Susan G. Komen Foundation — Cuts Grants for What?

Now I try to dedicate this site to discussion — sometimes objective and sometimes not — related to the triathlon and multisport community. I like to think my cycling tips, running advice, and triathlon training genius has enriched the lives of all my Google Connect Followers. I stay away from politics (you want to read about mortgage reform, go to my other site) because the endurance sports community is apolitical. When you are suffering through a training session or race, nobody cares if you vote Republican, Democrat, or to legalize weed. But there is something that I had to write about because it impacts so many of my female friends.

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The Susan G. Komen Foundation is almost a household name. I think they are one of the better Foundations in the country — 84% of the money they raise goes to programs, which for such a large organization is a great percentage. Click here to see the report published on the Foundation by the Better Business Bureau. Their stated mission of “…save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures” is fantastic. Who in this world has not been touched by breast cancer in some way? I know my family has been.

A controversy has been brewing since December 2011 at the organization. Recently the Foundation cut grants to Planned Parenthood that were used to provide breast cancer screening and other related services to several locations of Planned Parenthood. The Foundation used a newly adopted rule that would not allow grants to organizations under investigation by Federal body. According to reports in The Atlantic, certain executive management used some current situations to customize that rule to effectively cut off funding from Planned Parenthood because of the abortions they provide to some clients.

Specifically, the Senior VP for Public Policy, Karen Handle, was behind the creation of this new rule. Ms. Handle is strongly anti-abortion, and used a Federal investigation by Representative Cliff Stearns into the possible use of Federal funds to provide abortions as an excuse to create the rule. According to the information provided to Jeffrey Goldberg, the reporter from The Atlantic, anti-abortion activists have been working for years to persuade the Foundation to drop their grant program — a total of $600,000 a year — to Planned Parenthood. It looks like through the advocacy of Ms. Handle it accomplished its goal, even though the funds were only used to provide cancer screening for the underserved.

Those are the facts of the situation. Let’s not get into a debate related to abortion and why you think it is right or wrong. What I would like to discuss is why the Foundation blew this one. Here are my thoughts…

  • Breast cancer knows no income range. The $600,000 was used to provide breast cancer screening and related services to under-privileged women. These are women who have limited access to health care and who really need the benefit of these services.
  • Creating a rule that targets only one organization is disingenuous and shallow. Almost every organization does something you do not like. While it is your right to pull your business from them, it would be a fruitless search to find an organization that is 100% in line with your belief system. Does Planned Parenthood accomplish the goal of providing breast cancer screening for under-served communities? Yes.
  • As a business owner, I know that if you feel you are doing something right, then you should not cave to the pressure of outside organizations. Draw your line in the sand. The Foundation has funded Planned Parenthood as one of the vehicles it uses for breast cancer screening to women without health insurance for years because they felt it was the best way to achieve its mission in poor communities. How does Ms. Handle suggest this need be filled now?
  • The Foundation made a huge mistake in cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, but life will go on. The Foundation will announce in the next week their Board of Directors is reviewing the new administrative rule and the uproar will die down. But the damage will have been done.

The Foundation tackled a sensitive subject in an age when breast cancer was talked about in hushed tones. I think the Foundation has taken a step backwards in caving to the pressure of one group. I feel that once you cave to one group, then other groups will feel they can control you as well and you will have to cave to pressures from everyone. You really become ineffective and allow your mission to be shaped by external factors, which can cut you off at the knees. It will make taking a stand on sensitive issues difficult at best because there is always someone out there who disagrees with your approach or the demographic you are targeting.

I know I have opened up a can of worms, but I am interested in seeing what you guys think. Please feel free to contribute to the conversation in a positive way — I approve all comments so any that are inappropriate will not be published. And if you liked or hated this post, make sure you use the social media tools I have provided. I want this discussion to be tweeted, published to Facebook, Google+’ed, and StumbledUpon! Let’s get this discussion going.

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...