Lost More Than Money

The LA Times brings up an aspect of the Susan G. Komen Foundation decision that has an impact beyond money…

The Komen decision will probably prompt more attacks on Planned Parenthood, which has long provided low-cost medical care to women in need.

SGK is demonstrating their conclusion that Planned Parenthood is unreliable and unworthy of support from a well-respected organization. This would be a severe blow to the reputation and fundraising efforts of PP if the decision were not so widely seen as political.

Nancy Brinker may say that the criticism she’s facing is ‘hurtful’, but she offers no recognition of the fact that Planned Parenthood has provided women’s health care in the face of extreme and vicious language and physical violence.

Pink Politics and Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood, an organization that has faced decades of opposition ranging from incendiary language to incendiary bombs and bullets, has been disowned by one of its former allies in women’s health, the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Founder Nancy Brinker seems to think that it’s out of bounds to question the role of politics in this decision…

Planned Parenthood had received about $700,000 annually from Komen to provide poor women with breast cancer screening, education and access to affordable mammograms…

“The scurrilous accusations being hurled at this organization are profoundly hurtful to so many of us,” said Brinker, who founded the group following her sister’s death in 1980 of breast cancer. “More importantly, they are a dangerous distraction from the work that still remains to be done in ridding the world of breast cancer.”

But philanthropy experts said it will be difficult for Komen to convince people it wasn’t playing politics.

Wow. Try going to work with a police escort and a safety plan for bomb threats if you want hurtful. Try hearing in the press that your organization is dumped because of a trumped-up investigation if you want scurrilous. Komen’s bad publicity is self-inflicted. Planned Parenthood didn’t ask to be publicly disowned as untrustworthy by an organization that till now has been second only to ‘Jerry’s Kids’ in tugging America’s heartstrings.

A Mother Jones article lists the exceptions Susan G. Komen Foundation makes to its new rule against funding organizations under investigation. Apparently the Foundation is using selective enforcement.
Jen, a commenter on the article, posted this link to a blogger, dinoiafamily, who describes her own recent battle with breast cancer and the humiliation of being pink-washed…

I spent a good portion of the last year mortified about the type of cancer I had. I received a pink basket in the hospital (for my original surgery) filled with pink, plastic items that included a poem and a “tiddy” bear. I was supposed to be cheered up by the poem, as it was about another woman and how she received a fabulous new set of breasts. I was also supposed to be thrilled by the junk in the basket. Instead I was mortified. A gift basket of organic fruit would be one thing (and, yes, we did receive those and loved them), but this was just beyond painful. Rubbing the pink-washing in my face once again. The basket just reminded me that because I had this recent blip, I was supposed to become a member of another club. Well, no, thank you.

Please understand that not everything pink disturbs me and I know that many pink ribbons are truly meant as a sign of support. However, Komen is not supportive. Coloring buckets of fried chicken pink is not supportive. Putting pink ribbons on products that we don’t need or want is not supportive. In fact, for many of us, it’s a reminder of times we’d rather forget. If anything, Komen was extremely unsupportive when I was diagnosed.

Did they come to my house and cook me meals when I was sick? No, but my friends ensured we were had groceries and dinners for months. Did they visit me in the hospital or take care of my kids? No, but my friends and family made sure that happened. Well, what did they do?

They stepped up their efforts to get money from me. It was almost as if my name was on a new high priority list. As though because I had been diagnosed, I suddenly had the ability and desire to give to an organization that, in my opinion, has done little towards their supposed goal. It took three letters from me and three phone calls from Peter to have my name removed from their mailing list.

Dinoiafamily examines the marketing, message and high administrative costs that make Susan G. Komen a questionable cause to donate to. Read the rest of her excellent post here.

I’m not especially fond of pink anyway, and in years of nursing I’ve seen way too many slick campaigns for pharmaceutical companies and charities. If you had just arrived from Mars you would think that Cancer or AIDS or Diabetes makes people attractive and full of confidence, as they spend their days strolling beaches and frolicking with grandchildren. Guys, being sick sucks. Put that on a bumper sticker.

Planned Parenthood is accessible health care for young and uninsured women. They were my only health care when I was young, as for many of us. The young woman with a breast lump is a statistical outsider, but she is also the one whose life is saved by early detection. She is the woman who can find help at Planned Parenthood. When I needed birth control, Planned Parenthood was there, and they gave me screening, education and prevention information as well.

A few years ago I was invited to go on a Walk for the Cure. I will never forget the huge number of people who turned out. Some in teams. Some wearing shirts with a picture of a mother or a sister or a friend. I never had realized just how many people are affected by breast cancer. Now at an age where family and friends are survivors, I understand what it is to dread a disease.

Pink ribbons and a positive attitude won’t stop cancer. Detection, prevention and research will. I’m sorry that Susan G. Komen chose to put politics over women’s lives. Twenty percent of American women have visited a Planned Parenthood clinic at least once. That’s a constituency. Donations have been pouring in. It may be that the Komen Foundation has mis-judged the real situation of the women they exist to serve.

UPDATE: A third high-ranking member of the Komen Foundation is ready to resign over the decision to de-fund Planned Parenthood…

Dr. Kathy Plesser, a Manhattan radiologist on the medical advisory board of Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s New York chapter, said she plans to resign from her position unless Komen reverses its decision to pull grant money from Planned Parenthood.

“I’m a physician and my interest is women’s health, and I am disturbed by Komen’s decision because I am a very strong advocate for serving under-served women,” Plesser told The Huffington Post. “Eliminating this funding will mean there’s no place for these women to go. Where are these women to go to have a mammography? Do they not deserve to have mammography?”

With her decision, Plesser joins Komen’s top public health official, Mollie Williams, and the executive director of Komen’s Los Angeles County chapter, Deb Anthony, both of whom also resigned in protest.

MORE: Dave Von Ebbers links to this law journal article about how much donor money the Komen Foundation spends suing other breast cancer charities for using words like ‘for a cure’.

Over the past fifteen years, the Foundation has reviewed eighty-three different groups who have attempted to use the phrase “for the cure” or “for a cure” and pursued legal action against half. Anne Thompson, “Trademark protection by Susan G. Komen organization.” NBC Nightly News Transcripts, Jan. 24, 2011. For example, the Foundation contacted the organization entitled “Kites for a Cure,” which is a kite-flier group dedicated to raising money to cure lung-cancer. The group refused to bow-out quickly, upset over what it believed to be a misdirection of both organizations’ efforts against one another rather than on their common goal.

A PAINFUL BETRAYAL is the title of an editorial in the New York Times. There is definitely a good girl/bad girl dynamic here, and a class aspect as well. Rich girls don’t have to spend much time in clinics. There are times when our common humanity outweighs our differences, life-threatening illness is one of them. It is truly painful to see an organization that exists for women’s health undermine one of the major providers.

Tough Week for Women

Good thing my gyn gave me a reminder call for my yearly tuneup. I’d have hated to miss that, it takes months to reschedule and the doctor is very busy. I told her I was tired all the time, and she gave me a slip for some blood tests. Gyn is a form of primary care, for some women the only primary care they get.

This made me more sensitive to the situation of women in Indiana, who depend on Planned Parenthood for their health care. Planned Parenthood will no longer be reimbursed for Medicaid patients…

Medicaid patients are now paying for their own health services at Indiana’s Planned Parenthood clinics or looking for alternatives after the group ran out of private donations that had been paying those patients’ bills.

A state law that took effect in May denied Planned Parenthood Medicaid funds for general health services it provides to low-income women, including breast exams, birth control and Pap smears.

Over 90% of Planned Parenthood’s services are primary, preventive and educative.

Like all the young women I knew, I went there when I needed a prescription for birth control. I also got blood pressure checks, health advice and pap smears. I never got better care from private doctors than I got at Planned Parenthood.

I asked the secretary at my gyn whether they accept Medicaid patients. She looked at me sympathetically, and said that if I switched to Medicaid they could probably still see me. I said I was looking for gynecologists who accept Medicaid and she said they don’t take that insurance for new patients. She mentioned the Women’s Cancer Screening Program as a resource.

I used to refer women to them, and they do the best they can with a number of different providers. They save lives, they could do much more with more resources. Still, it’s not like having a clinic you can go to when you need a doctor.

Gyn, like dental, is one of those essential services that gets cut and cut again. I think about women in Indiana who will wait longer to see a doctor for cancer screening, for primary care, for birth control. They will search for a private doctor who accepts Medicaid, and maybe not find one.

This is not a good time for women who don’t have money or influence. Shutting down clinics is good politics, a few anonymous women giving up on cancer screening because no doctor will accept their insurance won’t get much attention because, frankly, we’re used to it.

The Federal Government has appealed
, the judge will decide on July 1. This action by the Feds is an example of why it matters who we elect as president and why the two parties are not the same.

WOMEN’S CANCER SCREENING- Several years ago I referred a woman to the Women’s Cancer Screening Program. She was uninsured and had never been able to get follow-up care for an ominous lump she had discovered in her breast. She did get help through the program, though it took a while. She had her breast removed on Valentines Day, that always seems especially sad to me. I ran into her a couple of years later, she was well, happy to be alive. She was working in a low-wage job caring for the elderly. It’s not uncommon for those who give care to be uninsured. The Women’s Cancer Screening Program doesn’t have a central location where women can walk in for care, but has a list of providers who will give free care to qualified women. It’s a tough process, and the heart of the program are the dedicated outreach workers who go where the need is and talk to women one-on-one.

Seduce and Abandon

Failed Evangelism

Last week a Concerned Christian left this note on my car. They didn’t leave their name or phone number– just a tract with suggestions about how I can avoid burning in Hell for eternity. Somehow, you never get used to being called, ‘baby killer’. I guess my ‘Obama’ bumper sticker set the anonymous writer off.

Charles Blow, editorial writer for the New York Times takes on the politicians whose concern for children begins at conception and ends at birth…

Of the 33 countries that the International Monetary Fund describes as “advanced economies,” the United States now has the highest infant mortality rate according to data from the World Bank. It took us decades to arrive at this dubious distinction. In 1960, we were 15th. In 1980, we were 13th. And, in 2000, we were 2nd.

Part of the reason for our poor ranking is that declines in our rates stalled after premature births — a leading cause of infant mortality as well as long-term developmental disabilities — began to rise in the 1990s.

Charles Blow goes on to count the cost of disabilities that might be prevented by universal prenatal care and maternal and child health. This is the mission of the March of Dimes, a venerable organization that has advocated for these measures of common sense and common decency for generations.

Caring for the unborn requires caring for the women who will be mothers. It’s perverse and inexplicable that the same politicians who claim to revere unborn life are happy to cut services to pregnant women in order to finance tax cuts for the wealthy. They are even quicker to cut services to mothers, infants and children.

The whole thing reminds me of the guy who brags he has no children, ‘that he knows of’. It’s seduce and abandon.

I know a woman who lives her anti-abortion beliefs by giving substantial and generous help to women and children in need. There are few people ready and willing to do that.

We could, as a society, mandate that all women will have access to reproductive health. We could make maternal-child health a right, and recognize it as a common-sense investment in the future. Instead we are fighting state by state to preserve benefits that are barely adequate.

The common sense and moral appeal of care for mothers and babies is so strong it must be counter-acted by shouts of ‘baby killer’. Loving life is a nice stand to take, especially when you can sneak out the back door when the bills come in. The bills are coming in now, it takes action not words.

Pro woman, pro child, pro choice–it’s not easy, it’s being responsible.

Planned Parenthood Saves Lives

About twenty-five years ago, a young woman scheduled a job interview at a photo studio. She was a skilled retoucher who could make decent money fixing portraits with a graphite pencil and a sable brush. The studio was where the downtown Pawtucket pedestrian mall used to be, and right on the bus line.

When she arrived for the interview, she found herself in a room with two men who gave off an unwholesome vibe, and as they discussed business she formed a quick escape plan in her mind, but fortunately did not need to book it out the door. When she got up to leave, the conversation went like this–

“We’ll give you a ride home.”
“No, that’s fine, I don’t need a ride.”
We’ll take you home.”
“No thanks.”

By this time she did not want to be in a car with these guys, or let them see her house. The men were insistent beyond politeness, but she kept saying no, and finally got out of there, vowing to avoid the place and regretting that they had her resume with her address.

To paraphrase Mark Patinkin, I was that girl.

I never heard from them again, and would have forgotten the episode if the studio owner had not been arrested some time later for sexual assault.

The story in the paper as I recall it was that the photographer had enticed an underage girl to pose for him, promising to shoot a model portfolio and make her rich and famous. He persuaded her to take off her clothes, then told her that he would show the pictures to her mother unless she let him have sex with her. The crime was discovered when the girl went to Planned Parenthood, fearing she was pregnant. She told her story to a counselor, who reported it to the police.

This happened in 1984. The Providence Journal did not put its archives online until 1986, and the only way to find a citation for this story was to go to the Providence Public Library, search through index cards and look at microfilm.

I couldn’t remember which year this happened, but I had help from some people who used to work for the Pawtucket Times. The story was a minor local scandal, and the photographer was ‘a character’ who used to hang out at Tom’s Diner. Not a scary guy at all unless you were a fifteen-year-old girl he was extorting. I found only one reference in the card catalogue, and one article–

Providence Journal May 25, 1984 p.C9

‘Pawtucket businessman charged for coercing teenager into sex’

PAWTUCKET– A Pawtucket man was arraigned in District Court yesterday on a charge of first-degree sexual assault on a girl, 15, and Judge Anthony J. Dennis set bail at $100,000 with surety pending a grand jury hearing.

———–is charged with coercing a minor to have sexual relations by threatening to distribute nude photographs of her.

Capt. John Tomlinson, prosecution officer, said the girl said she answered a newspaper ad for girls interested in a modeling career.

The rest of the article says that Capt. Tomlinson wanted the bail set at $200,000. It sounds like the police thought he was a real bad guy.

I can’t find the article that cites Planned Parenthood, I’m still looking.

The photographer paid $10,000 surety, and the records posted online at ri.gov show many hearings and court dates ending in a plea of no contest to a lesser charge of 3rd degree sexual assault. I’m not a lawyer, sounds like a plea bargain to me.

This assault was a felony crime then, and now we are even less tolerant of child pornographers and child molesters. The use of coercion means the crime fits the definition of human trafficking, even though the girl was not taken out of state.

I’m not naming the offender, I’m told he has died and he’s not the point of the story. The point is that Planned Parenthood is accessible health care and advocacy for women who have few other options. The staff at Planned Parenthood are bound to confidentiality. They have been targeted on trumped up charges of aiding human trafficking when in fact they are an agency where women can find help and advocacy.

Contraception is under political attack, and if women’s health is collateral damage, it’s the poor and the young who will suffer the most. Many of us can remember a time when Planned Parenthood was the only medical provider we could afford. Planned Parenthood saves lives.

Feministe lists some of the services the House of Representatives voted to de-fund…

One in five American women has used Planned Parenthood’s services. The vast majority of care — more than 90% — offered at Planned Parenthood health centers is preventative. Every year, Planned Parenthood carries out nearly one million screenings for cervical cancer — screenings which save lives. Every year, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses give more than 830,000 breast exams — exams which save lives. Every year, nearly 2.5 million patients receive contraception from Planned Parenthood — a service which prevents enormous numbers of unintended pregnancies and, by extension, an enormous number of abortions. Every year, Planned Parenthood administers nearly 4 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV — tests and treatments which save lives, extend lives, preserve fertility, and maintain reproductive health.

Reproductive health is not a luxury, it’s an essential part of women’s health. Politicians want to score points by playing with women’s lives. We won’t let them.