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Thank You, Susan G Komen, For Showing Me That I Should Give My Money Straight to Planned Parenthood Instead

Every Friday, I have to drive down the same road to get to a class, passing the same buildings and houses that I never pass any other day of the week.  A few weeks ago, Josh was off of work, and he ended up taking me to the class, so we were driving in the car together.

“I always wonder about that place,” Josh commented.

“Me too!” I exclaimed, sort of amazed that Josh had the exact same thoughts about the building we were passing, a building I’ve thought about on and off for about 9 years every time I’ve had reason to pass it.

“I would go in there, but it sort of looks sketchy.”

“It would be worth it though.”

“Really, I’m sort of surprised.  This doesn’t seem like you.”

“You think I couldn’t hold my own and use them for what I want in the same way that they are going to attempt to use me to get what they want?”

“Melissa, what are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about the place that advertises that they give free pregnancy tests, which is obviously from the rest of the signage, an anti-abortion clinic.  So I’ll listen to their spiel, blah blah blah and get the free beta.  When you’re not in treatments, it’s hard to get a beta.”

Josh takes his eyes off the road to glance at me for a moment.  “Melissa, I was talking about the tofu restaurant next door.”


Here’s the thing: my ability to use that anti-abortion clinic to get my damn beta numbers (I am the queen of the beta of 9) is something I developed quite recently, that grownup trait of making up your own mind and sticking to your convictions, even in the light of external pressure.  To be able to see someone else’s agenda and know whether or not they have my best interests at heart, or if they have put the message they want to push before the needs of the person sitting in front of them.  In other words, until recently, I was the type of woman who needed Planned Parenthood, a place I could go where decisions would be left in my hands without an overriding political message.

Planned Parenthood was made for a woman like me.

A woman who was prone to being swayed by judgment, so they took out the judgment.  A woman who was concerned about doing what was “right,” so they removed the idea that there was only one correct answer.  A woman who sometimes didn’t know the right questions to ask, so they provided a wide-range of information.  A woman who didn’t have a lot of money, so they ensured that all women could have access to basic women’s health care services including pap smears and breast exams.

You know, those two health exams that I’m assuming we all want every woman to have access to.

Susan G. Komen, the fundraising giant in the name of breast cancer, pulled funding from Planned Parenthood which was used to provide cancer screenings to those who cannot afford women’s health care otherwise.  They are doing so because Planned Parenthood is under investigation for complaints raised by anti-abortion groups (in other words, there are no valid complaints made by a non-partisan organization).  And I’m sorry, but there is no room for politics when it comes to women’s health — when it comes to anyone’s health.  What we are talking about is literally life and death.

Politicans are fond of using live subjects — namely, people — to test out their political theories.  Which makes them like cruel scientists.  We would be horrified to learn that cats or monkeys were being killed in order to push someone’s personal beliefs, but we’re not equally horrified when people are losing access to health care and dying needlessly based on someone’s personal beliefs.  The reality is that our STEM fields have stricter protocols on how and when they can use live subjects to test theories whereas human women are being used daily without any controls in place to test political theories.

The purpose of Planned Parenthood is — simply put — to ensure that women are in the best position to have children when they want to have them.  Which means that

  • They provide preventative services so they are not having children before they’re ready (according to their site, “76 percent of our clients receive services to prevent unintended pregnancy. Planned Parenthood services help prevent more than 584,000 unintended pregnancies each year.”)
  • They provide screenings for diseases that could impede reproductive health (“770,000 Pap tests and nearly 750,000 breast exams each year.”)
  • They provide blood work for infectious diseases that could impair reproductive health (“more than four million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.”)
  • They provide abortions for a plethora of reasons (“Three percent of all Planned Parenthood health services are abortion services.”)
  • And they provide education to “1.1 million young people and adults each year.”

Or, as their mission state succinctly begins: “Planned Parenthood believes in the fundamental right of each individual, throughout the world, to manage his or her fertility, regardless of the individual’s income, marital status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, or residence.”

In other words, they are fighting the good fight on behalf of women.  They are trying to ensure that when a woman is ready, she is able to have a child.

Women’s health is not a pu-pu platter where we can each pick at the one item we want to take.  Where you eat the spareribs and I’ll take the fried wontons.  I can’t sit down to a meal with women who are going to tell me that I can take the IVF-access and they’ll take the mammogram-access fight but we’re not going to actually support each other to complete our goals.

Women’s health is women’s health is women’s health.

If you care about having access to fertility treatments, to the ability of your medical team to make decisions taking into account your unique situation and tailor a treatment plan that works best for your body, you need to care about making sure that all women have access to sexual and reproductive health services — even the ones you might never choose to use yourself.  This is about the strength of standing collectively on an issue, about saying every inch of a woman’s body is important and deserves to be treated with respect, with the woman’s best interests at heart.

And Susan G. Komen isn’t doing that right now.

The problem is that all charities look like good charities meant to support the people they claim to support until they make a move like this, causing you to question how the funds you raise or give to other organizations are being used.  And maybe that is why I am always a bit squeamish about giving to organizations that dole out grants vs. organizations that directly provide services.  There are fantastic organizations out there that are working to channel money towards science and services in a completely ethical way.  But there are equally fantastic non-profits who are on the ground, doing the hard work, providing the services, and those are the ones I think I’m going to turn my attention to supporting for the time being.  Not just financially, but by volunteering for them, writing about them, and educating myself (and others) on the services they provide.

So, thank you, Susan G. Komen, for making me realize that there are more options than supporting a philanthropic organization.  I can give my money and time to an organization like Planned Parenthood who provides the services.  Sometimes we just need a reminder.  So thank you for giving me one.

By ProgressOhio (Flickr: June 2009: Protect Women’s Health!) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


1 ellen { 02.02.12 at 9:34 am }

Sing it, sister!

2 jodifur { 02.02.12 at 9:36 am }

Thank you for writing this. It is exactly how I feel. Off to share it everywhere.

3 a { 02.02.12 at 9:51 am }

I hope that enough people will follow your lead so that the Komen Foundation experiences a serious drop in contributions. Because they hired a vice-president for public policy with a political agenda, and then created a new rule that seems designed specifically to give them an excuse to defund Planned Parenthood, they should feel more than just the pain of bad press.

4 a { 02.02.12 at 9:52 am }

Also, I’m chuckling about your free betas…but I doubt they actually do blood pregnancy tests. I wouldn’t waste your time there.

5 Ellen K. { 02.02.12 at 10:02 am }

Hear, hear!

6 Lauren { 02.02.12 at 10:53 am }

Amen! I couldn’t agree more with you. I’m going to put a link on my blog to this well written post you have here because I couldn’t have said it any better. Thank you! I also want every single person to read this!

7 Eggs In A Row { 02.02.12 at 11:08 am }

1) In college, I thought I was pregnant. (Comedic, now, I know.) I went to Planned Parenthood and they helped me out, and when I was afraid to charge it because my mom would see the name, they worked out a cash payment plan for me.

2) My grandma was a huge champion for their cause. I know it would KILL her to hear what the government and Komen are doing.

3) If you are anti-choice, don’t make one. But don’t tell me, and millions of other women, what our choice should be.

4) Now I’m getting all worked up. LOL.

8 KnottedFingers { 02.02.12 at 11:25 am }

Thank you for writing this. It’s shocking how many people think Planned Parenthood is JUST ABORTIONS ALL THE TIME!!

9 serenity { 02.02.12 at 11:39 am }


10 KeAnne { 02.02.12 at 12:29 pm }

Yes! I stunned that the Komen Foundation did this. I’ll never walk for them again and it makes me wonder what kind of breast cancer research choices they make. I knew I felt hotly about their decision but it came home to me how hotly when I dreamed last night that I recommended Planned Parenthood to a friend seeking inexpensive birth control. And then I woke up and wondered how much longer that option will be there.

11 Swistle { 02.02.12 at 1:33 pm }

What a good thought: giving to the organization that provides the actual services, rather than to the organizations that fund projects and give grants. I’d never thought of that, and now I don’t think I’ll ever donate the same way again.

12 Mrs Green Grass { 02.02.12 at 1:39 pm }

Here’s a link to a petition denouncing Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision.


One article I read really resonated with me. It said that Susan Komen did not give sway to bullies and would not be happy that the foundation in her name did.

13 Katie { 02.02.12 at 1:41 pm }

This story hit me very hard, in the wake of everything I recently went through with my mammograms. Thank you for writing this and for encouraging people to give to the organizations that provide these services, rather than those who fund them. It’s an important message that needs to be sent across to those who donate to ANY charity – especially those that are health related.

14 loribeth { 02.02.12 at 1:54 pm }

I do not know whether the Komen foundation funds PP in Canada (will investigate that after posting this) — and fortunately, most of us here never have to worry about paying for routine Pap smears and breast exams — but I know that any erosion of women’s rights and women’s health care in the U.S. will inevitably be reflected here (particularly under our present government :p ). I have long been an admirer of Planned Parenthood’s mission & work, and I totally agree with you on this. It’s appalling.

15 HereWeGoAJen { 02.02.12 at 2:07 pm }

These kinds of things just make me so mad.

16 Cristy { 02.02.12 at 2:11 pm }

Amen, sister!

17 Danielle { 02.02.12 at 3:20 pm }

I used planned parenthood for about a year between those awkward ‘right out of college and no longer on my parent’s insurance plan’ and ‘full grown working adult with benefits.’ I got my annual exam there, and they wrote me a prescription for the pill. All these fools and political people who think “90 percent of what planned parenthood does is abortion,” are simply morons who refuse to see the truth. PP isn’t a political organization. It’s a health one. Why anyone would want to defund a place where women go to get all sorts of health services is beyond me. It’s sad that people are either ignorant to the true facts, or willfully ignore the truth.

18 Shana { 02.02.12 at 4:13 pm }


19 Alexicographer { 02.02.12 at 4:17 pm }

I hoped you’d write on this, Mel. Thanks for making the case so clearly.

I do, actually, think it can be a good thing and worthwhile to fund research (just as it can to fund services). But not to do what Komen has done, and for the reasons you so clearly state.

20 Jenn { 02.02.12 at 4:39 pm }

YES. Susan G. Komen will no longer be getting my money or support. Thank you for writing this.

21 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 02.02.12 at 5:26 pm }

Yep. Yep, yep, yep.

That’s why I’ve been posting link after link to Planned Parenthood’s fundraising site on my facebook page. I figure if all these tools can post their bra color or where they set their purse or how many months along, whatever, I can throw it right back in their face and ask, “Oh, yeah? Are you serious about breast cancer awareness? Then click over to PP’s website and throw them a fiver (or more…).” I’ve seen tons of people posting a picture that shows all the pink merchandise under a heading that declares that these things cannot diagnose breast cancer, and then points out that PP’s doctors DO diagnose breast cancer. And I really want to create an image that says that stupid bleepin’ memes don’t do anything to raise awareness for breast cancer, but giving to Planned Parenthood DOES. Hmm. Maybe I should get on that…

22 Kelly { 02.02.12 at 5:56 pm }

I dont know you and I’ve never read your blog before, but I stumbled upon it today and I just have to say THANK YOU! This has actually been an issue that has been eating away at me for some time. I actually tell my husband that the people protesting against PP in our hometown really bother me because they have no idea why the woman is walking into the clinic. They just assume it’s always for an abortion, when in fact PP is providing more services to prevent abortions than they are actually performing abortions. Let me go inside PP and get my birth control, pap test, etc. to prevent an unwanted pregnancy in the first place and then there would be no need for you to protest an abortion (I realize this is not a true statement that can be generalized, and I also have not joined the TTC family yet so it’s easy for me to say unwanted pregnancy- please do not take that the wrong way). Thank you for putting into words everything I was thinking and feeling today.

23 Esperanza { 02.02.12 at 6:16 pm }


24 Keiko { 02.02.12 at 6:42 pm }

I’ve found this whole mess so upsetting that it’s made me too sad to write about it, really. I still stand with Planned Parenthood, but as SGK’s decision comes in the form of another wave of attacks on women’s rights and access to healthcare, it’s just… it’s fucking exhausting.

So thank you for this brilliant post, Mel.

25 Kristin { 02.02.12 at 7:23 pm }

Preach on Sister Mel…preach on!

26 mark k { 02.02.12 at 7:23 pm }

I disagree, and I am glad to say, there are many who believe Komen did the right thing.

After cutting ties with Planned Parenthood, donations at Komen are up 100%.


27 Rebekah { 02.02.12 at 7:48 pm }


28 sonja { 02.02.12 at 8:51 pm }

I’m with Mark and intend to donate to Susan G Komen now

29 It Is What It Is { 02.02.12 at 9:32 pm }

I could not be happier to see this post and support it FULL TILT! I am an avid supporter of Planned Parenthood (full disclosure: my husband works there but my support of them pre-dates his employment there). As most probably know by now, in the hours post the announcement by the Komen Foundation, support for Planned Parenthood rose, up and up and up. Within HOURS they’d had donations pouring in, more than $650K which will replace in 2013 what Komen would have granted. Furthermore, PP has taken the high road in their media response and hasn’t made this an US vs. THEM scenario, but has kept the funding of women’s health screening at the fore.

Also, today, Mayor Bloomberg pledged to personally donate $250K matching funds pledged to the PP Breast Health Fund, dollar for dollar up to that amount. For more about how you can contribute to the PP Breast Fund go here: http://ppaction.org/breasthealth. OR considering donating to your local PP location (each affiliate is run independently from the governing body, Planned Parenthood of America).

Bravo, Mel, for being on this with the care and aplomb we have come to expect from you.

30 Heather { 02.02.12 at 9:42 pm }

A plot twist: Komen’s Denver affiliate sent an email today saying it opposes the national decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood. The Denver affiliate received an exemption so that it can continue to fund Planned Parenthood. Other local branches of Komen may be doing the same.

Interesting that even within Komen, there are groups that disagree with the decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood.

31 Natalie { 02.02.12 at 11:17 pm }

Yes, yes yes!!

32 Chickenpig { 02.03.12 at 8:48 am }

I still think that PP needs to change it’s name and promote it’s image. It is a women’s health care organization. I think it should change it’s name to ‘World Women’s Health Organization’. It could still do all of what it does, but have a PR campaign emphasizing all the healthy things it does for women around the world. On top of all that was listed above, they also provide pre natal check ups and mental health screenings for women suffering from depression and anxiety, and counseling. Maybe taking the ‘planned parenthood’ out of it’s name, ppl could start focusing on all of the other wonderful things they do.

I give my money to PP and directly to the cancer foundation. Screw all this pink ribbon crap…there are other cancers hurting Americans and better ways to help.

33 Emma { 02.03.12 at 11:10 am }

Awesome post! I wasn’t sure what was going on… The night before you posted this one of my friends had a picture of a donation request letter from SGK. She had written “You defund Planned Parenthood, I defund YOU” in bold black marker over the donation part of the letter. I was like, “That’s funny, but what the heck?!” Now it makes sense!

34 Iris { 02.03.12 at 11:34 am }

Thanks so much for your post Melissa. My mom died of breast cancer 25 years ago and I have supported Komen ever since. I informed them yesterday that is over and why. The politicizing of healthcare really got me angry after advocating for patient rights for many years. I really appreciated your breakdown of the services that planned parenthood offers and their impact on reproductive health. Thanks so much for your thoughts and writing talents.

35 mlo { 02.03.12 at 8:37 pm }

This, unfortunately, I find in keeping with what Komen has become over the years. It is no friend to cancer victims. It is no friend to women who suffer from related cancers – ovarian, cervical, vulva, etc. It is no friend to the poor.

For a very long time now, Komen has been in it to perpetuate its own brand.

There is only ONE cancer organization devoted to both research and treatment (though only of children), St. Jude Children’s Hospital of Memphis, TN. When I speak to folks who work in oncology, it is the only organization I hear them consistently praise. I wish there were others.

I think this is a good wake-up call to the public at large about what some of these organizations have actually become.

36 Emily { 02.04.12 at 11:31 pm }


37 Lut C. { 02.07.12 at 5:06 pm }

I’m sorry, but to me it is sheer madness that basic services of women’s health are left to charities in what is a developed country.

National health care?

38 Colleen { 02.08.12 at 9:42 am }

According to its most recent annual report, for 2010, Planned Parenthood sells abortions to nine out of every 10 pregnant women who come to its clinics. Medicaid covers pap smears and breast screens for women without funds. While you are usually brilliant in your writing, Mel, Abortion is not good for women’s health or well-being. Do you know any women whose emotional devastation after an easy and cheap or free abortion surfaces and resurfaces throughout their life? I do. PP makes it easy and cheap to make a life altering decision that cannot be undone for the baby or the mother or the father or any of the other people that would have been the better for the baby’s life that is terminated. Planned Parenthood is funded by grants and government funding and money from abortions. It is a lie that reproductive rights are reproductive rights. There is a big difference between ethical use of ART and destroying an unborn person. Your logic is usually better than this!

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