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In 2000, when I first became a breast cancer activist, one of my first assignments was contacting the senators and members of Congress in my area to encourage their support for the Breast & Cervical Cancer Prevention & Treatment Act.  The bill was to provide Medicaid coverage for uninsured women diagnosed through the Breast & Cervical Cancer Prevention & Screening Act, which had been passed several years earlier. IOW, the Treatment Act was necessary because uninsured women were getting no-cost breast cancer diagnosis, but still had no means to pay for treatment.

Sounds easy, right?  You screen and diagnose them, you have to help them get treatment. Except one  of my GOP senators didn't see it that way, and he had another breast cancer group who agreed with him....

Upon calling my GOP senator and speaking with his aide, I was shocked to hear her tell me "Sen.__ can't sign on as a co-sponsor to the bill because all the breast cancer groups aren't in agreement on it."  Shocked, I asked her who was opposing it.  She told me that Komen opposed the bill. When I asked her why, she explained that Komen felt that treatment for uninsured breast cancer patients should be funded through private donations, like the pink ribbon race.  I was speechless, in shock.  A phone call to another activist confirmed it was true - Komen was lobbying behind the scenes to kill the bill.  A moment later, Sen.__'s aide called me back and begged me not to repeat our conversation to anyone, that she had given me the information by mistake.

Thus my lesson about Komen began in 2000. They spend a lot of money lobbying for a very different agenda.

The bill passed anyway and Bill Clinton, who pushed hard in Congress for its passage, was happy to sign it.  Unfortunately, it wasn't the end of Komen (and its founder, Nancy Brinker's) political maneuvering to stall or kill legislation in Congress and in state legislatures that was supported by other breast cancer advocacy groups.

They fought behind the scenes in my state to prevent the governor from adopting the Treatment Program.  They worked for several years to stall or kill the Breast Cancer & Environmental Research Act.  In the end, they eviscerated it by removing new funding for environmental research and substituting a panel to review all research on breast cancer & environment.  Using private funds, they recently collaborated with the Institute of Medicine to develop said report.  Released last December, it sadly detailed the same old arguments that there's no evidence of links between environmental toxins and that no further research should be done on the subject since everyone has those toxins in their bodies already.  Instead they chose to blame breast cancer patients for getting the disease (more here).

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.

Nancy Brinker, the founder of Komen and sister of the famed, now deceased Susan G. Komen, has always thought of herself as a heavy hitting player in politics.  As you've seen in other diaries, she raised millions for Bush's election, as well as other GOP lawmakers. She was appointed by Bush to high positions in his administration.  She has a very large ego and likes to play the role of political kingmaker, using her corporate backed non-profit organization to further her agenda.

So why did she make this recent choice to de-fund PP?  Komen has been under fire for several years over the grants given to PP, so why stop now? Recently, they've become more overt and partisan in their activities.  My theory (and mine alone) is:

1. They're positioning themselves to play kingmaker (again) in the upcoming election.  

2. They're consolidating their alliances with the GOP and anti-choice Dems in Congress so they can:
   a. play hell with breast cancer legislation they don't like in Congress
   b. collaborate with the GOP and ConserevaDems in efforts to weaken the ACA in      Congress
   c. pressure any Dem who opposes their legislative agenda in Congress or in the WH as pro-abortion. Right now, they're opposing the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act - a bill that will create an oversight panel to focus research funding on a streamlined agenda to create a breast cancer vaccine and to find a way to stop breast cancer metastasis.

3. They're trying to use the abortion issue to split the women's vote in future elections, possibly by eroding support for Dems among Catholics (including hispanics), independent/swing and conservative Dem voters.

Sorry, folks, but this is how they roll.  It's how they've always done things, they're just being more transparent than they have in the past. And as an organization that seldom screws up and who hires some of the best political and marketing consultants in the country, they must think they have a chance at succeeding.

Who's behind them, besides the GOP? Corporations, pharma companies, and probably a lot of very influential hospital and health care associations.  

In the end, let's focus on what is best for breast cancer patients.  As always, they're the pawns in the middle of this deadly game. And remember, mammograms don't cure or prevent breast cancer, access to affordable high quality health care does.

(Note: This diary represents my opinion only and does not reflect the views of any breast cancer organization.)

Update: Dr. Susan Love, MD, weighs in on the controversy:

Rather than putting politics into the breast cancer movement, lets rise above the political divisions and work together. Let’s redirect all the money that will be spent on investigating Planned Parenthood into funding studies looking to find the cause and prevent the disease once and for all. Let’s redirect our anger to making mammograms unnecessary because we know how to prevent the disease.


Update 2:  Skywriter just wrote a diaryabout a groundbreaking investigative news story about Komen's activities written by Mary Ann Swissler.  I was just preparing to post a link to it myself, but Skywriter posted first.  This well-researched article was written in 2002 and is still relevant today. Please read it. Thanks, Skywriter!

Originally posted to Betty Pinson on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 05:30 PM PST.

Also republished by Monday Night Cancer Club.

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