The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation suffered serious backlash against a decision to stop funding, mostly supporting breast cancer screening, to Planned Parenthood. Komen acted quickly to reverse the decision, restoring the funding and issuing the following statement:
We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives.
The decision appears to have been triggered by a new policy excluding organizations under investigation from receiving funding. Planned Parenthood, a constant conservative political target due to their engagement on the abortion issue, is under investigation by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) for whether any federal funds received by the organization went into abortions (as if money were not a fungible commodity).
Komen should be praised for attempting to maintain policies that ensure contributors' donations do the most good possible, and for correcting the possibly unforeseen consequences of that policy quickly and deliberately. But the high profile of the Komen organization got writers here at TreeHugger talking about the real Komen controversy.
The Real Komen ControversyA lot of powerful women (and men) are talking about curing cancer under the sponsorship of the very companies peddling products that may contribute to rising rates of cancer.
From the 1940's through the early 2000's, breast cancer rates increased about 1% per year before leveling off. The reasons are probably many, including changes in how women manage our hormones over a lifetime and general environmental exposures.
But no one can really answer the question of whether increased exposure to chemicals in personal care products, in bottled beverages, in our homes, and elsewhere add up to our cells losing the fight against the menace of cancer. In spite of unanswered questions, we find these very products on the supermarket shelf, adorned with the pink ribbon of hope (hoping this one does not cause cancer?).
Komen is not silent on the matter. As any organization dependent upon corporate sponsorship for funding would, Komen proceeds cautiously. From the Komen website:
Given the many unanswered questions about environmental exposures and breast cancer, Susan G Komen for the Cure® has commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a comprehensive review of breast cancer research on the environment. The IOM will also make recommendations for further avenues of research. According to Dr. Eric P. Winer, chief scientific advisor to Komen for the Cure, the work being conducted by the Institute of Medicine will be enormously informative to the breast cancer community and it will also guide Komen’s strategic initiatives on environmental research during the next five years
Komen remains a strong force in the fight for breast cancer. Many people work for the cause of prevention and cure. But the real controversy arises well before the question of funding breast cancer screening; it evolves from the question of how the rate of cancer can be returned to pre-1940 levels. Powerful advocates are needed to ask these questions because of the great economic forces arrayed against the investigation and control of hazardous chemicals. Powerful organizations like Komen need to step up to the challenge.