are we awake yet?

Today’s top news: Breast-cancer fighters defund breast-cancer prevention.

If you’ve ever seen a pink ribbon signifying support for breast-cancer research and prevention, you can at least in part thank Susan G. Komen for the Cure. But today the giant organization turned its back on women by defunding Planned Parenthood.

Why? Ostensibly because Planned Parenthood is under Congressional investigation for what may actually turn out to be some mistakes. But in reality the funding stopped for the same reasons that motivated a right-wing Congress to investigate the organization in the first place: Planned Parenthood dares to offer women — and low-income women — abortions.

Never mind that the math is off: PP uses just 3 percent of its money for abortions. The issue is that right-wing extremists are pushing an anti-woman agenda so broad it’s mind boggling for those of us who grew up under the (dwindling) protection of Roe vs. Wade.

Do you really doubt it? Probably not, if you’re reading what I write. But just in case, consider this quote from Karen Handel, elevated last year to be Komen’s senior vice president for state and federal advocacy: “‘[S]ince I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood.” Context? An unsuccessful run to be Georgia’s Republican gubernatorial candidate.

Apparently right-wing groups have been pressuring Komen for years. It’s likely not all Handel’s doing (she’d supporting PP funding in Georgia before she made her guv run.) Wherever the pressure came from, though, Komen has caved — and in the process reminded us that huge nonprofit corporations are not about their issue, they’re mostly about their own survival — like any other corporation.

As one person put it on Komen’s Facebook wall: “If we needed evidence that the radical anti-choice movement is willing to sacrifice the lives of women for what they claim is a pro-life stance, this is the smoking gun.”

Speaking of Komen’s Facebook wall, there’s a lot going on there and a lot of it is wrong. Here are some facts if you want to brave those dangerous waters:

• Abortion does not cause breast cancer. That’s science.

• Planned Parenthood primarily offers affordable health services for women and men, many of whom can’t afford anything else. Whatever you think of abortion, that’s just a tiny fraction of what they do.

• What do they do? Well, with the help of Komen’s money since 2005 they offered 170,000 clinical breast exams, the critical first step in breast-cancer prevention.

• Critics will point out that PP doesn’t offer mammograms. I’m a primary-care physician in private practice, and I don’t offer mammograms, either. What Planned Parenthood and I do offer, though, is a way to help women get mammograms — it’s called a referral, and most women need them in order to get further screening. Planned Parenthood, with Komen’s help, gave out 6,400 of those since 2005. Skeptical as I am about irradiating breasts in the name of prevention, I still look forward to the day when my practice can match a small fraction of those numbers.

Is this, as someone wrote on my Facebook wall, “another victory against basic freedoms”? I’ve been around long enough to see Roe v. Wade go from a victory to a high-water mark, steadily and constantly eroded since passage. My response to that poster: “It’s not a victory, it’s a wake-up call. Another wake-up call. Are we awake yet?”

So wake up.

Support Planned Parenthood. Don’t support Komen. Do this with your time or your money or both.

If you’ve participated in Komen’s Race for the Cure, tell Komen to take you off their lists. A friend of mine with inside knowledge of the organization says “They’ll get the message.”

If you’re pro-choice, make sure your elected officials reflect and support your views. If they’re generally on side, thank them, call them, keep them honest. If they’re not, get rid of them. This means pounding the pavement, making phonecalls, registering voters and giving money if you have the means. It may mean showing up for demonstrations, or organizing them. It may mean running for office yourself.

Take care of yourself, including getting screening for yourself. Breast cancer is not just a women’s disease, guys. Make sure your loved ones get screening, too. Get your screening at Planned Parenthood.

Tell all your friends and family what’s going on. Get them to join you.

And tell Komen what you think, by phone, fax, email or Facebook. Here’s what I said on their Facebook wall (“liking” not required.) Apologies to my mom, who undoubtedly wants none of this.

“My mother had breast cancer. She found it early and is now 11 years out with no recurrence. She is pro-choice, and I’m proud to follow in her pro-choice footsteps. Your decision to defund Planned Parenthood’s prevention program will hurt the women you are funded to help, and put my mother’s happy outcome out of reach for them. Shame on you.”

Are we awake yet?

Read more:

Mother Jones article on all of this:

National Cancer Institute fact sheet on abortion and breast cancer:


~ by gardenmedicine on February 1, 2012.

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