Opinion: Komen controversy: The pink ribbon’s ugly new image


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In one swift move, the Susan G. Komen For The Cure foundation has undermined its pro-woman, pro-health, pro-solidarity image.

By pulling funding from Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings -- not to mention after Republican activist and abortion rights opponent Karen Handel came on board as vice president of public policy -- and couching the decision as new protocol, Komen’s turned into an org women won’t want to be associated with. Not all women, of course. But there will be a lot us who’ll not longer be able to look at the pink ribbon as simply “breast cancer awareness.” They’ll think: What self-respecting, abortion rights supporter who cares about women’s rights and women’s health would be caught wearing a pink ribbon now, much less buying any of the many products that display the pink insignia? With one decision, Komen turned the pink ribbon into an ugly and polarizing symbol.


Opinionators and senators are also lamenting Komen’s move. Here’s a roundup chronicling some of the critique.

Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times writes: “[Komen] have not only made it harder for women to have abortions, but also to get birth control counseling, prenatal care, and now cancer screenings.”

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones writes: “The right’s recent jihad against Planned Parenthood is about as loathsome as anything I’ve ever seen come out of them. They simply don’t care anymore how many people they hurt or how much harm they do to anyone they disapprove of.”

Erin Gloria Ryan of Jezabel writes: “Komen’s brand is imploding and seriously alienating young women and politically progressive supporters who were drawn to the cause expressly because of their non-political approach to a non-political disease. But when a charity hires a woman like Handel, a woman who must always attach politics to a woman’s body, and allows her to project her political beliefs into her work, Komen ceases being a viable charity and starts being a self-righteous political organization for rich ladies who like hanging around with celebrities. It’s a social club, and the only thing it’s curing right now is people’s desire to raise any more money for them.”

Megan McArdle at the Atlantic writes: “In that environment, you can see why an organization that does not itself have a mission to support abortion access would want to pull back from funding Planned Parenthood, even for related services. Unfortunately, while they easily could have declined to fund PP without much backlash, de-funding them sends an extremely explicit message that is probably going to cost them significant public support. Which is a pity, because early detection and treatment of breast cancer is a mission that we should all be able to agree on.”

Senators Lautenberg, Murray, Mikulski, Boxer, Cantwell, Gillibrand, Menendez, Wyden, Blumenthal, Shaheen, Begich, Merkley, Tester, Akaka, Sanders, (Sherrod) Brown, Leahy, Baucus, Cardin, Feinstein, Franken, and Kerry write in a letter re-posted on the Washington Post:


More than 90 percent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood are primary and preventative including wellness exams and cancers screenings that save lives. Each year, Planned Parenthood health clinics provide 750,000 breast exams, 770,000 pap tests and nearly 4 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases. Twenty percent of all women in the U.S. have visited a Planned Parenthood health center.... Komen funding for Planned Parenthood has provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and resulted in 6,400 referrals for mammograms. In 2011 alone, grants from Komen provided Planned Parenthood with roughly $650,000 in funding for breast cancer prevention, screening, and education. According to a recent statement by Komen, “In some areas of the U.S., our affiliates have determined a Planned Parenthood clinic to be the best or only local place where women can receive breast health care.” It would be tragic if any woman -- let alone thousands of women -- lost access to these potentially life-saving screenings because of a politically motivated attack.

Hear, hear.


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