Do you know anyone who has suffered from breast cancer? Are you at risk? It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t been affected by the disease.
Young women don’t tend to be concerned about getting breast cancer, as only about 7 percent of breast cancer cases involve women under the age of 40, according to the National Cancer Institute. Nevertheless, the institute estimates that one in eight women will develop it at some point in her life.
Breast cancer isn’t just an issue for survivors or activists handing out “Save the Ta-tas” shirts on Trousdale Parkway — it’s an issue for everyone.
Early last week, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation made a terrible mistake: They chose to cut its annual grant to Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings.
Fortunately, however, they managed to rectify it.
The Komen foundation announced Friday that it would honor its six-figure grants, totaling nearly $700,000, and ensure that a vital source of funding for the detection of breast cancer is not cut off because of an irrelevant political debate.
The political debate on the question of abortion is angry, complicated and endless. The pro-life movement has long condemned Planned Parenthood for providing free abortions. But the recent decision by conservatives in Congress to launch an investigation into whether or not the group had used federal funds to finance abortions dragged many other parties into the mess.
Subject to such an inquiry, Planned Parenthood no longer met Komen’s new grant eligibility criteria, which excludes groups under investigation by U.S. authorities. Komen cited this policy as the reason for its initial withdrawal of the funds.
An outraged public quickly pointed out that Komen was suspending funds for breast cancer screenings and mammogram referrals because of a battle in Washington over an entirely different women’s health issue — one in which Komen has no involvement.
New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg articulated the public’s indignation in a personal letter asking Komen to reconsider.
“Breast cancer screening saves lives, and hundreds of thousands of women rely on Planned Parenthood for access to care,” he said in the letter. “We should be helping women access that care, not placing barriers in their way.”
Political tiffs merit no place in preventing lives from being saved. Whether or not one agrees with abortion is beside the point; Komen-funded breast cancer screenings caught 177 incidences of breast cancer over a five-year period, according to the Washington Post. Those 177 terminally ill women got a better shot at survival because Planned Parenthood discovered their disease.
Komen’s reversal on the funding issue was no victory for the pro-choice movement, but those who are lamenting it as such are forgetting who this is really about: the women at risk of the disease.
As Dr. Kathy Plesser, a member of Komen’s medical advisory board in New York, pointed out to CNN, serving these communities is “a big part of what Komen does.”
Serving these communities is an even bigger part of what Planned Parenthood does. Seventy-one percent of Planned Parenthood services are geared specifically toward America’s underprivileged females. Another 15 percent consists of cancer screenings, including those, thankfully, still funded by the Komen foundation. Abortions account for a mere 3 percent.
This percentage is apparently enough for conservatives in Congress to see Planned Parenthood purely as a societal menace.
Ultimately, when the fiasco was settled, the joke was on the congressmen. Members of the outraged public raised more than $3 million in new donations in solidarity with Planned Parenthood last week. The surprising financial boost will now be joined by Komen’s promised grant, a victory for Planned Parenthood and for women everywhere.
Francesca Bessey is a freshman majoring in narrative studies.