Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Heart Hurts... My Commentary on the Latest with Komen

I have to tell you all right now that this is a painful blog for me to write. It hurts me to see something I believed in so much turn so bad. I am not sure what brought this about but I can tell you that it wasn't always like this - only the last year I was very active (about 1.5 years ago) did I see any of the big issues that I am about to talk about. And to be honest I didn't see this first big one coming at all...

I want to know what Komen was thinking when they hired their VP, Karen Handel, this past year. As best I can tell she wants to trample all over women's rights and assert that only her thoughts and beliefs are what we all should live by. She tried to defund Planned Parenthood as a Republican anti-abortion anti-choice (she termed herself anti-choice) activist while in Georgia but failed so it looks like she brought her baggage to her job at Komen.

The ongoing investigation about Planned Parenthood using federal money for abortions is a fishing expedition that pretty much everyone knows will end with nothing. Given their accounting and how under scrutiny they have always been I have no doubt that they have been sure to ear tag all federal funding for things other than abortions.

Here are some facts folks... okay and some opinions interjected too...

  • Planned Parenthood has a budget of nearly $1 billion a year
    • Less than 1/3 of this money is from the government in the form of grants/contracts
    • The rest is from private donors
      • Guess what - Bill & Melinda Gates are large contributors to Planned Parenthood. Everyone in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood should have to give up their PCs and Microsoft products if they really feel strongly about this. Otherwise they are just hypocrites because guess what - buying that Microsoft product just helped put money in the pocket of Planned Parenthood. 
  • Federal funds can not be used for abortions
  • Only 3% of the services are abortions
    • Do the math people... 3% of $1billion does not add up to 1/3 of the budget
  • 35% of the services are for contraceptives
    • Again - do the math people... do you really want all these people to be without proper birth control and end up with unwanted pregnancies?
  • 16% of services are for cancer related testing and treatments
  • Other services include mammograms, education, vasectomies and general healthcare
  • Planned Parenthood serves more than 5 million people a year
    • 26% of these are teenagers under 19
      • Who guess what? Likely won't go to their parents or regular doctor if there is no Planned Parenthood. Do we really want all these kids having uneducated unprotected sex? 
        • Yes I mentioned uneducated because a large part of Planned Parenthood is education and given that it seems more and more that schools are taking real sex education out of schools and replacing it with abstinence only (which we all know is crap!) isn't it important that teens have somewhere to go to get educated and to get help?!
      • 75% of the patients have income at or below 150% of the poverty level

Nixon signed into law in 1970 an act that allows funding to a place such as Planned Parenthood because "no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition." Perhaps the rich (like Karen Handel) forget what it's like to not have healthcare they can afford.

My personal opinion is this... All of a sudden Planned Parenthood has come into the limelight from the far Right due to them performing abortions (which they have for many years). This has become a hot button in politics and enough people starting screaming about Komen donating to Planned Parenthood that they have decided to cower to the far right because of fears of unpopularity and perhaps some drop in donations. I suspect what they have done is alienate many staunch supporters of the cause who stand by their beliefs and are not swayed by the "presiding" political opinion of the day.

Bottom line for me is I support a woman's right to choose and a woman's right to health care that is in HER best interest. (Do we really want to return to the days of back alley abortions?) I feel in this case that Komen has bowed to the Right Wing faction that has decided that personal and religious vendettas are more important than a woman's individual rights.

Kimi brought up a point that I had started to see during my time doing a lot of volunteering and fundraising with Komen. They are very protective of their "brand" to the point that it is prohibitive and elitest. They need to officially approve anything and everything that has their name on it. It caused people to have more issues with fundraising which was crazy to me - I mean isn't the point to raise as much money for the cause as possible. Conversely, there's the Multiple Sclerosis Society who runs the MS150 bike rides. They want you to put their name and logo all over everything if you want to for fundraising. That just passes a sanity test for me. Looking more into this I am finding out more alarming news....They have sued 100s of small charities for using the words "for the cure" or anything with pink in conjunction with the words "for the/a cure." They have done this to many "mom & pop" type charities who are simply trying to raise money for worthy causes. These charities don't have the means to fight this and are forced to change their name. How can the simple words "For the cure" be trademarked? Fact of the matter is they really can't but smaller groups can't fight that battle. (What Komen can trademark is "Komen for the Cure" with their specific pink ribbon - the 2 tone one with the running head.) Komen spent more than $1 million in lawsuits against groups last year over their names... that is NOT how I intended for my donations to be spent.

I had a major issue during the Pasta Party & Auction where the president of the Houston chapter told me that I couldn't use a Hooters gift certificate in the auction. Never mind that it was a fairly valuable gift certificate (worth more than $500) and I had 2 of them... She said it wasn't in keeping with Komen's "values." I thought this was BS because the last time I checked that gift certificate could have raised enough money to provide a few mammograms for women who needed them. And Hooters is "technically" a family mainstream restaurant. (Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't take my small kids there but I am trying to make the point that it's not like it's a strip club or something and yes you do frequently see families in there.) I was annoyed by the snobby attitude which I found to be completely unacceptable. Then Komen launches the KFC campaign for pink buckets - last time I checked unhealthy diet is a contributor to cancer possibilities. Let me be clear - I am actually okay with the fundraising gained from KFC or a winery etc. I have no problem with it. But you can't be a hypocrite and say I'll take money from KFC but not Hooters.

Shame on you Komen... it breaks my heart to say it but Shame on you.

Pardon me while I go clean out a large portion of the shirts in my closet. I will continue to support breast cancer research and awareness but I will not do it through Komen, or any other charity, who will throw another well-intentioned group who is providing for women's health rights and needs under the bus. We live in a country where we are afforded freedom of religion (last time I checked it's part of why our Founding Fathers came here) - don't try and force your religion on others in ways like defunding Planned Parenthood.

I hope one day Komen will go back to its roots of truly helping women (and men!) but until then... they won't see another dime of  my money... I will do a lot of research on the next charity I choose to pour so much heart, soul and time into. To be fair - I did do a lot of research on Komen many years ago and it was nothing like this.

Shame on you Komen for becoming someone who I cannot in good conscience support in any way... shame on you.

I wanted everyone to know I had a very hard time sleeping last night (even after I went to bed very late). This whole thing really bothers me so very much. A few other things I want you to know...
FIRST & FOREMOST - there are some absolutely amazing people who still do good work for Komen. I have worked with incredible individuals who work tirelessly for all the right reasons. Please remember that the choices of a large corporation/charity are not necessarily the choices of individuals within this organization.

The pink ribbon in general is not owned by Komen - only their specific iteration of it. (I'd post a picture of it but don't want to get in trouble for it so google it if you're not sure which one is theirs.) So you will still see me wearing pink ribbon items - just not Komen ones.

There are 2 walks in the country of a large variety that support breast cancer. Avon originally started a 2-day walk and here is some more information on where that money goes.

Komen decided to copy this and do a 3-day variety of the walk. Funny how they didn't see that as an "infringement" on Avon's previous creation and note that Avon didn't sue Komen.

A lot of the pink products with the generic pink ribbon are to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation. I've only just started looking into more detail on them and will keep you posted if I learn anything of value

Lastly (hopefully for now) - I feel it's also important to make a statement about Planned Parenthood in general. In case you can't tell this is an organization I whole heartedly believe in. Frankly even if you are pro-life it's an organization you may want to consider getting behind given all the good it does for so many women (and men too!) who have no other alternative. I respect your right to choose not to want to choose please respect my right to have the choice. I can tell you that at a time when I was in college and had no money to spend at the doctor and no health insurance I was a patient at Planned Parenthood because I wanted to be sure that I did not end up with a child. I give you this piece of very personal information so you can realize that it's not just some "random" or "faceless" woman who has benefitted from Planned Parenthood services... I, your friend or acquaintance, or maybe former friend if you are so annoyed by my stance on this... I, a college educated, professional woman have in the past been helped with affordable birth control by Planned Parenthood. Perhaps you should ask yourself who else you know may have been in need of their services in the past. I can tell you I plan to write my donation check to Planned Parenthood today.


  1. Very well written and said. Now I'm bummed too b/c I have to go change my credit card - hopefully my points transfer over!! This sucks - wish they didn't go down this alley, but there are still MANY other worthy charities out there worth supporting.

  2. A million dollars in trademark lawsuits, refusing donations because they're not couth enough, and now trying to shut down a program that is, for some women in this country, the ONLY way that they would ever get a Well Woman Exam...I'm with you 100%. SHAME on Komen! Does anyone know if the National Breast Cancer Foundation or the Avon Foundation for Women have similar, stupid "principles"?

  3. My husband and I have thought about doing the three day walk for komen but now I don't think we will. We will just stick to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation walk. I also agree, Planned Parenthood is very important. I see too many teens that are pregnant or have STDs, so the education is needed! Thanks for the information!!!

  4. When I began making contributions to various Komen fundraisers, I merely assumed the funds were going solely to cancer research. Perhaps "Cure" triggered this for me. My fault for making an assumption although I have no objections to Planned Parenthood receiving a portion as it serves for cancer victims in need of such as do many other organizations. Just because one has or reasonably may be expected to have should not left without resources.
    Unfortunate that this lady has a platform which should not include politics. I don't see how she was allowed such clout and I think Komen will regret the free reins. Choices, even those not mine, should be available to those feeling or needing to make a decision. I feel one way but because I do I should not deny another.
    Obviously you have engaged in many Komen fund-raising activities for years. For you to remain as one of the doers, you obviously were mature enough to decide on an appropriate donation for an event. Specifically Hooters, I would find acceptable especially for the amounts. It could go a long enabling one to be able to eat and treat others who may need a good meal. Yes, they have a gimmick but having passed many of their restaurants with large windows I see staff who are well dressed serving tables. From my observation, not all of the women are as endowed as the advertising suggests. I know someone who works for them, and have gone inside with another to see about borrowing a vehicle or something like that. I didn't eat then but I may in the future, especially now. Everyone there seemed to be okay people there to eat.
    I wish I had more time to digest your findings but I do accept that a fight for cancer and for well-being of those afflicted may not be the true mission these days.
    It is good you spoke regarding this situation or some of us would still be in the dark. More people need to step up and enlighten us that all is not as it should be in many of these non-profits which were established for good supportive causes.

  5. Sorry, I failed to include my name with the above comment.
    Virginia from North Carolina

  6. Amen to everything you just said, 'chelle. I have been really put off and annoyed by this too and you know how much hard work and support of time and donations we've put in for the last several years. You're 110% correct and your story about the Hooters cards for the Pasta Party is really irking me. How many men at the Pasta Party do we know that either attended with their wives, girlfriends, or are survivors in attendance? They would have been bid because almost everything there was. Everything there was because WE, the concerned, caring supporters, donate and purchase because we believed they were relevant and mattered. I'm definitely going to have to think twice about my future donations and that makes me sad. But, you're right; it's corporate bullshit and not the people on the ground who so tirelessly give their hearts and souls 110% because we all want a cure. Thank you for sharing this.

    Jill Eisnaugle