Not pretty in pink: Komen has a trust gap

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s largest breast cancer charity, has had tremendous success in getting the … Continued

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s largest breast cancer charity, has had tremendous success in getting the color pink to be a nationally recognized symbol to raise breast cancer awareness. But a huge trust gap has opened up for Komen after the charity decided to pull funding for Planned Parenthood for breast cancer prevention, screenings and education. With a spreading backlash, and a precipitous decline in donations to the charity , founder Nancy Brinker issued an apology and said the charity has reversed its decision about Planned Parenthood funding. Sort of.

The problem is, this is a self-excusing apology, and there is a glaring lack of specifics on the future of funding for Planned Parenthood. This is feeding a growing suspicion that Komen is not a trustworthy advocate for women’s health.

I can tell you for a fact Komen has not regained my trust with this non-apology apology; in fact, they have made it worse.

“What can I trust?” is a profound question; in my view, it is a deeply spiritual question. There is so much in life that proves untrustworthy, and years of trust can be broken in a moment. Trust is precious, and its loss cannot be regained easily. This is what has happened to the Susan G. Komen foundation.

The “apology” comes close to blaming the American public for having doubts about Komen’s motives in this decision, and moves quickly to the denial that the decision was for “political reasons.”

“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 have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not. Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation.”

Except the rule about not funding “organizations under investigation” is a new rule, and Komen has a new hire for senior vice president for public policy, Karen Handel, who self-describes as “staunchly and unequivocally pro-life”.

In addition, at no point in the “apology” is there a promise that Komen will renew grants to Planned Parenthood, which is actually the reason for the massive outrage. Komen didn’t say it would pull current funding.

Suspicion is growing that Komen has become politicized in its decisions, putting politics ahead of women’s health. According to ThinkProgress, “Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for George W. Bush and prominent right-wing pundit, was secretly involved in the Komen Foundation’s strategy regarding Planned Parenthood.” This previously undisclosed information does seem to raise even more questions about whether this decision about Planned Parenthood funding was political.

As further evidence of the Susan G. Komen political tilt, the organization also pulled funding from Johns Hopkins for embryonic stem cell research. Johns Hopkins, needless to say, is not “under investigation” for anything. So what’s the rationale for that funding cut?

Komen is squandering its brand as an advocate for women’s health. There is a breach of trust with donors, donors like me who have sponsored walkers to raise money for breast cancer screening, treatment and research over and over again.

What will they do to get back my trust?

Well, selling pink handguns isn’t going to do it. Susan B. Komen, let me just ask, now what’s up with the sale of “pink handguns” to raise money? Do you know that according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, “for women, living in a home with a gun raises the risk of homicide by a factor of 3.4”? It will not matter if the gun is pink or not, just that it has bullets that can kill women.

What good does it do for so many women to raise money to try to find a cure for breast cancer in order to reduce women’s death rate from this awful disease only to lose them to hand gun violence?

Susan B. Komen for the Cure, what has happened to you?

The Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is a professor of Theology at Chicago Theological Seminary. She wrote this article for On Faith.

How to dismantle Warren Buffett’s “nuclear bomb.”


Does the Internet have a soul?

About

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is Professor of Theology and immediate past President of Chicago Theological Seminary. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Her most recent books are "#OccupytheBible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power" and, as contributor and editor, "Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War."
  • egstafford

    The Komen foundation should stayed focused on breast cancer, and out of respect for truth in advertising, not divert donations to it to other projects, regardless of the desirability or worthiness of the project. Ms. Thistlethwaite mY be right that the Komen foundation’s decision to stop diverting donations to PP was politically motivated, but the objecti e, to use donations as the donors intended, is a good and right one regardless of whTever may have been the motivation.

  • DBunker

    Religion makes lousy politics. What is the difference between the Islamic Council telling you how to organize your family or having American Christians tell you how to do that? Either way is like living under the Taliban.

  • Rimfire

    “Do you know that according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence,”

    Uh, do you also know that the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has bankrupted itself in trying to spread unfounded data about firerarm related deaths I suggest you quit using data from an organization that has been found to be wanting in the area of credibility.

  • abstrart

    Great column, and you’re right about everything–except the pink gun story. You should know that gawker pulled the post on the pink gun story, and Komen says it never was true. Even so, the organization has proved its true colors–and I’m not talking about it being pink. Forget those walks. Breast cancer research is swimming in money. Abandon Komen. Instead, we should give money for cancer research in HPV caused cancers or women’s health in general. And we should give to Planned Parenthood.

  • MK61

    I relate to the feelings expressed in the article and have also contributed to the Komen Foundation many times over the years. My trust is low; I asked myself whether the so-called about face by the Komen Foundation was related to the fact THEIR decision was behind a great upswing in donations to Planned Parenthood, an apparent ideological enemy of one of their executives. I don’t even know if they can ever win my trust back.

  • persiflage

    How could anyone over-estimate the number of firearm-related deaths in the USA? Hand guns kill thousands year in and year out – the number of hand guns used to effectively prevent violence is exclusively the provenence of law enforement officials.

    Apparently the widespread and growing custom of ordinary folks carrying hand guns around has done absolutely nothing to prevent the number of homicides by gun that we read about on a daily basis.

  • Rimfire

    persiflage – If you both to investigate, you’d see that the states that allow concealed carry have less violent crime and homicides than those that don’t. Why does DC lead the WMA in homicides, despite it having stricter gun control laws than MD and VA? If you tolal the homicides in the VA counties in the WMA, the total barely totals half the homices in DC.

  • Butteoid

    Well at least if they follow standard operating procedure, Komen will sue the gun dealer for using their trademarks without permission (or paying a kickback).

  • ccnl1

    The failure of the Pill as noted by the Guttmacher Institute results in one million unplanned pregnancies every year because women basically fail to take it once a day as prescribed. Is there a literacy problem that Planned Parenthood failed to recognize? And the abortion rate in the USA? One milliong per year according to the CDC.

  • ccnl1

    1. WARNING!!! WARNING!!! WARNING!!!

    To all overse-xed h-o-mo-sapiens:

    : The failures of the widely used birth “control” methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    “Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    “Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here’s a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active “post-teeners”: Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.
    “Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about,” said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. “They view it as a way to have intimacy without having ‘s-ex.’”

    Obviously, Planned Parenthood, parents and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

    (note: hyphenation used for some words to defeat an obvious word filter)

  • Carstonio

    Since Komen’s donations weren’t used for abortions anyway, the whole exercise was pointless, reducing the abortion issue to a matter of image and allegiance. If Komen wanted to reduce abortions, it could have started a partner charity to raise money for contraception and sex education, and it could have done so without Planned Parenthood.

  • ccnl1

    WARNING!!! WARNING!!! WARNING!!! ———————–>

    To all overse-xed h-o-mo-sapiens:

    : The failures of the widely used birth “control” methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    “Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    “Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here’s a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active “post-teeners”: Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.
    “Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about,” said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. “They view it as a way to have intimacy without having ‘s-ex.’”

    Obviously, Planned Parenthood, parents and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

    (note: hyphenation used for some words to defeat an obvious word filter)

  • EscondidoSurfer

    They need to put little red specks on the ribbons to better reflect their revised mission statement. I will never contribute to planned parenthood directly or indirectly.

  • wehutson

    You put too much emphasis on “your trust”, as If it’s all that important in the big scheme of things.

    Issues like suppressing findings that show linkages between having abortions and using some forms of contraception on the later incidence of breast cancer (which any reasonable person might be justified in wondering about) should be what you’re all upset about. Not your exaggerated sense of the value of your trust.

    My goodness. Write less and think more.

Read More Articles

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

concert
Why I Want to Be Culturally Evangelical

I’ve lost my faith. Do I have to lose my heritage, too?

shutterstock_37148347
What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.