Thursday, February 2, 2012

Playing Politics With Breast Cancer

Over the past several months we have discussed numerous instances where ideology has negatively impacted our society.  None have been more disturbing than the recent events surrounding the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation’s decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood.
Last December the Komen foundation announced that it would stop funding Planned Parenthood under the newly adopted policy to block grants to organizations under investigation by any local, state of federal authority. 
The investigation in question is being conducted by Representative Cliff Stearns, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.  The purpose of the investigation, which was initiated in September of 2011, is to determine whether public money had been spent on abortion services over the past decade. Representative Stearns’s motivation for this investigation has been widely questioned and there is more than speculation that his actions stem a desire to appease his ideologically conservative constituency.
It is perhaps no coincidence that Representative Stearns’s investigation comes on the heels of the hiring Karen Handel as Komen’s senior vice president for policy.  Ms. Handel, a conservative, ran a strong pro-life campaign for governor of Georgia in 2010.  She lost in spite of an endorsement from Sarah Palin.  Ms. Handel has been vocal in her opposition to the mission of Planned Parenthood; and, according to sources, has even promised to “eliminate funding for breast and cervical screenings provided by Planned Parenthood”
Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of reproductive health services in the United States. It is reviled in conservative circles for providing sex education, abortion services and contraceptives to the needy.  These services represent roughly one-third of the organizations body of work.  The majority of their resources go to screening for breast, cervical and testicular cancers and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. 
It is important to note; both sides agree that the $650,000 received from the Komen foundation goes to 19 of Planned Parenthood’s 85 affiliates; and is used strictly for breast screening and other breast health services.
Planned Parenthood plays a vital role in the distribution of health care services; particularly among the poor.  Without their important work the number of unwanted pregnancies, abortions and incidence of sexually transmitted diseases in this country would skyrocket.
Last year the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation invested $93 million dollars toward education, public health outreach and service to women in need.  Komen funded 700,000 breast screenings last year alone and provided financial and social support to another 100,000 women.
It is a travesty that wrongheaded ideology is allowed to interfere with the vital work of these two organizations.    

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