Thursday, February 02, 2012

Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation Willing to Increase Breast Cancer Morbidity to Make a Political Statement Against Abortion Rights

Sinking as low as any public health charity foundation in recent history, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation - which purports to have a mission of fighting breast cancer - is "cutting off grants to Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country to provide breast cancer screenings, including breast exams and mammogram referrals," according to an article in the Boston Globe.

The funding that is being cut amounts to a total of $680,000, which provided approximately 170,000 breast exams and resulted in more than 6,400 mammography referrals.

The reason for the withdrawal of funding: "Komen -- which sponsors walks and races to raise money for breast cancer research -- said it halted the grants because of a controversial investigation of Planned Parenthood by a Republican congressman, who claims the organization is using government funds for abortions...".

The Rest of the Story

This story is, quite frankly, disgusting. The rest of the story is that the Komen Foundation is putting women's lives at risk - eliminating funding that could well restrict thousands of women's access to potentially life-saving breast exams and mammograms - and therefore is willing to knowingly increase breast cancer morbidity and mortality. All for one purpose: to make a political statement against abortion rights and succumb to political pressure from conservative right-to-life groups.

In my book, there are two things you don't ever mix: breast cancer screening and treatment and politics. If Komen is going to do that, they might as well run over a bunch of women with a bus. This is essentially what they are doing. The bus they are driving has a big Right-to-Life sign on the side of it. But to get their message across, they are taking a bunch of women's lives with them.

And to make matters worse, the women they are running over are more likely to be poor and more likely to come from communities of color. After all, wealthier women have more easy access to women's health services and are less likely to need the services of Planned Parenthood.

Komen is telling poor women, and especially poor black women: Sorry. We are going to have to deprive you of breast cancer screening because we need to make a political statement. Your risk for fatal breast cancer is going to rise, but it's all for the greater good: we're making a vital political statement in opposition to your right to an abortion.

You know - breast cancer does not care about political affiliations or views. It affects women regardless of their political views on abortion rights. It affects women who support abortion rights and women who oppose abortion rights.

Making a political statement at the expense of potential breast cancer patients is about as despicable as it gets in public health.

Not only is the Komen Foundation destroying its mission by acting in a way to support breast cancer, but it is also alienating thousands of women, including many with the very disease that the Foundation purports to be fighting. I can't think of a worse slap in the face to breast cancer patients and to women in general.

Moreover, the Komen Foundation has now destroyed its own brand. It has taken what was a very successful public health brand and turned it into nothing more than a right-wing, conservative front group, now masquerading as a health charity.

On a personal level, I will - sadly - discontinue my contributions to the Komen Foundation unless and until they restore this funding to Planned Parenthood's breast cancer screening services. I know many fellow physicians are taking a similar stand. Were I a physician on the Komen Foundation's Scientific Advisory Board, my resignation letter would have already been in the mail.

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