The Susan G. Komen foundation has been under fire the past few days. That pressure is well deserved; it’s coming after Komen — an organization that professes to care about women’s health — pulled its funding for Planned Parenthood. (Komen has since reversed that decision because of a furious outcry online. Maybe.)
Komen said over and over that their decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood was not about politics. That simply can’t be true. It was a pathetic attempt to pander to right-wing, anti-abortion groups who have had knives out for Planned Parenthood for years. More evidence that the decision was about abortion: Mother Jones is reporting on another of Komen’s grants that appears to violate its new policy.
The Planned Parenthood decision has put Komen under a good deal of scrutiny. The more we find out about them, the more questions arise about their activities. A look at their financials (2010 is available on their website in a PDF) is educational.
- For their fiscal year 2009-10, Komen brought in $310 million in revenue, goods, and services. They had an additional $80 million in other income (interest, investment income, restricted funds becoming unrestricted. That’s about $390 million in revenue. Not bad.
- They spent about $360 million. This is how that breaks down: Research – $75 million (about 21%). Public Awareness (advertising and other public outreach, in other words) – $141 million (39%). Health Screenings $41 million (11%). Treatment – $20 million (0.5%). Fundraising – $36 million (10%). Administrative costs – $41 million (11%).
- Let me spell this out (this was pointed out by Chris Broom on Facebook, who adapted it from a post on DailyKos). They spent $77 million in overhead costs. Compare that to the $76 million they spent on research, which probably has its own grant overhead costs.
So their priorities don’t really seem to be curing breast cancer, just by looking at the numbers. The DailyKos post says that this makes sense because there really isn’t any economic benefit to curing breast cancer. But there certainly is great economic benefit in treating breast cancer and working to find a cure. There’s a human benefit to both.
Then there are some other activities that are questionable. They created a partnership with a Seattle gun distributor to sell pink handguns. Apparently this fits in with the pink spatulas and pink ribbons for awareness that Komen is so well known for. What’s the next deadly promotional item to be made pink?
Can someone explain to me exactly how selling handguns contributes to women’s health? It seems to me that it does exactly the opposite. Guns kill people, you see. Is the new Komen motto “Save a life by taking a life”? It seems apt, although it’s intellectually dishonest when taken in light with the Planned Parenthood decision (about abortion no matter what Komen says). It’s a common disease in the Republican Party these days. But that’s another post.
I’m not going to soft-pedal how I feel about the handgun thing. It’s disgusting. It’s another sop to the right wing, just the same way the Planned Parenthood decision was. It’s wrong.
I think the Komen foundation needs to remember what its true mission is. It’s supposed to be about women’s health and finding a cure for breast cancer, which is a worthy cause. That’s what all those people giving all that money expect. Somehow, it seems to me, Komen has lost its way. Until it finds its way back, I won’t be supporting them (I was thinking about walking in 2013). Any donation dollars I was going to give them will be going to Planned Parenthood (and maybe anti-gun causes too) instead.