The Komen Foundation’s decision to end grants for Planned Parenthood to conduct breast exams has touched off a national firestorm about the potential negative role that politics played in decisions that could harm public health. Komen says it cannot fund an organization under probe for illegal activities. Yet, Planned Parenthood is under probe only because of a political attack by a legislator opposed to abortion, and Komen has a Vice-President since 2011 also strongly opposed to abortion. Coincidence? Maybe so maybe not- but it does not pass the appearance of using power to adversely affect public health in the name of politics. Women discussing their breast concerns and receiving professional breast exams is a foundation of good breast care. Planned Parenthood serves many at risk women that might otherwise not receive excellent breast care services. Komen’s decision does not support the improved health of women that it and we all promote, a decision that many are now justifiably criticizing across the country. Ironically, it has sparked an outpouring of donations to Planned Parenthood.
And now an addendum: Komen has reversed its decision and is restoring funding- this is a case study of politics and public health that will last long after the debate about this particular issue fades.