Komen Backlash Continues: Can the Foundation Recover?
Under fire for pulling funding from Planned Parenthood centers, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation tried to win back supporters by reversing its decision. But is it too little, too late?
By Allison Takeda
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MONDAY, Feb. 06, 2012 —It’s been a rough week for the Komen Foundation.
On Tuesday, the famed breast cancer organization announced plans to discontinue its grants to Planned Parenthood for breast exams and other women’s health issues — a decision that was met with almost immediate hostility by both supporters and critics. Within hours after the news broke, hundreds of blogs and articles had been posted in response, and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook were overrun with users’ reactions. Some praised Komen’s actions, but a majority condemned them, calling the move “anti-women,” “an act of cowardice,” and “disgusting.”
Komen officials claimed the decision was tied to a newly adopted rule that prevents them from funding organizations under government investigation, but that idea was quickly overshadowed by the more popular theory that the foundation was simply giving in to political pressure from pro-life activists who object to Planned Parenthood on the basis of its reputation as the largest provider of abortions in the United States. (For the record, pregnancy terminations make up only three percent of Planned Parenthood’s business; services such as cancer screening, contraception, and STD testing comprise the other 97 percent.)
“I’m sad and disappointed that politics yet again got in the way of women’s health care,” wrote Everyday Health Facebook fan Cara E. Konkel. “Four million women in the past five years had [breast exams] through Planned Parenthood…. That’s a lot of women, and not all of them live in or near cities that have free clinics.”
In fact, many women who use Planned Parenthood — one in six, according to some research — consider their local centers to be their primary care providers. “Almost all of my health care was furnished by [Planned Parenthood] while I went back to college,” Facebook user Jean Wiggins said. “They perform a much needed service for many women: young, old, poor, and uninsured. The more I find out about Komen, they more frustrated I am. It seems it’s just a very well-funded PAC wrapped in a pretty pink ribbon. Time to put money elsewhere.”
Others had the same idea. Many former Komen supporters stated that they would never give another dime to the organization or participate in breast cancer walks and fundraisers. Some even pledged to give their money to Planned Parenthood instead.
“I have been contributing to Komen for years, and as of right now, that is over,” Marsha Miner Myerowitz wrote on .
“Susan G. Komen just lost my support,” Bonnie Anderle Bunyik added. “I will give it to Planned Parenthood, who found my stage III uterine cancer when I couldn’t afford insurance and in turn saved my life.”
Forgive and Forget? Not So Fast
Spurred by these and similar reactions from other individuals, Komen tried to do damage control by announcing Friday that it had decided to reverse its decision and restore funding to Planned Parenthood. Rather than quiet the storm, however, the news seemed only to make the situation more complicated. Some people applauded the reversal — “Wonderful news! Wonderful decision!” said Facebook fan Lisa Sobel Siegmann — but many others viewed it as just more proof of Komen’s agenda. For one thing, it suggested to critics that the original “new policy” excuse was just that — an excuse. For another, it alienated those who hadsupportedthe move away from Planned Parenthood. And finally, it implied that Komen was easily manipulated and too concerned with its own reputation.
“I think they made a terrible error, and this decision doesn't fix the error,” Everyday Health reader Judy Meeks Kelley said of the reversal. “I don't feel the same way about the organization now.”
Facebook user Amanda May agreed. “I think it’s sad and pathetic that [Komen] caved to any pressure from anywhere,” she wrote. “I’ve lost a lot of respect for them over this debacle.”
“I didn’t know [Komen] even supported Planned Parenthood,” added Paula Gronland. “When I found out [they had pulled their funding], I said, ‘Good.’ Now they’ve caved. I won't support Susan G. Komen anymore, I think. Abortion is wrong. Planned Parenthood helps with getting people abortions, and I can't support that.”
Komen, for its part, is working overtime to repair its tarnished image. “We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives,” the foundation said in a statement. “The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners, and friends, and all of us at Susan G. Komen.”
Critics say the mea culpa is a start — but is it too little, too late? “Komen has lost touch over the years and just become increasingly insulated and out of touch from the people on the front lines, the people who donate and walk and participate in their fundraisers," breast cancer survivor and blogger Jody Schoger . “They need to learn to take criticism. I’d hate to see all of their good work go down the drain.”
Has Komen lost your respect — and support — for good? Tell us in the comments!
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