I found myself tweeting extensively in disgust over the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screening programs going forward. “Politicizing women’s health makes me sick,” I tweeted at one point. “Literally. Because I’m a woman, and it undermines my healthcare.”
A friend wrote back to me at some point during the fracas that he never would have advised the Komen Foundation from ending its alliance with Planned Parenthood — but he also never would have advised them to enter it in the first place. It’s just too controversial an organization.
I had to disagree. “If you are an organization dedicated to women’s health looking to find partners on the ground who can do hands-on fulfillment of that mission in the community, there’s probably few better than PP to partner with, and from a health-services-provision standpoint there’s absolutely no reason why you wouldn’t.
“The ONLY reason one would think twice about it is if one thinks it’s perfectly reasonable to politicize women’s health. And if Komen is such an organization, it doesn’t deserve to be funded. At least not by people who recognize the deleterious effect politicization of women’s health actually has on women’s health.”
The reason the Komen Foundation found itself in such a hornets nest, I continued, was because everyone thought Komen was the first type of organization and was now shocked to discover it was really the second.
The real problem is that we’re not seeing the issue for what it is. It’s not anti-abortion v. pro-abortion. We’re not talking about two sides of the same coin. We’re not even talking about the same coin. One side believes in supporting women’s health; the other side has a completely different agenda. The other side may claim it supports women’s health, but it is simply not possible to support women’s health by only supporting some of her health. Nor would it be possible to support only some of men’s health either, for that matter. No man can claim to be healthy if he has, for instance, a healthy digestive system but an unhealthy circulatory system. Health requires all the systems to be looked after. But some mistakenly seem to think that women can be healthy if they only get care for some of their parts and some of their conditions.
Which is not to say that everyone has to look after everything. It’s perfectly fine for programs like the Komen Foundation to only focus on certain aspects of women’s health. Specialization isn’t a problem. But that’s not what the move to end Planned Parentood funding was about. They didn’t decide to pledge that money to an organization more focused on breast health. They decided not to fund it because they didn’t like all the aspects of women’s health Planned Parenthood cares for. That animus politicized the delivery of healthcare and undermined not only the health of everyone Planned Parenthood cares for in any way, but also women who have or ever will have breast cancer. Because now, instead of The Susan G. Komen Foundation being regarded as a benefactor of women’s health, it is now regarded as an organization who thinks it appropriate to undermine it. And few who value women’s healthcare will want to fund that.