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Please get the facts about Planned Parenthood and Susan G. Komen for the Cure

First the Facts: During their last fiscal year, Planned Parenthood grossed $1 billion in annual revenues. The gross revenues of Susan G. Komen for the Cure were less than half that amount. Grants from SGK to PP were less than one tenth of 1% of PP funding. The perception that PP is somehow the pitiful stepchild of evil queen SGK is patently ridiculous.

SGK has a policy that prohibits funding of any organization under investigation for misuse of funds. PP is currently under such investigation. Is the investigation justified? Personally, I don't believe it is. I think it's anti-choice politicos abusing the system. But that doesn't change the SGK policy, which is in place so they can maintain the highest level of accountability to the people who support the organization with their money, love and hard-earned 60-miles-in-3-days sweat.

These are two very different organizations with very different missions, both doing important and largely thankless work on behalf of women around the globe. I’ve given money and time to support both SGK and PP, and I will continue to do so, but I’m disgusted by the way this has been twisted by (to whom I’ve also given money and time, but will not continue to support) and other organizations that specialize in mobilizing ignorance to support their political agenda.

For years, SGK and their founder, Nancy G. Brinker, have taken horsewhippings for their funding of Planned Parenthood. Where was the kneejerk Facebook outcry then? Did those who are now ranting through the blogosphere write a single letter in support of SGK? Give a single dollar? Speak one word in their defense?

While coauthoring Nancy G. Brinker’s memoir, Promise Me, I did hundreds of hours of research on this amazing organization, spoke with dozens of staff members and volunteers, got to know Nancy’s son Eric, an SGK board member, and her mother, Miss Ellie Goodman, who is a force of nature in her own right. During the research phase for this book, Nancy sat with me for several weeks, recording conversations about a great many things.

The first day at her apartment in Washington D.C., I needed to make a copy of something, and she asked me to wait and do it at my hotel later. The copier and paper in her home office belonged to SGK, and she didn’t want SGK paper used for her personal project--even though she was donating the lion’s share of the money from this book to SGK. That's the level on which she cares about the proper spending of SGK money.

When Nancy left for the Middle East, where she and SGK were fighting for health care for women who had no voice or means, I remained in her home with her permission to look at anything and everything in her personal photos, files and archives. I’ve never had that level of access with a memoir client, and I doubt many people in the world have lived with the level of integrity that would withstand a snoopy writer digging through everything from their baby book to their divorce papers.

Nancy Brinker has. She is the real deal.

I’m not saying she’s a saint, and if you read her book, you’ll see that she’s not even trying to pretend. But in the wake of her sister Suzy’s death, Nancy founded this organization on her own shattered heart with nothing but a shoebox and the driving desire to help women and families devastated by this disease, and every difficult decision she’s made has had a single litmus test: Will this help women with breast cancer?

I don't know the particulars of how SGK funding is allotted from year to year, but I give money to them with absolute confidence that that litmus test is the defining factor. They put money where it's needed, and it occurs to me that, while I support the important work of PP, the PP budget and operating costs dwarf the budget and operating costs of SGK, so it doesn't make a lot of sense for SGK to turn their back on smaller organizations in order to support this massively funded behemoth. I'd rather see that money go to organizations like The Rose, an amazing little engine that could--and does, with the help of SGK--here in Houston.

 Before you react to baseless kneejerk political rants, I urge you to read what Nancy has to say about SGK's relationship with PP in her book. Promise Me is Nancy’s memoir, but the story of her life is far more about other people than it is about herself. Woven between the chapters is the history of breast cancer dating back to its first appearance in ancient Egyptian medical papyri, because in order to understand what happened to her and Suzy, you have to understand what breast cancer is, what it does, and you have to meet some of the millions who’ve been rescued by and contributed to the work of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

 Political activism requires getting the facts straight, and a life of love and service takes more than clicking “Like” or retweeting an easy pop of hate and ignorance.

Update:(February 3, 2012) – The national headquarters of Susan G. Komen for the Cure® released a statement this morning in response to the recent controversy regarding Planned Parenthood, revising the guidelines that prevented it from funding the organization.

The statement read in part, “Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.”

I was relieved to see SGK change their position on funding for PP, but it doesn't change any of the above or the fact that women's health care was the loser here because of the way it was handled on all fronts. The one silver lining: All the people who were bashing Nancy last year, bellowing about her "terrorizing" women into needless screening are now bellowing about how important screening is, which is what Nancy's been trying to tell people for 30 years.


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