At a time when people routinely mistrust institutions, Susan G. Komen Foundation’s pink-ribboned fight against breast cancer has been a notable exception.
Everyone loves the ribbon, which you can find on football fields, yogurt containers and the sides of giant airliners. Komen has done wonders in bringing the issue of breast cancer treatment to the forefront of medical concerns and in getting millions to take part in its Race for the Cure.
Why would anyone possibly risk all that good will?
That’s the question still being asked of Nancy Brinker, Komen’s chief executive, who jeopardized Komen’s standing by denying grants to Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screening programs. The move clearly placed Komen in the middle of the abortion controversy.
Brinker finally apologized Feb. 3, issuing a statement saying, “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.”
In defunding Planned Parenthood of nearly $700,000 in grants, Brinker had clearly thrown in with those social conservatives who have helped make Planned Parenthood a shorthand for abortion provider. Planned Parenthood offers a wide array of medical services to underserved women, including abortions.
And pro-choice activists are noting how the apology specifically did not praise Planned Parenthood for its work and did not, in fact, promise to fund its programs in the future.
And so Komen, facing a public relations disaster, finds itself in the exact wrong place for a charity, with its motives questioned from all sides.
The challenge now is not just to ensure there will continue to be a race for a breast cancer cure, but to find a way forward so that everyone will be running toward the same goal.
The Denver Post (Feb. 8)