Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Breast cancer survivors for Planned Parenthood

Last year in January while I was recovering from a lumpectomy and waiting to start radiation (because early detection saves lives and contributes to better outcomes), a group of friends wanted to make a donation in honor of a young friend (32 at the time) who had just lost both breasts to cancer (she has the BRCA gene). We got the comfort food and flowers to her, but wanted to really do our homework on which organization to donate to in her honor.
Several of us checked Charity Navigator and Charity Watch (Guide Star is also good) to learn what percentage of funds are used for admin costs, research, providing screenings and other preventive care, and education (we agreed on the National Breast Cancer Foundation).
At the same time, Steven Colbert gave a Tip of the Hat to Susan G. Komen and their use of at least $1M of donor dollars a year to sue mom and pop groups working to support cancer research and cancer patients. That’s a lot of money spent to essentially bully small efforts to help sick people be healthy.
Fast forward almost 13 months later, and Komen has caved to pressure from anti-choice advocates and Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida. Yesterday the GOP primary candidates were competing with coverage of Komen’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood.
Komen’s funding has been used to provide breast exams to women who rely on Planned Parenthood for healthcare services. These women are often poor, underinsured or uninsured, and do not have access to a family doctor or gynecologist for regular care.
Now Komen, an organization established to honor a breast cancer victim, has said it won’t help fund preventive care services like breast exams (and cervical cancer screenings, which is one of the most difficult cancers to identify because the cancer is usually advanced before the patient suspects a problem).
There is no evidence that Planned Parenthood misappropriated the funds for abortion or other services.  What is known is that Komen Vice-President Karen Handel, who served as the Secretary of State for Georgia before resigning to launch a failed bid for the GOP nomination for governor here, campaigned long and hard against state funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings which went to Planned Parenthood. Unfortunately what she couldn’t accomplish in Georgia she has now managed on a national level.
And, because it bears repeating by women who grew up while the battle was waged for safe and legal access to abortions, or came to adulthood not long after the dust began to settle, the issue isn’t whether abortion is good, moral, a form of birth control, etc. Really desperate women who want to end a pregnancy will find a way to do that regardless of whether it is safe or legal. We endanger lives without access to safe and legal abortion.
This defunding is a result of politics driven by such socially, politically, and religiously conservative officials that they will strip away access to preventive health care for poor women. If the lost funds aren’t made up to Planned Parenthood, how many women will not find the cancer soon enough? How many young children will suffer, and perhaps be left without a mother who makes pancakes from scratch on Sunday morning before going to church?
I donated to Planned Parenthood last night. I am remiss in not giving them even a small donation in the past.
Later today I am stuffing all my Komen Race for the Cure t-shirts and the return address labels they have sent me into an envelope and sending them back to:
Nancy Brinker
CEO, Susan G. Komen
5005 LBJ Freeeway
Suite 250
Dallas, TX 75244
I support access to preventive health care and good health information for all Americans. Especially for the mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, aunts, and godmothers, now more than ever.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Funeral party tonight!

When I fell into the "no new coal plant world", I was fortunate to meet Bobby and Jane McLendon, who led with fearless determination, the fight to stop Longleaf, a 1200MW proposed coal plant in Early County. They had plenty of good help in the trenches from a few brave souls, organizations like the Sierra Club and the Flint Riverkeeper, and attorneys at GreenLaw. It was clear to me and the other novice coal plant opponents in Washington County that we could learn a lot from the McLendons, who are humble, unassuming, and determined to do what is right and best.

Bobby once called after we captured an orange flag on Plant Washington and told me I was his hero. That was high praise coming from someone who led, and won, the longest active fight in our country against a proposed coal plant. They spent 11 years of their lives standing up in a small community, which, if you ask anyone fighting Plant Washington (or Plant Ben Hill), is no easy thing to do.

Tonight some of us are sending Longleaf off with a funeral party. It won't be a wake to honor the fine proposal Longleaf was, because it wasn't fine. Instead it will be a celebration of what two people began 11 years ago because it was the right thing to do. It is an honor to be invited to stand among real heroes.