants to PP was not the investigation issue, but that PP did not provide mammograms directly, but instead merely referred women to providers that did, and they wanted to stop funding pass-through organizations (her words). Since that reason has not changed, it doesn’t appear that Komen has reversed anything when it comes to PP.

    That’s fine – one less organization on my list for funding. Sad, but, so it goes. 

    • Very true – when I finished this Komen was holding fast, and just before it was published they had the announcement … and now in the aftermath it is not clear that anything has really changed.  It was (once again) a political move, so it seems.

      • I have even less respect for the organization’s decision makers now since clearly the initial move was not based on conviction but on a politically motivated or financially motivated thought process. Caving because they had so much call out both on social media and financially simply makes them look even worse in my opinion.


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