ACNM Guest Blogger Jennifer Williams, CNM
Unless you’ve been living under a
rock or have been on call 24/7 for the past couple of days, it’s unlikely
the news coverage of the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to pull its
funding for breast cancer screening from women who seek care at Planned
Parenthood. The initial announcement was met with quite a reaction, and
many people expressed concern that this decision was based on an ideology to no
longer support Planned Parenthood due to the fact they provide abortion
services. The Komen Foundation stated that their decision was based on the fact
that an investigation has been opened into Planned Parenthood, but others felt
this was a red herring.
Komen Foundation reversed their decision and state they intend to fulfill
the current funding needs and will evaluate future funding requests from
My local Planned Parenthood has been
a beneficiary of funding from the Komen Foundation for many years. Women who
are uninsured could call and make an appointment for a clinical breast exam,
which was paid for through grant dollars from the Komen Foundation.
The loss of this grant funding would
have prevented women from an entry point into care for breast exams and further
workup, affecting women in my community.
During the recent kerfuffle, Planned
Parenthood reports they
have received donations that far exceed the temporary loss of funds had the
Komen Foundation not changed their mind—dollars that will continue to provide a
safety net and access to breast care.
I’ve read on message boards and
blogs many passionate comments about this situation, but the ones that strike
me the most are from women who live in countries with socialized medicine. They
marvel that we have women in the United States who lack access to basic care.
I recently experienced my own bout
with cancer. Once a problem was detected, I was sent to one of the top
specialists in my state and received top-notch surgical care at one of the
area’s premier hospitals. I am a lucky one. I have health insurance. My
situation was not due to breast cancer, but I cannot imagine what it must feel
like to note a breast lump and have to make decisions based on when and how to
go see a health care provider—knowing that you need to decide between
groceries, rent, and healthcare.
The Komen Foundation has funneled
donated and money raised from American citizens to address breast cancer
education, research, and clinical care. Planned Parenthood has been able to use
that money to provide screenings for women in need. This is supposed to be a
safety net for the women in the community.
Now we know that the safety net
provided by the Komen Foundation might as well be made out of cotton candy.
Komen’s flip-flopping on how they distribute money meant to help women fight
breast cancer is a problem, but not the biggest problem. The biggest problem,
and the lesson we should keep in mind, is that women deserve a safety net that
will not melt away at the first drop of rain. It’s wonderful that people donate
to causes to help women. It’s tragic that the use and availability of these
donations depend on the political whims of organizations. Our mothers, sisters,
and daughters deserve better.