For those wondering how the Susan G. Komen foundation would fare in the wake of what may be the worst public relations of a nonprofit in my lifetime, Abigail Pesta of the Daily Beast can tell you that the answer is, “Not well.” As she reports, Komen has cut off their annual Lobbying Day, where activists and breast cancer survivors flood D.C. and pressure legislators to spend money on breast cancer research. Indeed, the organization seems to be in a complete meltdown, unable to fundraise like they did and making desperate, negative statements like, “We hope that people don’t turn their backs on women. If you don’t give to Komen, that’s someone who’s not going to get a mammogram.”
This is an entirely unsurprising outcome. Even though the right-wing press made a great show out of claiming that Planned Parenthood “bullied” Komen by calling them out for caving into anti-choice activists, there hasn’t actually been any fundraising support for Komen in those circles. As I’ve noted before, people who care about women’s health care are the people you need on your team if you’re fighting breast cancer. The political circles that resist any expansion of women’s reproductive health care access have demonstrated they don’t care about women, so why would they care about breast cancer? Just because most sufferers are too old for Rush Limbaugh to spread hateful fantasies about them featuring the words “sluts” and “co-eds” doesn’t mean that they’re going to be openly supported on the right. Just mainly ignored, now that they’re no longer a weapon to use in the fight against below-the-belt health care for women.
It’s hard to know how to feel about Komen cutting Lobbying Day. It depends on how high on the priority list it was to preserve it, I suppose. Getting noncorporate, government funding into breast cancer research is a noble goal, and if they cut that before other, possibly less important initiatives, it doesn’t speak well of them. But it’s also entirely possible that they’re just that far down the creek and don’t have much money for anything.
Still, it’s not smart to scold people who care about women and use guilt trips for fund-raising. The reason that people have pulled support from Komen is not because they don’t care about women, but because they do care. Most of the people writing checks are more interested in big picture questions about women’s health instead of just the health of the Komen foundation. They realize that if this war against women isn’t turned around now, then it’s not just going to be abortion and contraception that are threatened, but that it could expand into whole arenas of women’s health care, including breast cancer treatment and prevention. After all, the Republicans are expanding the war on women beyond below-the-belt care and are now pushing to cut support for victims of domestic violence, which is a major women’s health concern that has nothing to do with slutty co-eds that haunt the right wing imagination. Supporters of women have every right to believe that the conservative movement can’t be trusted when it comes to women’s health care, even when it comes to something seemingly apolitical like breast cancer. After all, until a year ago, most Americans thought contraception was apolitical, too.