ACLU of Massachusetts Online Communications Coordinator Danielle Riendeau originally guest-wrote this blog for Boston.com.
As someone who cares deeply about women’s health--and has participated in races for breast cancer awareness that are affiliated with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure--the news yesterday that the breast cancer charity announced it would stop funding Planned Parenthood for breast health services utterly shocked me, and I know I’m not the only one.
The issue at hand, of course, is the fact that Planned Parenthood provides comprehensive care to women. They provide cancer screenings, information about contraception, and yes, abortion care, to anyone who needs their services, including many low-income and uninsured women who would otherwise have no safe access to any of the above. The Komen Foundation has pulled their funding wholesale, thanks to intense political pressure from anti-choice voices--one of which is coming from inside the organization.
According to this Huffington Post piece, Komen’s new vice president Karen Handel is herself extremely anti-choice, evidenced by statements made during her 2010 run for the Governorship of Georgia:
Handel wrote in her campaign blog that she "do[es] not support the mission of Planned Parenthood."
"During my time as Chairman of Fulton County, there were federal and state pass-through grants that were awarded to Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screening, as well as a 'Healthy Babies Initiative,'" Handel wrote. "Since grants like these are from the state I'll eliminate them as your next Governor." She also wrote that she opposes stem cell research and supports crisis pregnancy centers, which are unregulated, Christian-run operations whose main mission is to convince pregnant women not to have abortions.
Women’s health is not “simply” about any one issue. Breast, ovarian and cervical cancer awareness, access to reproductive health services, and preventative care are all part of the same equation. You cannot claim to care about women’s health and then attempt to cut out a woman’s right to choice, nor can you expect to cut crucial funding without seriously hurting the women that you purport to serve.
It is my sincere hope that Komen leadership goes back on this damaging decision and does what’s right for millions of women across the country. Until then, you can bet that the pink-laced running shoes of thousands of former Komen supporters will be walking their charity funds elsewhere--to organizations that believe decisions on women’s health are too important to be swayed by politics.