Sunday, February 5, 2012

Off Topic (Sorry, I was bored during the Superbowl)

I don't really want to get political on this blog (so not the point) but there are some topics that I can't help but voice my opinion on. Unless you have been living under a rock, (or have been dealing with a child in a NICU - believe me, I know that you really do miss out/not care about anything other than your immediate reality during this time.) you had to have heard about all the whole Susan B Komen Foundation vs. Planned Parenthood battle that was waged this week. Essentially, Komen decided to pull grants from PP and they got pissed and the public got pissed and because of the bad PR, Komen reversed their decision.

Okay, so I know Planned Parenthood is a hot button group because of the fact that they provide abortions in some locations. This post is not about abortion, how I feel about it nor what I think should happen with it policy wise. I am not going to go there, at least in this post. The unarguable fact though is that Planned Parenthood is about so much more than abortion. It is a major healthcare provider for many, many women who couldn't afford it otherwise. If it wasn't for PP, I wouldn't have received any type of healthcare while I was in college. I was a struggling single mother and while I did have very crappy insurance, I couldn't afford the copays that came with it not to mention the insane cost of birth control. Planned Parenthood gave me a chance to take control of my health and I appreciate them for that fact.

But this post isn't about Planned Parenthood either, although they did prompt the conversation. This post is about whether the Susan B. Komen Foundation was putting politics over women's health this week. Unfortunately, I believe the answer to that question is yes.

The Komen Foundation is an internationally recognized non-profit organization that is actually a very well-rated and trusted charity. (Great ratings on charity navigator, they don't pay their Board, they fully disclose their 990s and other financial docs on their website, etc.) While I only briefly glanced at their audited financial statements, nothing looked out of the ordinary. Although a significant amount of their income seemed like it was going to their mission and not administrative costs/overhead, some other things did stand out to me. First of all, their CEO makes over $500k plus bonuses and perks such as first class transportation. This salary puts her in the top 2% of non-profit CEOs. Their net income was also insane (over $193 million). Wow. I would have to do further research to see what they do with this net income but it would be interesting to find out. Another interesting/strange thing was they payed out almost $1 million in severence packages for 4 individuals, including their former CEO, in 2010. Again, very odd.

Another interesting thing I found about Komen is how much they have engaged in the "whole" branding of pink ribbons equaling breast cancer awareness. They have literally patented the idea (and sued other companies who use pink and "for the cure" for copywrite infrigement). It seems a little weird to me that they have gone to such trouble to protect their "brand" because the main goal of a non-profit should be to work to erradicate the problem (getting rid of breast cancer)  and not to ensure their corportate standing and marketability (secure pink ribbons = Koman Foundation). I am not really critical of this because they do seem to spend a lot of money on their mission statement but there is a group of people who view this as evidence that their priority is their corporate sponsors. They call it "pinkwashing." In fact, there is a documentary that is hitting the theatres in the spring entitled Pink Ribbons, Inc. that will be interesint to watch.

But back to the matter at hand. Was pulling funding from Planned Parenthood a political move? From the evidence I've seen, the answer would have to be yes. Komen's founder and current CEO (as of Dec 2009) is a lifelong GOP supporter and former ambassador to Hungary under George W. While that is damning in itself, I don't believe Komen has any political aspirations or such to see bowing down to the religious right as a valuable move. It is a different story, however, to the organization's newly appointed VP Karen Handel.

Handel is a staunchly anti-abortion politician (at least that is what is listed as her occupation on Wiki). She is the former Secretary of State in Georgia and ran for Governer of Georgia in 2010 on an anti-abortion platform. (She lost.) When she became VP of Komen in April 2011, she made many policy changes in the granting process, causing the organization's top public health official to resign because of these changes. According to various articles out there, Handel is the reason for the Planned Parenthood debacle. As of now, she hasn't stepped down from her position.

Seeing all this, in combination with Handel's obvious and recent political aspirations, I believe the defunding of PP was a 100% political decision. Handel was probably looking for something to strengthen her staunch anti-abortion platform for any future runs for office. She would have taken credit for withholding funds to that "evil" organization Planned Parenthood. Again, forget the abortion part of this equation, and remember that with the grants that PP received from Komen in 2011, they were able to provide 170,00 breast exams and 6,400 mammogram referals to low-income women across this nation. Exams and referals that Handel wanted to take away just because of politics. This is just my opinion but the health of low-income women shouldn't ever be a political pawn and I applaud the Komen Foundation for realizing this and rescinding their decision. Mucho kudos to them and let's hope they continue their mission and find the cure.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you... politics & funding are ugly companions. In the 70's, PP provided my only source of low-cost health care while I was a college student. Back then, we protested in the streets when the voices of many could be heard as one. Now we take to the Internet and achieve the same results: public awareness, transparency, and hopefully, equality. Janet