Seven Lessons Learned from Susan G. Komen-Gate
1 year ago
What the Komen Foundation controversy can teach us about race, class and cancer
Women’s health issues are often talked about in the media and in the world of politics as if they only matter to women. But for every female activist, legislator and voter whose life has been touched by a gender specific health scare, be it breast cancer or a high-risk pregnancy, there is a man whose life they have touched. Many of those men came out in full force this week, among them Mayor Michael Bloomberg whose $250,000 matching pledge to Planned Parenthood inspired the Livestrong Foundation, founded by cycling legend and cancer-survivor, Lance Armstrong to pledge $100,000 to the organization.
5. Cancer doesn’t care what color you are, or how much money you have, but plenty of politicians do.
The timing was oddly apropos. The same week that Mitt Romney declared that he’s “not concerned about the very poor,” because they enjoy “safety nets,” the Komen controversy reminded us that those so-called safety nets don’t catch everybody when they fall. Black women are statistically more likely to die from breast cancer than other women due to the disease often being caught later. Early detection is key, but when you are poor preventative medical care is a luxury and race is still very much intertwined with the politics of poverty in our country. What I find confusing is that many of the same politicians who oppose funding for Planned Parenthood also oppose universal healthcare reform. I thought part of the rationale for opposing universal healthcare was the belief that private organizations should step in to fill the void of government when it comes to addressing the needs of the needy. Isn’t that precisely what Planned Parenthood was doing by providing breast cancer screenings to low income-women? Groups like Planned Parenthood literally save lives, which brings me to number 4…
4. Planned Parenthood is not an abortion group.
When it’s all said and done, Planned Parenthood and it’s supporters will likely look back on the last few days as among the most important—and empowering—in the nearly century old organization’s existence. Not only has the Komen controversy provided Planned Parenthood with a fundraising bonanza (it raised $3 million dollars since the Komen news first became public) but it provided the group with something much more valuable: the kind of public relations money can’t buy. For years, Planned Parenthood has been losing the messaging war to conservatives, intent on depicting it as nothing more than a well-oiled killing machine. (Sen. Jon Kyl famously or rather infamously accused Planned Parenthood of spending 90% of its services on abortion. The real figure is 3% but that fact didn’t matter to many.) I had family members who thought that Planned Parenthood was synonymous with abortion. Not any more. Now thanks to Komen-gate everyone and their mother—literally—know that Planned Parenthood is just what it has always proclaimed itself to be: a women’s health organization, helping women to address their reproductive needs, and to receive lifesaving exams to help protect them from breast cancer.
3. Men in Power that Use Birth Control when they need it see nothing wrong with using their power to Deprive Women in need from using it.