Pro-Life Breast Cancer Survivor to Komen: De-Fund Planned Parenthood

National   |   Julie Schmit-Albin   |   Feb 15, 2012   |   11:36AM   |   Washington, DC

As a pro-life activist who also happens to be a breast cancer survivor, I was encouraged by the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s recent announcement that it no longer would fund grants to Planned Parenthood Federation of America affiliates. I had never before been able to support Komen’s Race For The Cure or buy any of its pink merchandise.

When you’re a breast cancer survivor, you are automatically inducted into a sisterhood of support that spans the blogosphere of survivors’ stories, medical sites and support groups. I have followed some of the major ones since my diagnosis and mastectomy last summer. In the months following surgery, I found a lot of good advice and comfort from knowledgeable survivor blogs and medical sites.

After Komen’s initial move away from Planned Parenthood and the subsequent storm of disapproval from Planned Parenthood supporters, I was dismayed. Practically every survivor blog and medical site I have relied upon these past months jumped on the “defend PPFA” bandwagon. Blogger after blogger was tweeting or posting disgust with Komen’s perceived abandonment of Planned Parenthood.

It was almost as if in order to be an advocate for breast cancer awareness and research, one was expected to embrace abortion along with it. Apparently, Planned Parenthood has done a good job of branding itself as a premier provider of medical services to the indigent and uninsured. The fact that affiliates did 332,278 abortions in 2009 and average more than 300,000 abortions per year is not lost on pro-life Americans, but apparently it is not common knowledge for those not in the pro-life movement.

With Komen’s perceived distancing of itself from Planned Parenthood, I was relieved that I would be able to support the nation’s largest, most recognized breast cancer charity. However, a mere three days after the  announcement to not fund organizations under local, state or federal investigation, Komen came out with its apologetic policy reversal that left the door open for future Planned Parenthood funding. It now states that only those organizations under criminal investigation will be precluded from receiving grants.

What happened to Komen’s stated priority to fund direct providers of breast screening services, such as mammography clinics? Who knows? Planned Parenthood affiliates are just a pass-through for the mammography funding, which has to be reimbursed to actual mammography providers.

This was never about the money for Planned Parenthood, a billion-dollar industry by its own annual report. This was about losing the stamp of approval from Komen and its massive following among cancer charities. Komen made grants of $3 million to Planned Parenthood affiliates from 2004 to 2009. However, just one quarter of all Komen’s breast cancer screening grants went to Planned Parenthood. In 2011, $680,000 in Komen funds went to 19 Planned Parenthood affiliates. That is a drop in the bucket for an entity that deals in millions of dollars.

I am not immune to the concerns that grip a breast cancer patient upon diagnosis and eventual surgery and treatment. It’s hard enough to get through when you are fully insured and have support in place, much less for women who have no insurance or are underinsured and may not have a network of family and friends supporting them.

However, the mantra that emanated from so many in my sisterhood of survivors that Planned Parenthood is a vital player in breast cancer screening and awareness rings hollow when there are thousands of federally qualified public health centers that are not in the abortion business but are providing services to women who fall through the gap created because of being low income and/or having inadequate insurance. [related]

For Komen to now say it needs to de-politicize its  grant process is really grating, considering that Komen politicized its process from the moment it  started funding Planned Parenthood years ago. Komen needlessly ostracized pro-life Americans from the get-go. For those few days when it had pulled back from Planned Parenthood, Komen CEO Nancy Brinker admitted that the donations had shot up 100 percent. I would submit that was because of thousands of pro-lifers showing their support to Komen.

Now, with Komen’s re-alignment with Planned Parenthood, pro-lifers will continue to support alternative breast cancer charities that have no ties to abortion. And I will continue not buying pink Komen items and declining invitations to walk in its Race For The Cure.

In the meantime, I will find ways to personally dialog with and support fellow survivors with whom I may disagree, while letting them know why, as a pro-lifer, I can’t support an entity that partners with the abortion industry.

LifeNews Note: Julie Schmit-Albin is the executive director of Nebraska Right to Life. This column originally appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star and is reprinted with permission.