Scandal within the Komen foundatin

 

The peaceful days of the Susan G. Komen foundation are no more. 

On Jan. 31, the breast cancer organization decided to cut funding for Planned Parenthood after five years of generous donations. How did the reputable nonprofit become entangled in a royal political mess? The story is quite a scandal. 

In 2011, Karen Handel, fresh off her losing campaign trail as a gubernatorial candidate for the Georgia Republican Party, was appointed the senior vice president for public policy at Komen

This was a suspicious career choice for Handel, who pledged to terminate funding for breast and cervical cancer screens provided by Planned Parenthood.

Known for the ubiquitous pink ribbon, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation has invested $2 billion in breast cancer research, advocacy, education, health services and more since 1982. 

Does it not seem odd that Handel, who clearly does not support equal access to breast cancer treatment, would choose to work for Komen

In 2012, the Komen foundation announced it would no longer fund Planned Parenthood because the organization was undergoing a congressional investigation by Cliff Stearns. Stearns is known for being an anti-abortion Republican from Florida who is investigating whether or not Planned Parenthood spent tax dollars on abortions.

According to Komen’s bylaws, it cannot fund any organization that is under investigation at the local, state or federal level. However, they regularly flout this rule. 

It has donated $150,000 to the Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, even though it is under investigation for safety deficiencies by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Komen has continued to give grants to Penn State University despite the ongoing investigation of the controversy surrounding Jerry Sandusky, the football coach charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse over the past 15 years.  

It appears as though Planned Parenthood is the only organization where Komen has enforced this rule. Is this a mere coincidence? Hardly.

Laura Bassett, a reporter from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, interviewed an anonymous source within Komen who said Handel was responsible for this circumstance. The source said Handel “herself personally came up with the investigation criteria. She said, ‘If we just say it’s about investigations, we can defund Planned Parenthood and no one can blame us for being political.'”

In an interview with CNN, Handel denies that the conflict between Komen and Planned Parenthood was of her design. According to her, Komen was facing controversy from donors about its involvement with Planned Parenthood long before she started working for the organization.

In the interview, Handel said, “With over a dozen, if not two dozen, Catholic diocese around the country telling parishioners, ‘don’t support Komen,’ loosing race teams, donor questions, etc., I was tasked with identifying options that would allow us to move to neutral ground around this, so that we were on neither side of an issue [of] pro-life or pro-choice.”

Who is to blame? Handel for her alleged agenda, the close-minded donors, or Komen itself for paying heed to their prejudice?

The core of the matter is that women’s health should not be the political issue it has become. With people choosing to support candidates based on their stance on abortion, one has to wonder why the government should be involved in such a deeply personal issue.

In an effort to save face, Komen released an apology statement on Feb. 3, saying that it will continue to fund existing grants to Planned Parenthood. Will it renew these grants in the future? Time will tell. 

While I firmly support Planned Parenthood and the services it provides, I recognize that others disagree. However, whether you support the organization or not, it should not be a major consideration when donating to breast cancer research and treatment. It should not be an issue for Komen either.