How Do We Go Forward?

I should have known better than to go to sleep with a half-written piece in the midst of a 24-hour news cycle on this one. However, I was pleased to greet the news that Komen is reversing its decision to defund Planned Parenthood, and so I begin again.

The news is good, and not for me. It is good for the thousands upon thousands of women’s whose lives depend on the healthcare provided by Planned Parenthood, women whose cancer is discovered or minds set at ease thanks to the breast cancer screenings provided. THOSE are the women we can’t lose site of in this controversy.

I find interesting, though, yesterday’s reports from Komen that their donations had gone up thanks to the decision, and continued to insist it was not a politically-motivated decision, despite conflicting information from internal sources. Is this more Komen pandering? Or have our voices been heard?

Perhaps it was the internal resignations. Perhaps an article here and there highlighting, for example, the $7.5M allocated to Penn State that should be as questionable as the $600,000 to Planned Parenthood, if in fact the bar is now about organizations undergoing investigation. Perhaps (and would there it were so!), it is the voices of so many advocates who have talked, tweeted, blogged and begged Komen to hear a broader range of voices on issues related to how funds are managed and allocated by the single biggest breast cancer charity in the world.

Sun up. New day. Komen has apologized to the American public and declared that they want to move forward and focus on their mission. Excuse my skepticism, for I believe this is likely another Komen marketing strategy to get back into the good graces of donating Americans. But…let’s hope for the best.

The challenge for Komen remains, at it’s core, that very mission. As stated on Komen’s website, their mission, or “promise” in Komen parlance is:

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure promise: to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality of care for all and energizing science to find the cures.

Save lives? How about the unquestioned Komen partnership with Discount Gun Sales? Or the still-carcinogen-laded Promise Me perfume? The list of Komen partnerships that actually endanger women’s lives, everyone’s lives, is long.

Empowering women? Yes…I certainly agree Komen has had success in that regard. The online outpouring of support and praise from those women who’s lives were positively impacted, most while undergoing cancer treatment, is very much a feather in Komen’s cap. As a survivor I know that support, even online, can be a saving grace. It matters, and I hope Komen keeps it up!

Ensuring quality care? Perhaps, with the Planned Parenthood fiasco behind them, Komen can actually focus on ensuring that quality care, most especially to those women (and men) who need it most, can remain a lifeline, and NOT subject to political pressure ever again!

But ultimately, in choosing to the name “Susan G Komen for the Cure” perhaps the foundation of the Komen mission needs to be a cure. Perhaps it is time for Komen to hear the panoply of voices from women who, often in the midst of our own treatment, work tirelessly to demand real change. Perhaps it is time for both energy and dollars to be directed at our ultimate goal.

This is the moment when change CAN happen. When more voices can be invited to the table. When we can come together to strategize, plan, envision and fight to eradicate this disease. Isn’t it tim

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nancy's Point
    Feb 03, 2012 @ 09:42:28

    I agree, Lori. This is an important moment, or could be. What a great opportunity this is for meaningful change. Sadly, I’m still pretty skeptical, but there’s always hope isn’t there?


  2. Invisible Mikey
    Feb 03, 2012 @ 09:46:59

    Guns, KFC, M+Ms, suing anyone else who dares to use the word “cure”, as if you could trademark THAT. The Komen Foundation isn’t an apolitical advocate for women’s health, and now everyone knows it. The biggest part of this PR blunder is that Komen will themselves be under scrutiny from all sides. You can’t unring a bell.


  3. Val Katz
    Feb 03, 2012 @ 10:12:35

    Lori…you put this so succinctly…now they have to earn our trust once again before we donate to the “cure” through Komen. The only positive is that people are now donating directly to Planned Parenthood in greater numbers than they could have imagined!


    Feb 03, 2012 @ 12:09:44

    Perhaps Komen needs new leadership that’s willing to listen to everyone instead of defending their position.


  5. Gary Oren
    Feb 03, 2012 @ 12:53:51

    Lori – I always appreciate your depth and honesty. I wanted to share a few words from my friend Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg who affirms your point:
    “This was my comment on a friend’s post, since everybody’s still talking Komen: There were a lot of problems with Komen, even before this. The pinkwashing (here meaning allowing even corporations whose products are potentially toxic to carry the ribbon seal if they donate), the minim…izing conversation on environmental causes of cancer (God forbid we need to grapple with Monsanto, lobbies, systemic change), the cutsefication of cancer into fuzzy platitudes, the spending too much of its budget on running itself, etc. The solution is to donate to better BC orgs (BC Action, and natch PPFA) and to refocus discussion on how our tzedekah dollars should be used in a bigger way. How much do you know about the orgs to which you donate? What are their agendas, how much $ gets put into direct service? There are lots of ways to support orgs that do important work in powerful ways–some monetary, some not. Do your homework.”


  6. Leora Raikin
    Feb 03, 2012 @ 13:49:38

    What an amazing article- well written and expressed, Lori


  7. Sandy Marx (@smsavta)
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 08:38:06

    You know how strongly I feel about all of this. Of course the initial Komen was political. Radical Right-wingers want to enforce their religious agenda on the public and into my government. I would like to say that in the end it doesn’t matter because of their reversal which will allow that women will still have access to health care, but I cannot subdue my outrage. I agree with Gary, “Know Thine Enemy”. Beautiful, informative post.


  8. Blake
    Feb 07, 2012 @ 10:51:04

    I agree, it was very good that Komen reversed her decision and decided to resume funding Planned Parenthood. This shows the power the people still have. This is just one of the many fronts we can fight cancer on. One thing I do not get, is why we still import toxic chemicals like asbestos from abroad despite it being prohibited to mine here in the US. We need COMPLETE BANS on these chemicals. I fear that our children will still be dealing with the effects of it 50 years from now. They recently found some asbestos in school science kits!


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