1 February 2012

My Facebook status yesterday

For the record, I am not pro-abortion; I am against the sudden removal of funded basic care for women (and men) who have no other resources. I am against the politicizing of an issue that should not be political; it's a human issue, and it deserves basic human consideration. If the approach had been different, so might my reaction be...

I am conflicted, seriously conflicted. On one hand, the SGK Foundation does so much good every year; on the other hand, the de-funding of Planned Parenthood goes against the “mission,” so to speak. On one hand, SGK gave “only” $680,000 or thereabouts to Planned Parenthood every year; on the other hand that’s still nearly 200,000 women getting basic breast care and nearly 7,000 getting funded mammography referrals.

That’s a lot of women, and every single one of them deserves to be included in the Everyone Deserves a Lifetime stance.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last 30+ hours going over this in my head; it matters enough to me that I lost a lot of sleep over it last night, too. Regardless of this decision, the Susan G. Komen Foundation does a lot of good work, but this also impacts women most in need of aid. It’s been a lot of pondering the greater good versus the greater evil.

If SGK had never funded Planned Parenthood, I wouldn’t have issues about that. If they had gone about pulling the funding in a different matter, I’d probably have no issue with that, either. It would have been so simple to make an announce months ago, letting the people upon whom they rely to raise money that Komen's funding criteria was changing, and that some groups were going to lose direct support. Let the supporters know that before that would happen, alternatives for those women who rely on those other groups would be in place.

Had they gone the route of transparency, the outcry might not be so severe and I might not have spent a nearly sleepless night.

Part of what kept me awake? That this is so obviously politically motivated, and is removed from what the core of SGK should be and what we all thought it was: raising money for breast cancer research and funding care for those who need it.

Today they finally spoke out, at least on their Facebook pages, and this is what they had to say:

To our Susan G. Komen 3-Day friends and family. Let’s set the record straight.

At Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the women we serve are our highest priority in everything we do. Last year, with your help we invested $93 million in community health programs, which included 700,000 mammograms. In order to best meet the needs of the women we serve and most fully advance our mission, we must strengthen our already robust grants program to be even more outcomes-driven. That’s why at the beginning of this year we implemented more stringent eligibility and performance criteria to ensure our funds are used for the greatest need, which unfortunately may affect some long-time grantees of Komen.

Grant making decisions are not about politics--our priority is and always will be the women we serve. Making this issue political or leveraging it for fundraising purposes would be a disservice to all women. It is critical to underscore that the women we serve in communities remain our top priority. We are working very closely with Komen Affiliates to ensure there is no interruption or gaps in services for women who need breast health screening and services.

I don’t buy it. This is very political. This is a decision that comes on the heels of new policy that states that SGK will no longer fund programs under investigation; Planned Parenthood is now the target of a couple of uptight Republicans who are supposedly initiating an investigation into whether or not PP used federal funds to pay for abortions, but there has been no hearing on the matter, and there may never BE a hearing on it. This smacks of declaring guilt before proving innocence, completely opposite of the way it should be.

I take no issue with Planned Parenthood being investigated. I take issue with the fact that this policy comes on the heels of SGK hiring Karen Handel as their Senior Vice President for Public Policy.

Karen Handel is a failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate, endorsed by Sarah Palin, who ran with a promise to defund Planned Parenthood, and promised to end breast and cervical cancer screenings provided by PP. Her mission has seemingly been to wipe Planned Parenthood off the map, and by securing a position within SGK, she has a platform and the means to wage her personal war.

The end result, though, might be that Planned Parenthood secures far more money than it lost—people are donating heavily right now to make up for the losses—and that SGK is gutted.

Source: Planned Parenthood 2008-9 annual report
One of the sadder facts? Abortion services, what apparently has Handel’s panties in such a tight wad, is only 3% or their services. Cancer screening and prevention, however, is 17%.

So…I’m chewing this like a piece of gristle that I just can’t spit out. SGK has historically done a lot of good; SGK right now seems to be in the grip of the far right. I don’t believe for one minute that this has nothing to do with politics; it feels like it has everything to do with politics, specifically the politics of someone with an agenda.

Yesterday I was pretty sure I’d never walk for SGK again; today I am not as certain, and I think I need to wait until the dust has settled and emotions aren’t running as high. But in this moment, I think it would take a reversal on Komen’s part, with the removal of Handel as a VP as part of the deal.

I’m not done walking for breast cancer, though. Even before this I was eyeing the Avon Walk as a possibility and was mulling over giving it a try in San Francisco, just to see if it felt any different. They’re upfront about where the money goes, and it stays local. I’m not as happy with the distribution, though, at least not the numbers I’m finding (which I haven’t verified.) It seems to be close to a 50-50 split; only half the money walkers raise actually goes to what we expect it to. I think (no verification) that the Komen walk was 80%.

All of this could have been avoided if Komen had taken an entirely different approach. They blew it with their silence, and blew it further with a boiler-plate response too long after the fact.

I know I’m not the only one gnawing on this; they’ve outright lost a ton of walkers and crew, and many of the people who supported them (and me) have been very clear that no more contributions will be forthcoming. Those on the fence, who may still walk, are going to have a very, very hard time coming up with $2300 in donations.


Cheysuli and gemini said...

So we'll play devil's advocate (because you know I love doing that).Are we caving in the "bad guys" the guys who want to take away women's choices and have a world where there is only one morality and not compassion because they hold hostage the largest organization that can help those in need? It's like the homeless guy who has to convert to Christianity for a warm bed. At what point do you sell your soul? This is not saying we wouldn't support you if you walked and we certainly support all you are doing in raising your voice, but please ask your heart that before you go back. The lives saved may actually be worth your soul but be sure they are before selling it (assuming we don't win the good fight and they change their stance).

Susan S. said...

Thank you, Thumper, thank you, for a balanced and clear discussion of the situation.

Angel and Kirby said...

It was on the national news last night and people everywhere are up in arms!

Sleepypete said...

I thought organisations like these were supposed to be run by people who put Good Cause above Personal Wish ...

It's sad when it gets turned the other way around, with the failed politician using it as a platform for their own war. And didn't they fail to persuade people by democratic means ? :-)

It's got me thinking though ... If I do get back into cricket this year, I could follow what I colleague did from a couple of years ago and do a cricket performance related charity thing.

There's an incentive for me :-)

Marilyn said...

You will do what you feel is right. But ... I'm a 6 year survivor of breast cancer and I have never liked Komen. You would probably be surprised by how much of the breast cancer community detests them ... and their Pinktober too. They do not do as much good as you may think they do IMO. They have devolved into mostly selling pink ribbon logos to businesses for marketing purposes. And then those Komen pink ribbons are slapped on products that have been proven to cause cancer. They have spent millions suing other charities for using the words 'for the cure'. 50% of their funds go to education/awareness and that includes financing the walks. Only 24% at best is going to research. All that pink crap has not reduced breast cancer deaths a bit. I've lost 2 good friends recently so it's all very personal to me. Komen has the words right but their actions don't match their 'for the cure' slogan. Donations to serious research and to local groups that provide direct help to breast cancer patients is much more helpful than Komen. The Avon Foundation is much better also. Because unless you have been living under a rock you are already very much 'aware' of breast cancer and it's not going to be cured by pink fluffiness.
Whatever you decide I want you to know that it is very good of you to do whatever you can to help ... even if you end up picking Komen. We do appreciate everybody who steps up to the plate in any way. And anybody who will walk for 3 damn days has definitely stepped up to the plate. Ouch
Give Max and Buddah a headbutt from me please :)