Sleepless: Komen and Planned Parenthood

(from The Decemberists' "Team Jenny" breast health awareness campaign)

There has been so much in the news this week regarding women’s issues, especially in this state. I cannot do justice to everything that has gone on in one blog entry, so with a major update this morning on the Komen/Planned Parenthood issue, I will focus on that today.

As this organization blogged about on Wednesday, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation decided to pull funding of breast cancer screening by Planned Parenthood due to “a new Komen policy forbidding grants to organizations under official investigation.” However, in the court of public opinion, the decision had everything to do with politics, with many feeling that Komen succumbed to anti-choice, and frankly anti-women, sentiments.

This morning however, Komen announced that it will reinstate funding to Planned Parenthood. According to Komen CEO Nancy G. Brinker,

“We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives…We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.

As with many others, the issue really hits close to home for me having dealt with breast cancer in my family. Even with this reversal, however, the fact that Komen even considered cutting this funding has left many, including myself, hesitant to trust that Komen really wants what is best for women’s health.

As has been the case in the last couple years, social media played a huge part in quickly riling up public fervor over the issue. Julie Stagis of the Hartford Courant referenced Netflix’s recent series of bungled business decisions on her Twitter page this morning, characterizing Komen's thought process as "Oh, wait, you're mad, we'll pretend this never happened!" In today's social media-oriented society, organizations like Komen need to take extra care to make sure that their "business" decisions are completely thought out, or else face harsh backlash.

Perhaps my favorite use of social media in the Komen/Planned Parenthood situation was from the Portland, Oregon indie rock band The Decemberists. One of their members, Jenny Conlee, has recently battled breast cancer; as a result, they have been selling "Team Jenny" t-shirts with proceeds going to Komen. However, when Komen announced their decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood, The Decemberists took to their Facebook page (over 460,000 followers strong) about the issue, saying:

"...it is unconscionable that Komen should politicize this very important issue by bowing to the fear campaign being waged against PP by the right. We've decided to redirect the proceeds of the Team Jenny t-shirts and buttons away from Komen for the Cure. 100% of the net profits of these items will be instead donated to Planned Parenthood's Breast Health Emergency Fund."

My favorite song by The Decemberists is "Sleepless," which was written for AIDS awareness, but I feel that it applies to this situation as well in multiple ways. It's really encouraging to me that in situations like this, public commotion through social media can be used for positive reasons to influence change and progress. But this victory for women's health is only a minor skirmish in what has become a massive war against women's health; once again, we cannot forget that women's issues are everybody's issues. We must never stop fighting. We must be sleepless.




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