In February, Susan G. Komen for the Cure demanded that we make a choice: the pink stuff or Planned Parenthood. Komen had caved to political pressure from the anti-choice movement that demanded Komen stop its funding of breast cancer screening and education at Planned Parenthood. Pressure came from outside groups as well as from Karen Handel, the foundation's senior vice president of public policy and failed Republican candidate for governor of Georgia (endorsed by Sarah Palin). Komen decided that the war on Planned Parenthood—one of the principal goals of the Republican Party—was more important than providing health care for women. Even worse, Komen's board knew it was a bad idea, as an internal review had concluded that cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood would be a very bad decision indeed:
Participants concluded that cutting off all funds would endanger low-income women who depended on the service. A partial cutoff would only compromise the integrity of the grants process and not be enough to satisfy critics, participants said. Staff members decided to recommend continued funding for Planned Parenthood.But the anti-choicers at Komen didn't care, and they forced the board to accept this devastating new policy, insisting that women would choose their pink slippers and spatulas over Planned Parenthood.
“It was our recommendation that we stay the course,” [former senior communications advisor John] Hammerly said. “We thought there could also be significant concern, both from a public standpoint and an affiliate standpoint, if we ceased support.”
And they were wrong. They were very wrong:
The foundation's leadership seemed completely unprepared for the national outrage at the blatantly obvious politicization of breast cancer and women's health. Karen Handel, the foundation's senior vice president of public policy and failed Republican candidate for governor of Georgia (endorsed by Sarah Palin), echoed the "cry me a river" response from fervent anti-choicers on Twitter—a tweet that was deleted, but not before an image was taken and spread far and wide across the Internet.Within the week, Karen Handel had resigned. But the damage done to Komen's brand, and the devastation within the organization, was far from over. Executives and board members kept resigning, the charity was struggling to raise money and was even forced to cancel events, and a "Komen insider" told Huffington Post that "employee morale is in the toilet," and that Nancy Brinker was "in complete meltdown [...] People want her to resign but she won't."
Komen founder and CEO Nancy Brinker then took to the airwaves to offer a whole new excuse for cutting the funding, insisting that the decision was not political, and tsk-tsking critics, whom she insisted didn't know what they were talking about and needed to "pause" and "slow down." Translation: Stop criticizing us for siding with an anti-woman agenda instead of with women. And keep buying our pink crap!
That did not go over too well either.
Next, the Komen Foundation released an apology for its decision, which the traditional media (and, sadly, even many alternative media sources, including feminist writers) inaccurately reported as a reversal of the foundation's new policy. Additional conversations with members of the foundation's board confirmed that it had not reversed its policy; rather, the apology was a further attempt to salvage its all-but-destroyed brand, chastise critics, and make the whole PR disaster go away.
This week, the bloodbath continued Komen President Liz Thompson announced her resignation, two more members of the board resigned, and as for Nancy "in complete meltdown" Brinker—well, she will "shift to a new management role as chair of the Komen Board Executive Commiittee when the search for a new senior executive is finished."
Susan G. Komen for the Cure demanded that women make a choice. And women made it. And the answer could not be clearer: If you force women to choose between Planned Parenthood and something else, that something else will lose every time. Women and their allies stood up and said no—hell no—and sent a strong message to Komen and to anyone else who tries to come between us and the nation's biggest provider of our health care.
Feels good to win, doesn't it? Feels awesome, in fact, and makes you want more. The Daily Kos community should take a bow—readers, diarists and activists here were instrumental in focusing on the latest news about the issue, spreading word and actions throughout social media, putting pressure on sponsors, donating to Planned Parenthood, writing letters to the editor to send the loud-and-clear message that we stand with Planned Parenthood.
It looks like Komen got the message.
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