More on Komen and Planned Parenthood

I have a short op/ed in the New York Daily News about the Komen Foundation’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood:

The truth is that anti-Planned-Parenthood sentiments aren’t about abortion; they’re about hostility to women, and particularly to female sexuality. Abortion makes up 3% of its services. Cancer screening and prevention are 17%.

Since it’s more politically tenable to go after the services utilized by lower-income women who have less of a voice in the mainstream, groups like Planned Parenthood are an easy target.

Women will be needlessly harmed by this: Socioenonomic factors influence breast cancer mortality rates, and the low-income women who the group serves are the ones most in need.

According to Komen itself, while white women are more likely to get breast cancer, African-American and Latina women — who are disproportionately poor — are more likely to die from it, in large part because of lack of screening and late diagnosis.

Colorlines has more on the racial and socioeconomic issues at play. Early detection is key in preventing breast cancer deaths, and women without health insurance are at a disadvantage, since they’re less likely to get regular screening. Poor women, women of color (who are disproportionately poor) and rural women in particular rely on clinics like Planned Parenthood for these essential services. And Planned Parenthood used Komen grants to reach out to under-served communities. In Los Angeles, for example, Komen grants allowed Planned Parenthood to run breast health education programs in nail salons, hair salons, and other places where Vietnamese women regularly gather. Community-based outreach programs like that are crucial; as Colorlines reports, “When Asian women migrate to the U.S., their risk of developing breast cancer increases up to six-fold. Asian immigrant women living in the U.S. for as little as a decade had an 80 percent higher risk of breast cancer than new immigrants.”

As Amanda points out, this is pro-life politics at its worst — an effort to divide “bad-girl healthcare” from “good-girl healthcare,” with anti-choice organizations just frankly not caring if women die, so long as their goal of punishing female sexuality is achieved. The fact is that the Komen grants at least in part served women who would be coming to Planned Parenthood in the first place; that in itself, I guess, makes the woman seeking services “bad” enough to let her die of cancer.

Pro-lifers have long claimed that their concern is abortion. It’s interesting to see what happens, though, when they get more emboldened. They go after birth control. They go after health care for women. They go after breast cancer screening. Maybe it’s about time folks caught on that anti-choicers aren’t concerned with abortion so much as they’re hostile to female sexuality generally?

39 comments for “More on Komen and Planned Parenthood

  1. Kristen J.
    February 2, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Great piece. Hopefully, this will get through to people about how far the extreme right is pushing. Even my forced birther relatives are horrified by this move.

    Meanwhile…the comments on your op/ed are vomit inducing.

    • February 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      Meanwhile…the comments on your op/ed are vomit inducing.

      One of my favorite lines of all time is “I don’t believe in abortion.” Like it’s Santa Claus or something.

  2. Rob in CT
    February 2, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Never – never ever – read the comments section for a newspaper story. They are universally awful. The proverbial million monkeys with typewriters, except nastier.

    I’m gonna put PP on our charitable list this year.

  3. February 2, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    People say “I don’t believe in abortion” so they don’t have to think any deeper about it, honestly. Obviously, abortion exists, so the question is, what do you think of that? Do you think that women are too stupid to make up their own minds? Do you think that it should be driven on to a black market? What kills me is that antis have gotten really good at convincing people they don’t have to think through the consequences of not “believing” in abortion. They can just stomp their feet like little children and refuse to have that discussion. It’s juvenile.

  4. February 2, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    According to this research article induced abortions pose a significant risk factor for breast cancer. Considering that Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the country and that the Komen Foundation’s mission is to fight breast cancer then wouldn’t it be reasonable to suggest that Komen may actually be cutting their funding to PP specifically with women’s health in mind? I understand that Komen’s donations to PP are meant for breast cancer screenings but their fungibility lends to the promotion of abortion services which is counterproductive to the foundation’s goal of fighting breast cancer. To suggest that the Komen Foundation is hostile towards women just seems a little absurd to me in this light.

  5. February 2, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    @Christian (#5) There has been a great deal of research that debunks those “abortion causes breast cancer” bullshit studies. That is one of pro-lifers more popular arguments against abortion. Too bad it’s not true.

    Hey look, it’s the National Cancer Institute!

  6. February 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    @ Christian: Untrue. A National Cancer Institute workshop of more than 100 experts studying findings on cancer and pregnancy “concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.” (What is linked to breast cancer? Full-term pregnancy.) Says the American Cancer Society, “… [T]he public is not well-served by false alarms. At this time, the scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer or any other type of cancer.”

    (Incidentally, I have a whole post coming up about that stuff, and you just made me blow one of my bullet points. Thanks a heap.)

  7. Donna L
    February 2, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    It is horrifying to me that someone would actually come on here and promote one of the anti-choice lobby’s favorite lies by citing a 15-year old study that’s been repeatedly debunked. Even assuming that Christian was posting in good faith, I guess it just shows the power of propaganda,

  8. Miriam
    February 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I like this suggestion from TBogg, to make an honorary donation to Planned Parenthood and request a thank you card be sent to

    Karen Handel
    Senior VP of Fail
    c/o Susan G. Komen Foundation
    P.O. Box 650309
    Dallas, TX 75265-0309

  9. Rob in CT
    February 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    What is linked to breast cancer? Full-term pregnancy

    That, in the context of this particular discussion, is hilarious (in the broaders sense it sucks, obviously!). Wingnut claim = 180 degrees from the truth.

    Clearly, in order to fight breast cancer, Komen should be upping it’s funding of PP, including money earmarked for abortions! ;)

  10. February 2, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    The abortion-breast cancer link is controversial, yes, but is by no means settled. More research is still needed considering the total lack of consensus among reports. Considering the possibility of a link it would seem prudent for Komen to stay away from abortion in their fight against cancer. Additionally, hormonal contraception is a group 1 carcinogen along with smoking tobacco – providing another prompt for Komen to cut ties with PP. I’m not trying to argue that Planned Parenthood is bad or debate the morality of abortion or contraception here. I just want to point out that Komen may have some perfectly legitimate reasons for ceasing their donations to PP.

  11. hmm
    February 2, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    What’s the best way to donate money to planned parenthood today? Like, can we donate in the name of the Susan G. Komen foundation or something to make a point? How does that work?

  12. Kristen J.
    February 2, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    @Christian,

    Bullshit. You bring up a thoroughly debunked study and state it as fact with no acknowledgement of contrary views by the scientific community in support of what is widely known to be a political move. You don’t get to play the “Let’s be reasonable” card after that. You lied to support an anti-woman agenda. You have zero credibility.

  13. February 2, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    The abortion-breast cancer link is controversial, yes, but is by no means settled.

    Much like the vaccine-autism link… oh wait, that also turned out to be based on a garbage study that actual scientists obliterated with facts.

  14. Sebastian
    February 2, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Shorter Christian: Let’s tell enough lies and hope nobody has the time and patience to correct all of it.

    Or another version:

    Shorter Christian: But the ladies are killing themselves, somebody should protect them from themselves!

  15. February 2, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Look, I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. I’m just going off the information available to me. The abortion-breast cancer link may very well be erroneous but I’m not going to make a snap-decision now in this moment based on comments in an internet com-box. I will give this more thought, research it more thoroughly and then make a decision. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in four years of nursing school its that medicine is not black and white. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to make a choice between contradictory reports – it happens all the time. In the meantime, I stumbled across the following video on another blog claiming PP’s mammogram services are actually far more restricted than they claim. I would like the other side’s opinion on this. What’s your response to this video?

  16. Esti
    February 2, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    I don’t understand Christian’s argument even if it were undisputedly true that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. “There’s a thing many women do that can elevate the risk of breast cancer, so we should… not fund breast cancer screening for women who do that thing.”

    I mean, obviously the argument is actually “There’s a thing many women do that can elevate the risk of breast cancer, so we should not fund screenings for those women because then the organizations that also do the cancer-increasing thing will be so funding starved that the cancer-increasing thing will happen less often.” But it’s incredibly disingenuous to pretend that the Komen Foundation might have stopped funding PP in an effort to prevent breast cancer rather than because of the anti-choice politics of its leaders. It requires you to totally ignore the fact that a huge number of activities that we engage in have links to breast cancer and that it hasn’t tried to discourage any of those things except for abortion.

    I mean, genetics is one of the best indicators for breast cancer, but it’s not like the Komen Foundation is out there trying to discourage women with a family history of breast cancer from procreating.

  17. Siobhan
    February 2, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    I like this suggestion from TBogg, to make an honorary donation to Planned Parenthood and request a thank you card be sent to

    Karen Handel
    Senior VP of Fail
    c/o Susan G. Komen Foundation
    P.O. Box 650309
    Dallas, TX 75265-0309

    Thank you very much for the address. I just did exactly that.

  18. valentifan69
    February 2, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    The truth is that anti-Planned-Parenthood sentiments aren’t about abortion; they’re about hostility to women, and particularly to female sexuality. Abortion makes up 3% of its services. Cancer screening and prevention are 17%.

    I’m amazed PP spend so little on abortion. Hope I’m not being thick, but I wouldn’t have thought they’d have had anything to do with cancer. What with being called Planned Parenthood. Shouldn’t they be focusing more reproductive health and abortion access. I’d have guessed the split was more likely to be 17% abortion, 3% cancer. Why do Planned Parenthood do anything to do with cancer screening and prevention? I don’t get it.

    • February 2, 2012 at 5:47 pm

      I’m amazed PP spend so little on abortion. Hope I’m not being thick, but I wouldn’t have thought they’d have had anything to do with cancer. What with being called Planned Parenthood. Shouldn’t they be focusing more reproductive health and abortion access. I’d have guessed the split was more likely to be 17% abortion, 3% cancer. Why do Planned Parenthood do anything to do with cancer screening and prevention? I don’t get it.

      …are you being serious?

      Look, when you go to just about any doctor for an annual exam, they do a pap smear — that’s a test to check for cells that might be cancerous or pre-cancerous. They also do a breast exam to check for lumps. If you have a lump, they’ll give you a referral for a mammogram. That’s why PP does cancer screening: Because they’re a health care provider for reproductive health. And certain cancers impact the breasts and the uterus, which are tied to reproduction.

  19. John
    February 2, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    hah that entire thing wasn’t supposed to be a link.
    i guess i REALLY want you to click it?
    my bad.

  20. Mztress
    February 2, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    I’m amazed PP spend so little on abortion. Hope I’m not being thick, but I wouldn’t have thought they’d have had anything to do with cancer. What with being called Planned Parenthood. Shouldn’t they be focusing more reproductive health and abortion access. I’d have guessed the split was more likely to be 17% abortion, 3% cancer. Why do Planned Parenthood do anything to do with cancer screening and prevention? I don’t get it.

    Probably becuase they would have been shut down a generation ago if abortions exceeded 3% of total services. With the pervasive anti-woman climate, all any organization that relies on federal funding can do is prevent pregnancy; it’s fucking hard to set up a place that supplies mostly or only abortions anywhere in the U.S. now…unless the workers are okay with being hit with bottles and bricks while their clinics are bombed, their families are assaulted, and their doctors (i.e. people who are ALREADY alive & aware, not just potentially alive & aware, like fetuses/embryos) are murdered.

    Hell, any woman who can get a permanent pregnancy prevention procedure (i.e. tubal ligation) is luckier than most, because even the most liberal clinics are loathe to prescribe birth control that lasts more than one month at a stretch.

  21. Celeste
    February 2, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    For the sake of argument, I’ll grant that it does increase the risk of breast cancer. Pregnancy also increases certain risks. All medical procedures have risks. Pregnancy has many risks and takes a huge toll on the body. It seems that so many things can be linked to cancer, it’s impossible to avoid them all. I’m willing to let women take that risk. Some argue the same about the birth control pill, but personally, a marriage full of sex and children when we’re financially able is more important to me than slightly reducing my cancer risk. I’m not going to have a celibate marriage in order to eliminate all risks incurred from taking contraceptives.

  22. Kristen J.
    February 2, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    @Christian,

    Yes, please go do your research before you share another piece of anti-woman propoganda. As part of that research go talk to some women who have had mammograms through their insurance company and through PP. You might learn that its the same process. Go to the dr for an exam. Get a referral. Go to an offsite radiology lab. Its very similar to most lab testing these days.

  23. Donna L
    February 2, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    I’m happy to know that at least one senior official at SGK had some integrity:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/02/top-susan-g-komen-official-resigned-over-planned-parenthood-cave-in/252405/

    Three sources told me that the organization’s top public-health official, Mollie Williams, resigned in protest immediately following the Komen board’s decision to cut off Planned Parenthood. Williams, who served as the managing director of community-health programs, was responsible for directing the distribution of $93 million in annual grants. Williams declined to comment when I reached her yesterday . . . .

    But John Hammarley, who until recently served as Komen’s senior communications adviser and who was charged with managing the public-relations aspects of Komen’s Planned Parenthood grant, said that Williams believed she could not honorably serve in her position once Komen had caved to pressure from the anti-abortion right. “Mollie is one of the most highly respected and ethical people inside the organization, and she felt she couldn’t continue under these conditions,” Hammarley said. “The Komen board of directors are very politically savvy folks, and I think over time they thought if they gave in to the very aggressive propaganda machine of the anti-abortion groups, that the issue would go away. It seemed very shortsighted to me.”

  24. j.
    February 2, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    Christian is trolling. He’s got a post on his blog with a 4chan trollface, crowing about how he’s mocking the stupid feminists.

  25. j.
    February 2, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    ‘Cause, you know, women’s health is just a big fucking game to privileged straight cis boys.

  26. February 2, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    j. you’ll also notice that I use the term “trolling” in my post as an exaggeration. Just a little humor to try and keep things lighthearted. I’ve been nothing but polite here at feministe because I’m a guest here, commenting is a privilege and I owe it to everyone to be respectful.

  27. Kristen J.
    February 3, 2012 at 8:12 am

    @j.,

    Funny how we’re stupid, but all of his facts are wrong.

  28. astronautgo
    February 3, 2012 at 10:02 am

    I will give this more thought, research it more thoroughly and then make a decision.

    You are stern, but fair, my liege.

  29. February 3, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Kristen J,

    I never accused anyone of being stupid so I don’t know where you got that idea.

    As for “all my facts being wrong” I unwittingly posted one outdated research article – I should have checked the date on it and I didn’t. However, I don’t know how getting one data point wrong makes everything I say incorrect. I pointed out that the International Agency for Research on Cancer categorizes hormonal contraceptives as a Group 1 carcinogen – the same category as smoking tobacco. Yet, no one has addressed that. My point here was never to say that contraceptives are evil and women shouldn’t be allowed to use them but that maybe Komen for the Cure, who is still, you know, about finding a cure might find promoting services that increase breast cancer counter-productive to their main goal.

  30. Past my expiration date
    February 3, 2012 at 10:41 am

    maybe Komen for the Cure, who is still, you know, about finding a cure might find promoting services that increase breast cancer counter-productive to their main goal.

    Don’t mammograms, like all x-rays, also increase breast cancer risk? So should SGK stop promoting mammograms?

  31. astronautgo
    February 3, 2012 at 10:53 am

    My point here was never to say that contraceptives are evil and women shouldn’t be allowed to use them but that maybe Komen for the Cure, who is still, you know, about finding a cure might find promoting services that increase breast cancer counter-productive to their main goal.

    Its quality aside, has Komen stated or even hinted, ever, that this is one of their reasons?

  32. February 3, 2012 at 10:53 am

    My point here was never to say that contraceptives are evil and women shouldn’t be allowed to use them but that maybe Komen for the Cure, who is still, you know, about finding a cure might find promoting services that increase breast cancer counter-productive to their main goal.

    And if Komen were using that as their excuse, it would be worth discussing. But they’re not. They’re saying investigation, blah blah blah new granting strategies, blah blah helping women blah. If you’re going to support their decision, you have to be able to defend the explanation(s) they’re actually giving, not the explanation you’d personally find reasonable.

  33. February 3, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    A friend of mine pointed me to this article on the Huffington Post:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/03/susan-g-komen-planned-parenthood-handgun_n_1252448.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009

    Pink Handguns. For Real.

    Saving lives? Huh?

  34. Kristen J.
    February 3, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    @Christian,

    Perhaps if you read the actual study (rather than spouting talking points) you’d know why your facts are all wrong. For example, the IARC study found that certain oral contraceptives are both carcinogenic and protective against cancer. Also, Group 1 analysis you provide is also materially misleading…also Group 1? The Sun. Everything with any proven carcinogenic ingredients goes on that list even if, as is the case with this study, the amount of oral contraceptives used by women is not shown to result in cancer.

    But that makes lie number three. (1) abortion causes cancer, (2) contraceptives cause cancer, and (3) PP doesn’t really provide breast health services. There’s a pattern here…can you identify it?

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