The first thing Crabby Old Lady did last week when she read about Susan G. Komen For the Cure withdrawing their grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings was send a donation to Planned Parenthood.
Apparently, she was not alone. Hundreds of thousands of others agreed with Crabby, and Planned Parenthood raised $3 million or more, effectively overnight.
Of course, Crabby’s contribution was not anywhere near as large as the $250,000 matching grant promised by New York City billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but Crabby’s sentiment was not any smaller than his. For many years, Crabby has been suspicious of the pink-ribbon campaign in general and the Komen organization in particular.
It started sometime in the mid- or late-1980s when Komen was relatively new. Someone affiliated with them contacted Crabby about getting her friends to pay money to sponsor her participation in an upcoming walk. Crabby politely declined and thought that was the end of it.
But oh no. Then the high-pressure tactics began. Several calls from Komen associates at home over the next two or three weeks trying to guilt Crabby into agreement and then more calls to Crabby’s office. Crabby was at a loss to understand why her personal participation was so important to someone. She never found out.
The calls eventually stopped and life went on without Crabby much noticing Komen campaigns except that through the years, she felt uncomfortable about the increasing number of pink-packaged, breast cancer products associated with Komen.
Crabby couldn’t identify what bothered her until she read a 2001 rant from advocate journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, herself a breast cancer survivor, against Komen, other breast cancer charities and the relentless cheerfulness cancer patients are pressured to display:
“If you can’t run, bike, or climb a mountain for the cure – all of which endeavors are routine beneficiaries of corporate sponsorship – you can always purchase one of the many products with a breast cancer theme…Bears, for example…
“What sustained me through the ‘treatments’ is a purifying rage, a resolve, framed in the sleepless nights of chemotherapy, to see the last polluter, along with, say, the last smug health insurance operative, strangled with the last pink ribbon.
“Cancer or no cancer, I will not live that long of course. But I know this much right now for sure: I will not go into that last good night with a teddy bear tucked under my arm.”
Ms. Ehrenreich is interviewed in a new Canadian-produced documentary titled, Pink Ribbons, Inc. which takes on the corporatization of breast cancer. Here is a trailer:
Unlike Ehrenreich, it was not pink teddy bears that crystallized Crabby Old Lady’s ire with Komen; it was when the organization partnered with KFC in 2010, putting pink ribbons on big buckets of greasy fried chicken. It turns out that other products wrapped in Komen pink are unhealthy too.
There is an excellent backgrounder on Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the current controversy by Susan Seltzer at Alternet.
For Crabby Old Lady, it has been many years of disheartening behavior by Komen that fed her growing anger about their motives. One of the biggest is this: Komen trademarked the phrase “for the cure” and according to several reports, spends at least a million dollars a year defending that trademark against other, smaller charities. From Huffington Post in 2010:
”So far, Komen has identified and filed legal trademark oppositions against more than a hundred of these Mom and Pop charities, including Kites for a Cure, Par for The Cure, Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure – and many of the organizations are too small and underfunded to hold their ground.”
A year ago, Stephen Colbert handled the Komen trademark issue much better than Crabby can do it for you:
So it wasn’t much of a surprise to Crabby when Komen canceled their breast cancer screening grants to Planned Parenthood particularly after Congress voted last year to defund Planned Parenthood. She always suspected the Komen leadership was as much about political power (Republican in this case) as cancer research.
Just yesterday, Crabby learned this from breast cancer advocate, Betty Pinson, reporting at Daily Kos:
”In 2009, Komen lobbied behind the scenes to weaken the health care bill (ACA) as it was being debated in Congress. They hired Hadassah Lieberman, wife of Joe, in an effort to convince Joementum to vote against the Public Option. Komen spent over $1 million in 2008 & 2009, on behind the scenes lobbying related to the health care reform bill, so who knows what else was on their agenda.”
Compared to Komen’s flashy, rhinestone pinkness, Planned Parenthood is a no-nonsense – you might even say, boring – organization that goes about the day-to-day business of providing women’s and children’s health services.
According to Planned Parenthood, 75 percent of their clients have incomes at or below 150 percent of the U.S. poverty level. For many of them, Planned Parenthood is the only health care they can afford and/or is available in their area. Some people estimate that over the years, as many as one-fifth to one third of American women have used Planned Parenthood’s services at least once in their lives.
In a rare moment of political kumbayah, the backlash against Komen was instant and fierce forcing the organization to restore funding to Planned Parenthood – sort of. Here is the less than fulsome retraction on the Komen blog posted Friday:
“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.”
Whatever that means.
For many years there have been public indications that the agenda of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is not as pinkly pure as they want us to believe. Crabby Old Lady thinks an important reminder from this episode is that it’s good to follow our instincts and also do some research when deciding where to put our charitable dollars.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Andrea Kline: Nameless Neighbors