The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation is a breast cancer awareness powerhouse. As its influence has grown, so too have the number of its critics, who, while appreciative of the group’s good works, cringe at the fact that some of the donations to Komen end up in the coffers of abortion provider Planned Parenthood.
In addition to the debate over the propriety of allocating money to Planned Parenthood, some groups allege that studies prove abortions and certain oral contraceptives can cause breast cancer — while organizations such as Komen deny such links.
Dorinda C. Bordlee, executive director of the Bioethics Defense Fund, speculated to The Daily Caller that one of the main reasons for Komen’s support of Planned Parenthood is the fact that Komen’s founder, Nancy Brinker, was a supporter of the organization, acting as an advisory board member of Planned Parenthood’s North Texas affiliate.
Komen spokesman John Hammarley told TheDC that the issue is overblown, as funding to Planned Parenthood is limited and strictly overseen.
According to Hammarley, about 20 of Komen’s 122 affiliates are responsible for the money that goes to Planned Parenthood and that those funds are used only for breast cancer treatment, education, or screening programs that happen to be affiliated with the abortion group.
“Those funds are audited twice a year to make sure that the money that is invested from the Komen affiliate is being used for screening, treatment or education of breast cancer only,” Hammarley said. “If they ever find that it is either intermingled with their general fund or used specifically for something else, it is shut down. Legal action is taken and the program is required to pay back the money.”
Hammarley went on to state that such action has never been taken.
From 2004-2009 Komen affiliates contributed about $3.3 million to programs sponsored by Planned Parenthood and in FY 2009, $731,303. “That $731,303 is less than one percent of the entire amount of community grant funding that affiliates around the country contribute,” Hammarley said.*
But to people like Bordlee, the amount is insignificant. It is the principle of it. “No matter whether they are giving $500,000 a year to Planned Parenthood, or $5, people who respect the dignity of human life and are trying to save people with disease don’t want any part of their money going to an organization that is subsidizing an abortion provider,” she said.
In addition to the funding concerns, many in the pro-life community argue that abortions actually increase women’s risk for breast cancer and are horrified that Komen denies that risk.
Karen Malec, president and co-founder of the Coalition on Abortion/ Breast Cancer, told TheDC that Planned Parenthood is complicit in the breast cancer epidemic for just that reason. According to Malec, it is well established that abortion can cause breast cancer. “Their gifts to Planned Parenthood are comparable to the American Lung Society giving funds to Brown and Williamson Company…..to screen for lung cancer,” she said.
In an open 2009 letter, Dr. Eric Winer, M.D., Komen’s chief scientific advisor, addressed those concerns, writing that while Komen provides funds to Planned Parenthood, the purpose of the funds — to screen for breast cancer — is just and acceptable and the supposed link between breast cancer and abortion is false.
“Another piece of misinformation being spread by many who criticize Komen for the Cure for its Planned Parenthood grants is that abortion causes breast cancer. Well conducted research consistently fails to support this claim,” he wrote. “We agree with the bulk of scientific evidence – from the National Cancer Institute, Harvard, a rigorous study in Denmark and from Oxford University – that there is no conclusive link between breast cancer and induced abortion or miscarriage.”
Dr. Alveda King, pro-life advocate and niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, takes issue with such claims, telling TheDC that giving Planned Parenthood money is part of an insidious cycle. “Breast cancer is linked to abortions, Planned Parenthood gives abortions and then they turn around and give you mammograms, ‘We are going to give you breast cancer then we are going to turn around and let you know that you have it, and then we are going to get with this great organization and raise money to treat it,’” she said.
Hammarley says he has been dealing with allegations of Komen and Planned Parenthood’s sinister link for years, but that once people hear the explanation there is little to be concerned about. “This is an issue that opponents to Planned Parenthood bring up on an annual basis,” Hammarley said. “I love the power of he Internet, and I totally subscribe to it, but sometimes it takes a little longer to explain the truth than it does to answer a rumor.”
Despite having to rehash the explanation for the connection between Komen and Planned Parenthood ad nauseum, Hammarley said that the group has no intention of cutting off funding, as for many lower income areas Planned Parenthood is the only option. “In many of these communities that is the case, that the only other option is a Planned Parenthood sponsored program. So in order to ethically meet the needs of women in their area the system is set up so… we don’t deny to women the services they need just because it is inconvenient on our part,” Hammarley said.
Despite Hammarley’s confidence abortion opponents remain steadfast in their belief that Komen should shun Planned Parenthood and its programs.
Malec, for example, remains incredulous that Planned Parenthood is the only place Komen can find screening and treatment programs in under-served communities.
“They claim that Planned Parenthood in some of these states is the only provider offering the breast cancer screening. I find that a little hard to believe personally,” Malec said. “We are living in America, it would be completely different if we were living in a third world nation, but I don’t think women are having difficulties in an overwhelming majority of cases — I would think it would be extremely rare for a woman not to have access to breast screening.”
Bordlee concluded that people should reach out to Komen and let their voices be heard. “Citizens who are concerned about that should contact Komen and encourage them to put 100% of the money that is raised to ethical breast cancer research and screenings,” Bordlee said.
*Update: Upon publication Hammarley revised the dollar amount Komen provided to Planned Parenthood to $731,303 donated in FY 2009 and $3.3 million donated from FY 2004-2009.