Nel's New Day

February 4, 2012

Komen’s Dirty Little Secrets

The women of the United States loudly spoke this week, and they defeated a conservative push to diminish their health care and deny them reproductive rights. After the Susan G. Komen for the Cure refused to renew grants to Planned Parenthood—the only one of over 2000 requests—the foundation endured three days of pushback from angry women until they reversed their position. Foundation leaders probably thought that the move toward far-right conservatism in this nation for the past decade would allow them to succeed in this agenda. The backlash will seriously weaken the power that Komen has wielded over the past 30 years.

I have long been critical about the nation’s glorifying the foundation’s pink image and its concern about a cure instead of prevention. People who donate to Komen, run in its race, or buy anything pink are content are pleased that they can contribute without any thought of providing more resources for prevention, for example in environmental hazards.

Over the past three decades, Komen has developed such an arrogant attitude that it sues any other organization that dares to use the color pink or who dares to speak the words “for the cure.”

Komen also makes money from any corporation despite the waste or the danger to developing breast cancer.  In 2005 Yoplait donated ten cents to Komen for each lid mailed to them by consumers who spent 37 cents to mail the lid. A donation of 37 cents to Komen would be far more cost-effective than buying Yoplait. Two years ago Komen paired with Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) which sold “Buckets for the Cure” with fried and grilled chicken sold in pink buckets. Komen is well aware of the dangers that saturated fat, unhealthy eating, and obesity for developing breast cancer.

An examination of Komen leaders shows them to be consistently conservative and opposed to Planned Parenthood. Founder and CEO Nancy G. Brinker served under George W. Bush as chief protocol officer for the U.S. and later as ambassador to Hungary.  Both she and her late husband, Norman Brinker, have been major Republican donors.

Senior Vice President Karen Handel was a candidate in the Republican gubernatorial primary in Georgia before she came on board almost a year ago. “[S]ince I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood,” she wrote when she pledged to eliminate all state funds for breast and cervical cancer screening to the group if she were elected governor.

Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for George W. Bush and prominent right-wing pundit, was secretly involved in hiring Handel, basing the interviews of prospective candidates on how to handle controversy about Komen’s relationship with Planned Parenthood. In his book, Taking Heat, Fleischer criticized Planned Parenthood as a partisan, ideological organization that receives undeserved positive coverage in the press.

A member of Komen’s Advocacy Alliance Board is Jane Abraham, the General Chairman of the anti-choice and anti-science Susan B. Anthony List and of its Political Action Committee. Among other activities, Abraham has been a leader in establishing the “crisis pregnancy clinics” designed to prevent any abortions and mislead women about their health and reproductive rights. Working with Abraham is Maureen Scalia, wife of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Komen Foundation asserted that they defunded Planned Parenthood because it “is under investigation in Congress.” The “investigation” comes from a Republican at the urging of anti-abortion groups. After a three-day barage, Komen changed its policy to “criminal” investigation, still a problem for them because a number of the institutions receiving its grants are under criminal investigation.

Among those receiving Komen money are Harvard University for allegedly discriminating against Asian-Americans and violations of the Animal Welfare Act after a monkey died in its research labs; Yale University for failing to adequately address sexual misconduct and harassment; Columbia University for religious discrimination; The University of Texas regarding its executive salaries and compensation; and Massachusetts General Hospital regarding HIPAA (patient privacy) violations. The University of Madison, where a cancer researcher was forced to resign after internal investigations disclosed unacceptable conflicts of interest, also receives Komen funds.

Sponsors and other donors suffer from the same issue of being “under investigation,” as an examination of Komen’s Million-Dollar Council Elite demonstrates. Corporations committed to annually giving Komen a minimum of $1 million include Ford Motor Corporation, the subject of multiple federal investigations in the last two years alone, and American Airlines, in a dispute with the Pension Fund Guaranty Agency which filed $91 million in liens against the company this last week.

Bank of America, another million-dollar donor, is “currently under a local, state or federal formal investigation for financial or administrative impropriety or fraud.” Among other possible illegal actions, the bank is being investigated for “fraudulently steering homeowners into overpriced insurance policies”; for “foreclosure fraud and other wrongdoing in the mortgage markets, including the packaging and selling of mortgage-backed securities by Wall Street players and scams by smaller players offering to help troubled borrower”; and for its loan modification practices.

According to Richard Eskow, “The Susan G. Komen Foundation targeted Planned Parenthood for moral scorn to justify a decision that we now know to be political, while accepting money from organizations that are under investigation and giving to others in the same condition. That’s what happens when a single charity pursues and achieves excessive control over one area of need. Like B of A and other large banks, it’s a monopoly that’s leveraging its size and influence improperly. Case in point: The foundation chose to cut funding for stem cell research. Given its size and dominance, that’s a serious threat to this critical avenue of research.”

Lauren Kelley described some of the lessons to be learned from the Komen fiasco. First, do not mess with Planned Parenthood supporters. They are loyal and willing to donate. Planned Parenthood Federation of America CEO Cecile Richards said that PPFA had received $3 million in donations from more than 10,000 individuals in just the three days that Komen said it was withdrawing its support.

Second, we can and should stand up to anti-choicers. Federal and state conservative legislatives have beaten down opposition to women’s reproductive rights for over a year, and Planned Parenthood has been on its chopping block. Now they see what happens when Komen tries to take away $700,000 in grants from the organization. Amanda Marcotte said in the Guardian: “Now, a new narrative is forming: if you attack Planned Parenthood, be prepared to meet massive resistance, as well as a ton of negative press….”

Third, revelations about Komen will make people more suspicious of charities. This doesn’t mean that they should stop donating to good causes; it means that they should know where their money will go and who gets it. Many more people have learned about the “pinkwashing” that describes “a company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease.”

Fourth, an attack on Planned Parenthood is an attack on the poor, and people have shown that, unlike Mitt Romney, they do care about the poor. At RH Reality Check, Jodi Jacobson wrote: “A large share of the clients served at Planned Parenthood clinics are low-income African-American and Latina women. The National Cancer Institute identifies lack of access to early and effective screening for breast cancer (and hence lack of early treatment) as a primary reason that African-American and Latina women die of breast cancer at higher rates than the general population.”

Last, the war against women may begin to fail. Amanda Marcotte wrote: “The debate over healthcare is basically about this ultimate fight over whether or not women are people. Conservatives see women as objects. Sex and reproduction, the way the objects are used, and like with any other property, how and who uses it is the whole point. That’s why abstinence-only classes compare sexually active women to lollipops that have been opened and licked, or toothbrushes that someone else has used….”

One week ago, Komen was a beloved, celebrity-endorsed brand, and Planned Parenthood was attacked as an abortion provider. Komen’s announcement that it was rejecting Planned Parenthood lost credibility for the foundation with the majority of women in the nation. Angry comments about its decision on its Facebook page came so fast that Komen had trouble keeping them erased. Marketing expert Kivi Leroux Miller estimated that the ratio of anti-Komen to pro-Komen on Twitter was about 80 to 1. Komen went from a respected apolitical anti-cancer charity to a distrusted pro-life cancer charity.

In the past Komen has fought programs to help low-income women with cancer and lobbied against the Affordable Care Act, spending over $1 million of donations to stop a law that benefits women. In 2010 approximately 22 percent of its annual take of $400 million was spent on administrative costs: that’s 1 percent more than Komen spent on research. Another 39 percent of the $400 million was spent on “public awareness.”

When announcing that it would award funding to Planned Parenthood, Komen gave a weak apology, claiming that the decision was not political. The hiring of Handel was a political act in itself. Komen still plans to remove funding for Planned Parenthood. In a news conference, CEO Brinker said that Komen may shift grant money to organizations that provide mammograms themselves instead of making referrals.

What is important about Planned Parenthood? Most of its services, 71 percent, provide birth control and testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. Unlike Arizona Sen. Jon Kyle’s outrageous claim, less than 3 percent of its services in 2010 were for abortions. Cancer screening used 15 percent of the services. About 80 percent of Planned Parenthood clients are under 35 which means that they have cervical rather than breast cancer screening. Komen’s part of Planned Parenthood’s 4 million breast exams over the past five years was about 170,000 and just 6,400 of Planned Parenthood’s 70,000 referrals. Meanwhile Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) said that he would continue his investigation.

Disgusted by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure willingness to deny women health care for political reasons? Here are some solutions.


  1. Wow! Thank you! I continuously wanted to write on my website something like that. Can I take a part of your post to my site?


    Comment by Mac Tornow — February 18, 2012 @ 6:55 AM | Reply

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    Comment by Carin Sanville — February 18, 2012 @ 2:29 AM | Reply

  3. I found your Blog while I was searching Yahoo. I like what you have going on here. .The template is just perfect and complements your site. .I will defiantley be visiting again soon.


    Comment by hid lights — February 18, 2012 @ 2:00 AM | Reply

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