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The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation’s decision Tuesday to defund Planned Parenthood has ignited a firestorm of debate. The Cure Foundation says new policy precludes it from funding organizations under investigation (Congress launched an investigation of Planned Parenthood last fall). Others see politics and ideology in both the investigation and in new Cure Foundation leadership, who have been pro-life advocates. What do you think?
- Gayle Sulik Author of "Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women's Health" (Oxford University Press); Research Associate in the Department of Women’s Studies at the University at Albany
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Later in the broadcast, why stereotypes of dimwit dads and bossy wives and are still so prevalent in television advertising. But first, on Tuesday, the Susan G. Komen Cure Foundation ignited something of a firestorm. It announced the decision to de-fund its longtime partner organization, Planned Parenthood.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAs most of us know, the Susan G. Komen Cure Foundation is the organization responsible for those ubiquitous pink ribbons and the Race for the Cure fundraisers for best cancer research. The Cure Foundation says its decision to end its support of Planned Parenthood was the result of policy decisions, not politics. But others see ideological motives, including the pro-life advocacy of the organization's new vice president for policy. We'd like to hear your opinion. Call at 800-433-8850, 800-433-8850. It's your turn. You can also send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org, a tweet @kojoshow or go to our website, kojoshow.org.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIWhat do you think of the decision of the Susan G. Komen Foundation to de-fund Planned Parenthood? 800-433-8850. Joining us to help discuss this is Gayle Sulik, the author of "Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women's Health." She's also a research associate in the Department of Women's Studies at the University of Albany. She joins us by phone from St. Petersburg, FL. Gayle Sulik, thank you for joining us.
MS. GAYLE SULIKHi, Kojo. Thanks for having me.
NNAMDIThe Susan G. Komen Cure Foundation says its undertook a review of its policies back in 2010 and this decision reflects its new focus on programs that provide the most impact and eliminate duplication. Is that matter a valid policy decision and one that the foundation should be entitled to make?
SULIKYes, it is. It is. And I think what that question really gets at is what is impact and how is it that Planned Parenthood, which would be providing breast screenings, breast health -- other kinds of care and health care would not be contributing to that impact. So it seems like a double standard actually. And none of the other grantees have been held to that same standard that we know of. They give grants to about 2,000 organizations. And Planned Parenthood is the only one that has been singled out.
NNAMDIThe Cure Foundation's top public health official Mollie Williams resigned in protest over that decision.
NNAMDIIs there, as far as you know, an internal fight going on within the organization?
SULIKIt sounds like there very well may be. And I think the fact that Williams stepped down as a result of this decision is very telling. And there are reports throughout the news today, it's really -- it is a firestorm, as you said -- have indicated that a number of people have anonymously stepped forward to say that there is dissent, clear dissent within the organization. And even some affiliates have stepped out. Denver came forward, I think another organization in Connecticut, and said, you know, we support the work of Planned Parenthood and we would like to be left out of this decision.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Gayle Sulik, author of "Pink Ribbons: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women's Health," about the decision of the Susan G. Komen Cure Foundation to de-fund Planned Parenthood. What do you think about that decision? Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet @kojoshow. Email to email@example.com or go to our website, kojoshow.org, offer your opinion there. The Cure Foundation, Gayle, says that it added one or more stringent eligibility criteria. One factor seems to be the investigation into Planned Parenthood's use of government funds. Can you talk about that investigation?
SULIKSure. Last year in September, Cliff Stearns of Florida had put forward an investigation of Planned Parenthood to request documents for the last decade, I think, about how Planned Parenthood had been spending federal funds and wanted assurances that policies and procedures were in place, that those funds were not being misappropriated. And as a result of that decision, what it's looking like now in other investigations is that that came forward as the perfect justification for Komen to make their decision.
NNAMDIRepublican Representative Cliff Stearns of Florida is known as an anti-abortion advocate. And he is now looking through the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee at how the organization uses taxpayer funds. Is that correct?
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. Let me read a little bit of the statement that the foundation, the Susan G. Komen Cure Foundation issued on its website. You can find a link at our website, kojoshow.org. It says, "We are dismayed and extremely disappointed that actions we have taken to strengthen our granting process have been widely mischaracterized. Starting in 2010, Komen began an initiative to help us do a better job of measuring the impact of community grants."
NNAMDI"Following this review, we made the decision to implement stronger performance criteria for our grantees to minimize duplication and free up dollars for direct services to help vulnerable women. Consequently, some organizations are no longer eligible to receive Komen grants." Some organizations you are saying, Gayle Sulik, as far as you know, so far there is only one.
SULIKYes. So far, there is only one. And I think, you know, in terms of looking at the evaluation and impact, that is crucially important and I would completely stand behind Komen or any other granter setting that kind of a standard. It doesn't look like the investigation criteria fits within that spirit, however.
NNAMDIThe organization has said repeatedly that the decision was not political. Why do some find that hard to believe?
SULIKI think they find it hard to believe in large part because as Karen Handel, the fact that she was appointed to be the head of public policy was very interesting because she was so clearly oriented towards de-funding Planned Parenthood, not only anti-abortion but specifically had an agenda to de-fund Planned Parenthood. So, bringing her on was an interesting move. But that also happens in a long context.
SULIKThe organization, 30 years old, has always had very, very strong conservative affiliation. You know, Nancy Brinker's appointment, presidential appointments were from the Reagan, Bush, Quail contingence. And so there's always been a move to connect to high political office. And I think based on that history that's been a question of where now Karen Handel sits in along that trajectory?
NNAMDIWell, some would say, doesn't the private organization, like the foundation, have the right to be ideological if it chooses to be?
SULIKI don't know. I don't know the answer to that. I think that an organization that puts forth a mission that is oriented to equal and quality access for all women kind of needs to step back a little bit and think about how their ideological agenda may be limiting or may be acting as a barrier toward that goal. And I think what has happened with Planned Parenthood is exactly that. It is affecting particularly poor women and using poor women as political pawns.
NNAMDIYou said that's what happened with Planned Parenthood. I think you meant that's what happened with the foundation, the Susan G. Komen Cure Foundation?
SULIKYes, in the fact that they had particularly targeted...
NNAMDIOh, Planned Parenthood.
SULIK...is targeting Planned Parenthood, yeah.
NNAMDIWell, the Cure Foundation has long been seen as an organization without a political bend, supported by people across the political spectrum. Do you think this decision will affect how people now view the organization?
SULIKI think it's already affecting how people view the organization. And, you know, the organization has come under criticism for a number of things, including its corporate partnership, its trademark and branding. And so, people have been thinking more and more and more, what is it that's really going on at this organization? And there have been questions about that. But now that this has happened in terms of the funding and the grantees, more and more people are now saying, you know, we need to look a little more closely at what the organization is doing.
SULIKHow it's doing it and whether or not we want to support it, because it may seem like the only game in town, but it's really not. There are 1,300 other breast cancer organizations in the country. And I think people will be a little more discerning about which ones they're going to support.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here's Bernice in Bethesda, MD. Bernice, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BERNICEHello. It's interesting I came right after she said that, because I have been -- I have to say right up front, I'm number on her choice. And I've been donating the Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood for many, many years. And I am not going to donate to the Komen organization unless they change their decision on this, because to me it's purely political because of the abortion issue. And I believe that women should have the right to an abortion. And people who can't afford it, go to Planned Parenthood. So, I'm stopping my donations to them until they change this. And if they don't, it's just like what she just said, I'll find other organizations that support breast cancer.
NNAMDIAnd we got an email from Jim in Silver Spring who says, "My family know that, like many others in these times, has less money available for charitable contributions. Komen, by this action, has made easy to eliminate one possible recipient from our list." Thank you for your call. Bernice. Here is Anne in Arlington, VA. Anne, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ANNYeah, hi. I'm sorry if you've already covered this. But I just would like the guest to address the senior policy adviser for Komen is a Georgia former gubernatorial candidate who's anti-abortion activist and apparently she may have resigned, I'm not sure, but I'd like to know what that says to board of director of Komen for allowing her to be in that position in the first place. I think more heads are (unintelligible) Komen or should over this, because clearly if this woman had anything to do with the decision then she would be the GOP right wing House against women's choice. Thank you.
NNAMDIWell, the person who resigned was Mollie Williams, the foundation's top public health official. As far as we know, the new vice president for policy as of January has not resigned. But here is Gayle Sulik.
SULIKYes. You're exactly right. Mollie Williams was the director of community health programs. And she was the one who had resigned following the decision. And the concern is over the appointment of Karen Handel, who has had a very well known platform to de-fund Planned Parenthood. I don't know that I would call her an activist or classify her as an activist per se. She held political office and worked within the political office to move that agenda.
NNAMDIOn to Carrie on Marcus Island. Carrie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CARRIEYes, hi. I was a store manager when United Way pulled their support away from Planned Parenthood, the initial attack on women reproductive rights. And I feel that this is just really sad that Susan G. Komen has joined in that, because by joining in that voice, I just really feel that it's an attack on poor women, first. I've been a long supporter of Planned Parenthood and used them when I was poor for my own women's issues.
CARRIEAnd it just saddens me because I was -- I walked in the Susan G. Komen walk and a huge supporter. And now I do have to pull my support, not only United Way, which applies huge pressure to you, as a store manager, running a retail store. But this is going to also further support that by supporting Susan G. Komen in this as well.
NNAMDICarrie, thank you very much for your call. Gayle Sulik, interestingly, Planned Parenthood has raised more money in the first 24 hours after the decision than they get in grants from the Cure Foundation. What does that tell you?
SULIKYes. That is very telling. And the fact that people has rallied so quickly in support of it, I think, is making a big statement in and of itself. The traffic on the Web, 75 percent of the conversations are, you know, are criticizing Komen for this move. And that's bringing actually more support over the Planned Parenthood, very visible, viable and financial support.
NNAMDIGayle Sulik is the author of "Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women's Health." She's also a research associate in the Department of Women's Studies at the University of Albany. Thank you very much for joining us.
SULIKThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, why stereotypes of dimwit dads and bossy wives are still so prevalent in advertising. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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