Komen cures public outrage

Godiva Reisenbichler | Student Life
After merely three days, Susan G. Komen for the Cure bowed to public outrage by repealing controversial funding cuts to Planned Parenthood. The foundation justified its original decision by pointing towards a change to its grant rules that banned funding for organizations under local, state or federal investigation. In explaining the reversal, the foundation stated “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.” I question the veracity of this announcement, which was clearly crafted to placate those infuriated by Komen’s initial decision.

Although I agree with the Komen foundation’s decision to retract its original position, it remains apparent that the issue is—contrary to the PR statement—highly political. Out of about 2,000 organizations that Komen supports financially, Planned Parenthood was the only one affected by the new rule. This makes it nearly impossible not to assume that the changes were made with Planned Parenthood in mind.

It’s no secret that Planned Parenthood, a highly visible organization that provides health care, education and advocacy for women, garners national attention from anti-abortion activists who latch onto its abortion services and ignore its other programs. These critics often completely disregard the fact that abortions comprise a mere three percent of Planned Parenthood’s expenditures and the fact that federal funding can’t be used for abortions anyway. Susan G. Komen for the Cure folded under this ongoing political controversy associated with Planned Parenthood, seemingly disregarding the enormous value of its services for low-income families.

Komen’s decision to repeal the defunding lies in the deluge of public backlash, most notably on forums such as Facebook and Twitter. In the three days following the initial Komen announcement, Planned Parenthood raised nearly three million dollars and gained 10,000 new Facebook supporters. In contrast, Komen’s Facebook page was bombarded with heated comments, many of which suggested alternative cancer foundations to which one could donate. On my own newsfeed, friends posted and re-posted articles bashing the decision. This issue definitely struck a chord in liberal-minded college students across the country, many of whom rely on Planned Parenthood’s service.

Much of the criticism against Komen’s actions point to Karen Handel, who was appointed as its senior vice president in April 2011. Handel, Georgia’s former secretary of state, has publically stated that her staunch anti-abortion beliefs make her unable to support the mission of Planned Parenthood. She has since resigned, but I see the attacks on Handel as an oversimplification of the issue. No one person—even with the title of VP and with a strong personal vendetta—could have single-handedly spearheaded this de-funding process. Rather, the actions represent a miscalculated effort by Komen to mollify groups and individuals who hated the group’s ties to Planned Parenthood and posed significant threats to Komen’s fundraising.

This controversy reflects the politicization of our society as a whole. Komen’s national headquarters made a mistake, but they are rapidly attempting to fix this. Will the organization as a whole ever admit that significant political rifts between anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights advocates fueled their initial reasoning? Probably not. Regardless, the foundation responded to the public’s outcry swiftly and, I think, appropriately. Judging by the huge influx in donations to Planned Parenthood, and the decreased funding and support for Komen in this same short period, Susan G. Komen for the Cure will need quite a bit of time to repair the damage and rebuild its reputation. Hopefully the foundation will focus in the future on curing cancer and not succumb to partisan issues like abortion.

  • EFB

    There was no public outrage. There was MEDIA outrage. Karen Handel made a good decision.