The New York Times, February 2, 2012
With its roster of corporate sponsors and the pink ribbons that lend a halo to almost any kind of product you can think of, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation has a longstanding reputation as a staunch protector of women’s health. That reputation suffered a grievous, perhaps mortal, wound this week from the news that Komen, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, decided to betray that mission. It threw itself into the middle of one of America’s nastiest political battles, on the side of hard-right forces working to demonize Planned Parenthood and undermine women’s health and freedom.
The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the foundation is cutting off its financing of breast cancer screening and education programs run by Planned Parenthood affiliates. That means nearly $700,000 less for Planned Parenthood, which performed 750,000 such screenings last year, many thousands of them with money from the Komen foundation.
Consolidated Statements of Functional Expenses
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.
Year Ended March 31, 2011
Public support and revenue – $471,750,158
Research – $75,301,537
Public health education – $181,092,283
Health Screening Services – $54,089,036
Treatment services – $23,251,563
Total program services – $333,734,419
By Don McCanne, MD
Nothing further needs to be said about how unwise it was for the Susan G. Komen Foundation to cut off funds for breast cancer services at Planned Parenthood facilities. Having made an error so grievous that some suggest could result in the demise of this public service organization dedicated to fighting breast cancer, we should ask if we can afford to lose their contributions to this effort.
We need to take a look at their program services.
The $75 million that they spend on research could easily be incorporated into the budget of the National Institutes of Health, the world’s largest medical research institute.
The $181 million spent on public education has reached all of us through their pink ribbon campaign. Although it certainly is important for the public to know about screening mammography, isn’t it likely that this will still be common knowledge, even without the pink ribbons?
The $54 million for screening and the $23 million for treatment actually are already being paid for by taxpayers. If you consider that the marginal tax rate for Komen donors likely averages about 30 percent, then tax subsidies for the $471 million in public support amount to about $141 million, far more than the $77 million being spent on screening and treatment. In fact, the balance of our tax subsidies would pay for most of the research that they fund.
A more fundamental question is why aren’t all women guaranteed appropriate screening and necessary treatment for breast cancer? They would be if we had a single payer national health program – an improved Medicare for all. If so, the loss of the Komen Foundation would not be all that tragic, though it is still painful to say that.