By The Denver Post
At a time when people routinely mistrust institutions, Susan G. Komen Foundation’s pink-ribboned fight against breast cancer has been a notable exception.
Everyone loves the ribbon, which you can find on football fields, yogurt containers and the sides of giant airliners. Komen has done wonders in bringing the issue of breast cancer treatment to the forefront of medical concerns and in getting millions to take part in its Race for the Cure.
Why would anyone possibly risk all that good will?
That’s the questions still being asked of Nancy Brinker, Komen’s chief executive, who jeopardized Komen’s standing by denying grants to Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screening programs. The move clearly placed Komen in the middle of the abortion controversy.
Brinker finally apologized Friday, issuing a statement saying, “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.”
In defunding Planned Parenthood of nearly $700,000 in grants, Brinker had clearly thrown in with those social conservatives who have helped make Planned Parenthood a shorthand for abortion provider. Planned Parenthood offers a wide array of medical services to underserved women, including abortions.
According to a story in the Denver Post Friday, 84 percent of Planned Parenthood patients in the Denver area are uninsured and 62 percent live at or below the poverty line.
For days, Brinker had tried to say that the decision was not political, but with each changing rationale, she further damaged her organization’s credibility. In the end, she had no choice but to back down
Breast cancer treatment is one of a number of so-called women’s issues that bring out activists from both sides of the cultural divide. The pro-choice activists – many of them who volunteer or work for Komen – were quickly out in force. Once again, we saw the immediacy of social media, as Twitter and Facebook made it obvious that Komen would lose donors.
There were also the conventional routes of protest, including the resignation of at least two Komen executives and a strong letter from 26 Democratic senators.
But now in backing down, Komen has angered many in the anti-abortion movement, most of whom had probably never even considered that Komen was funding Planned Parenthood. Focus on the Family called the reversal “mystifying;” others called it a betrayal.
And pro-choice activists are noting how the apology specifically did not praise Planned Parenthood for its work and did not, in fact, promise to fund its programs in the future.
And so Komen, facing a public relations disaster, finds itself in the exact wrong place for a charity, with its motives questioned from all sides.
The challenge now is not just to ensure there will continue to be a race for a breast cancer cure, but to find a way forward so that everyone will be running toward the same goal.
The Denver Post