The Komen case: behold the fury of scorned survivors

Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation races to undo a bad choice in the fight against cancer
February 5, 2012 12:00 am

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The good news is that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation has seen the error of its way and reversed its plans to eliminate grants to Planned Parenthood. The bad news is how it lost sight of its mission to begin with.

Less than a year ago, the foundation's national office hired a new senior vice president for policy: Karen Handel, who in 2010 ran a failed race for governor of Georgia on an anti-abortion platform, promising to defund Planned Parenthood if elected. Sarah Palin endorsed her.

In September, Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., prodded by anti-abortion groups, launched an "investigation" of Planned Parenthood, ostensibly to make sure it wasn't using federal funds for abortion services, even though regular audits by the Department of Health and Human Services and state Medicaid programs showed no pattern of misuse of funds.

One month ago, Komen suddenly enacted a new policy barring it from funding any organization that was under investigation by local, state or national authorities.

Last week, having erected the scaffold, Komen cut off funding for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood health centers, citing the Stearns inquiry as the reason -- as if a congressman's partisan witch hunt is tantamount to a criminal inquiry by the U.S. attorney general. By that standard, Democrats in Congress should "investigate" Komen; then the foundation would have to withhold funds from itself.

If it all looked like a well-orchestrated plan to insert another layer of Republican roadblocks into women's health care, that's because it was.

Personally, I've been fed up for years with Komen's ubiquitous pink ribbons on everything from dog collars to designer handbags. Breast cancer is serious, but so are many diseases that have been eclipsed by Komen's relentless marketing juggernaut. And Komen's ties to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, coupled with its avoidance of environmental causes of cancer, have always seemed a bit suspect.

Nevertheless, the Komen organization merits high praise for the 830,000 breast cancer screenings its events have funded each year for women who might have gone without them. Nineteen of Planned Parenthood's 83 offices providex 170,000 of those screenings, along with 6,400 mammogram referrals.

Sally Kalson is a staff writer and columnist for the Post-Gazette ( skalson@post-gazette.com , 412-263-1610).
First Published 2012-02-11 01:52:54
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