Susan G. Komen for the Cure sold my family out.
As you may have heard by now, the pink-polished breast cancer fundraising powerhouse pulled its support from women’s health care organization Planned Parenthood* on Tuesday. Aside from the boon of leaving another 170,000 women – many of whom are lower-income or living in poverty – without breast exams and an additional 6,400 potential patients without access to mammogram referrals for additional care should those exams reveal something resembling cancer, as a result of the move Susan G. Komen for the Cure also gets the love it so desperately covets from the right wing.
And while I consider myself an advocate for all women – even ones with whom I disagree and even dislike – I’m not angriest on behalf of those ladies who will now go without lifesaving breast cancer detection and treatment. I’m not even most livid for my friends who rely on Planned Parenthood’s services. No, I’m beyond incensed because Susan G. Komen for the Cure has spit in my mother’s face.
See, my mom is an 11-year breast cancer survivor. She’s also a former Planned Parenthood employee but, as I explain to everyone immediately after I reveal that line of her résumé, she didn’t perform abortions. It’s always important to mention that my exponentially qualified and endlessly passionate nurse of a mother didn’t perform a Constutionally sanctioned procedure, lest she be labeled a baby killer. No, my mother’s time at Planned Parenthood almost two decades ago was simply a continuation of her commitment to women’s health.
She didn’t work at Planned Parenthood 12 years ago, when she came home from the doctor’s office in tears to tell her 12-year-old daughter that her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. And my mother didn’t work at Planned Parenthood when she underwent a double mastectomy. She didn’t work at all, let alone at Planned Parenthood, while she underwent months of chemotherapy. So I guess it isn’t karma that my mother got breast cancer.
It wasn’t long after my mother was given a clean bill of health – one she retains to the day, eternal thanks to whichever deity you worship – that we laced up for the first of many Races for the Cure. We raised money, pretended not to hate waking up early in the morning on Mother’s Day and even refrained from complaining about that vomit-inducing shade of pink that blanketed the events – all because we thought we were fighting breast cancer for all women.
With the announcement that Susan G. Komen for the Cure is more committed to ideology than women’s health – cowering behind a convenient new provision restricting funding to groups under Congressional investigation, even when the probes are fueled by nothing more than pro-life bloodthirst – that organization sold my mother out. She’s the biggest advocate for women’s health that I know, and she puts it into practice every day at the hospital where she works. My mother comes home bruised daily by battle stories about pregnant teenagers and impoverished patients who lack insurance, but she goes back each day because she believes that she’s making a difference. And she is.
But apparently that’s not good enough. My mother and I pounded the pavement for years – honestly, the individual Races all run together after awhile – on a trek toward a cure. My mother literally walked the walk. She and I bought into the Komen propaganda: that “we’re working together to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures.” We were so snowed.
It turns out that Susan G. Komen for the Cure is nothing more than the right-wing Regina George of cancer coalitions, more interested in being feared than loved and stepping on smaller organizations, even the ones wanting to help its cause. Suing other charities for using “for the cure” in their titles is the cancer equivalent of telling Gretchen Wieners that she can’t wear hoop earrings.
I wasn’t thrilled that Susan G. Komen for the Cure was becoming, or apparently has been, such a right-wing organization – at least the Planned Parenthood Action Fund claims to be nonpartisan – but I was willing to overlook that and the nauseating mass-marketing come each October, because I thought we had a common goal.
But now it’s personal. Now, by pulling its funding from Planned Parenthood – money that is NOT used to fund abortions or contraception — Susan G. Komen for the Cure is telling my mother is simply not the kind of crusader it wants in its corner. I guess her survivor status, years of advocacy and hard work on behalf of women’s health for all women, tarnished by her years at Planned Parenthood, is simply too blue to be pink.
*I will be referring to Planned Parenthood throughout this essay as a “women’s healthcare organization” because – contrary to the bullshit spewing from Sen. Jon Kyl and his ideological brethren, Planned Parenthood is devoted to providing comprehensive and Constitutionally protected health services, including reproductive care, to all women.