A high-ranking official resigned Tuesday from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity after a dispute over whether the group should give funding to Planned Parenthood, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
Karen Handel, the charity’s vice president for public policy, told Komen officials that she supported the move to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. She said the discussion started before she arrived at the organization and was approved at the highest levels of the charity.
"I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it," Handel said in her letter. "I openly acknowledge my role in the matter and continue to believe our decision was the best one for Komen’s future and the women we serve."
I still find Komen’s apology statement from last week dubious — it doesn’t say it will continue funding PP, but that it will honor existing commitments.
A young woman, struggling with “high-functioning” alcoholism and a panic disorder, unable to seek treatment for either disease because of her inferior health care package covers neither mental health nor women’s health care, finds herself pregnant by her boyfriend of six months. Her boyfriend makes the right pledge, to stand by whatever decision she makes, and to support the child, if need be, or to help pay for an abortion procedure. He is unemployed and living with his parents in rural Georgia. She gets an offer to go to graduate school with a fellowship designed to support a young single person with very modest needs. She can keep the kid, move the guy across the country, and attempt to begin graduate school with a child and a yearly income far below the poverty level, relying heavily on expensive state and federal programs, and running her parents into debt. She can keep the kid, stay in Georgia with no prospects beyond managing a small restaurant, and force the guy to remain immobile, too, again drawing on expensive programs and her not-wealthy parents. In either scenario, what would that child’s life be like? The pregnancy was caught early—six weeks—but substance abuse problems take years, even a lifetime, to get under control. Even if she was able to quit cold turkey for the sake of the child, there would be no guarantee that the child would turn out healthy, or even go to term. If, by some miracle, the child was healthy, her mental illness and the financial straits of both parents would hardly give the child a stable home life. She wasn’t even that young. At 23, she had already surpassed that milestone her mother had set for her since childhood: just wait until you graduate college. So, here she was, with a Magna cum Laude to boot. Should she woman up, grip her ovaries and pull herself into parenthood by her fallopian-tube-bootstraps?
I think the adversaries of PPH and women’s health initiatives would probably argue that she should. And maybe she should have. But she didn’t, and she is, of course, me. Call me weak, call me selfish, call me irresponsible. If you’ve ever been in the throes of an addiction, you can probably understand how hard it is to get out of it, especially when you’re being hit with the hormonal bludgeon of pregnancy. If my anxiety, panic, and depression was controlled before, with the pregnancy hormones flowing through my veins it became almost unbearable to leave my house. Thankfully, I had incredibly supportive friends, including a next-door neighbor who didn’t let me fall to pieces. My aunt, a 30+-year supporter of PPH and now a staff member, also supported me from across the country. My boyfriend at the time did what he could, from two hours away and between his odd jobs. I wasn’t ready to be a parent. I was still drinking heavily, too, mainly out of “OH F***” anxiety. People will say “No one is ever ready to be a parent!” but I don’t think they mean this level of unfitness.
You know, a part of me wonders something: I have always been pretty sexual, but I have been made to feel fraught about that sexuality thanks to growing up in small, conservative towns. I had a supportive, open-minded mother and aunt (the one mentioned above) who both taught me that my body and my urges were neither shameful nor something to remain ignorant of. Imagine the cognitive dissonance created by being surrounded by friends wearing pro-life shirts in the halls, praying in school, and regularly being “saved” at sleepovers (because we sometimes went to a Catholic church). Maybe if basic human feelings and needs hadn’t been so morally pathologized in my formative years, I could have escaped some of the issues that made me anxious as a teen, and eventually drove me to self-medicate through drinking. Anxiety issues run in my family, so it may have found another manifestation, but here’s one topic it should never have had to become caught up in.
I didn’t end up going to PPH, but instead went to a local version of that organization that was much closer (Feminist Women’s Health Center in ATL, for anyone in the region who can’t get to the PPH locations). So, maybe in this situation it wasn’t exactly PPH that saved my life, but it’s like saying I got my cat from the Humane Society when it was really an almost-identical animal rescue that only exists in my town. PPH helped me out on a number of other occasions, and in my new town I have been using their services. I just submitted a volunteer application!
My mom and my aunt were pioneers in middle America, the heart of Santorum-esque anti-woman attitudes, but in their quiet, behind-the-scenes way. Sites like this, and the HUGE reaction to the recent Komen Foundation action are proof that times are changing.
When I quietly turned to my older girlfriends for advice when I found myself pregnant, I was surprised to find out that several of them had had abortions, including one who had been a lesbian most of her adult life, and one who counts herself as a conservative. We have to stop letting political groups step on our voices. Pregnancy is dangerous, parenthood is a huge responsibility, not to be taken lightly, and sex is an instinct hundreds of millions of years old. Suggesting sexual abstinence as a solution is like saying anorexia is the solution obesity: accessible, responsible, low-cost management of normal human needs is the answer, and that’s what PPH offers.
This was very rambling, but I hope some people find some gems in there. I love PPH and like-minded associations. We, as women (and men, too, surely my ex-boyfriend is happy to not be a dad!) who have used their services, need to be more vocal about it. The more normal it becomes, the better. I long for a day when anti-PPH and anti-women’s health advocates are regarded with the same kind of cult status as religious sects that refuse all kinds of medical treatment: wackos (with religious freedom protection for the adults).
I was so happy to see the outpouring of support for PPH in light of the Komen thing. More people need to speak up. Health issues should be kept private, but it doesn’t hurt my professional career to say that I’ve personally benefited from several of the many of their 97% of non-abortion services.
Some people seem to have this idea that PP is some speakeasy where you walk in and the staff pushes a handful of birth control (BC) pills into your mouth while encouraging you to have an abortion. My experiences as a client and a counselor have led me to view it as the most capable, compassionate, and respectful visit to an MD available.
In the 70s I became a client at PP at 15, and worked at age 16-17, as a peer counselor (cuz the teens were scared to talk to old chicks) at a PP in Philadelphia. Everyone came in nervously, automatically asking for ‘the pill’ back then. But girls and women were encouraged during the counseling/intake interview to open up and talk about why they thought they needed it—so many of us were not sexually active enough for full-time birth control like that and had no idea there were other methods and devices; others were feeling pressured to have sex but didn’t know how to say no. PP offered support to get to what YOU really wanted and needed instead of blindly handing out pills.
After the intake, to get any BC or procedure you had to do a session on what all the BC methods (including ‘rhythm’) were, and the (at the time shocking) “how to do a breast exam” demo on Sally-the-lifelike-silicone-torso, and then have a breast as well as pelvic exam from the doctor. That was often the only time girls and women had seen a doctor since they got their immunizations in grade school. As a middle-class girl I had received care from the family doctor, but a visit there only happened if you had a fever and, then, if your throat was sore that must be the culprit, medicines were prescribed (and you could not ask questions about them without the doctor acting angry or insulted), and the ‘exam’ was over. At PP I was asked about my whole body and any symptoms or concerns, not just boobs and vagina, and encouraged to ask questions about any and everything.
PP taught me that I was a consumer of health care, not a passive patient, and I had rights. People were told every visit to read the notes counselors and doctors made in their chart to make sure it was accurate—that mistakes can happen even by the best; and you could come back and read your chart any time —it was about you so it was yours. What a gift! Good freakin’ luck trying to explain that to most health care practitioners. But I have insisted on that level of access to my medical records ever since. and, had I not, the errors and misinterpretations would have led to treatments (or the withholding of treatments), negatively impacting my health and life.
Thank you, Planned Parenthood, for teaching me by body is mine, to care for my whole body, and stand up for what I know to be true from inside of it.
I’m almost 22 now. Last summer, I started birth control to regulate my cycle and get my hormones under control. I honestly started the pill simply to find a way to manage the ridiculous amounts of pain I experienced during my periods. I was in for a surprise. My family has a history of anxiety issues that had spiraled out of control and turned into depression for a short period of time. I went to therapy for the depression, but the anxiety never truly went away…
…Until I started birth control. It turned out my anxiety and depression were strongly connected to my cycle. The difference between who I was and who I am today is like night and day. Friends who came back to my college after the summer break even commented that I was much happier and wanted to know what had happened.
I took control of my health, is what happened. It all started with the simple goal of eliminating my extreme monthly pains - and since my family had no idea where any gynecologists are in my area, I never would have been able to start taking birth control if it wasn’t for Planned Parenthood. They are the reason I am able to smile every day, and they are the reason this last year of my life has been free of physical pain and the pain caused by major anxiety. Thank you, thank you, thank you Planned Parenthood.
That’s me and my best friend, three years after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. We were holding a fundraiser in 2008 for breast cancer research/awareness and celebrating another year of being cancer free.
I am 27 years old and have been a breast cancer survivor for 7 years now. When I was originally diagnosed and treated, I was lucky to still be covered by my mother’s insurance plan. The related medical costs were easier for us to handle. Once I graduated college, I was no longer eligible for coverage under my mother’s insurance. So when I took my first job, I readily opted into my employer’s insurance plan. After submitting my application, I was told that the insurance company would not cover any tests/procedures/expenses related to my pre-existing condition…breast cancer. Not only did I require biannual mammograms, I frequently required breast ultrasounds whenever something seemed out of the ordinary with my breast exams. These procedures are extremely expensive out-of-pocket. Additionally, I am limited as to what hormonal birth control I can take as a result of the cancer. I am limited to two types…and they are expensive. And naturally, my insurance company would not cover either of the two options that I am allowed to take. I’ve been in a relationship with my significant other for about six years. While we have regularly discussed the possibility of children, we are simply not ready. Birth control is essential for our life plan.
Luckily, not only was I able to turn to Planned Parenthood for my mammogram needs, they became my ONLY source for affordable birth control. Early detection is the key against any type of cancer. The resources provided by Planned Parenthood have been invaluable to me personally. It has given me peace of mind to know with 100% certainty that I have remained cancer free. You cannot put a price on peace of mind. Thank you Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood allowed me to take control of my emotional and sexual health without shame. Like many women, the women at PP gave me my first annual exam, my first pack of birth control, my first pack of emergency contraceptive, my first cervical biopsy, and the first fully-informed, compassionate care-giver who I felt I could talk to without judgment. Armed with all of this, I was able to go to my loving but conservative parents and say “See, I’m making decisions for myself and I’m going about it in a responsible manner.” Now the young women in my family (my sister, cousins, niece) come to me for advice and with their questions. Not surprisingly, we go to Planned Parenthood together, so they can take control of their sexual health, too.
I’m 21 and I support planned parenthood with all of my heart. I have had two very close friends with breast cancer. Both were uninsured, both had breast cancer in there genes and both are now survivors. If it hadn’t been for the help that Planned Parenthood provided they wouldn’t have known where to find the affordable care and counseling that saved their lives. So thank you Planned Parenthood for being there for women who need help.
I am far too sensitive a person to ever gotten an abortion. Fortunately, because I had access to Planned Parenthood’s services so I never had to make that tough decision. When I became sexually active at 16 (because I fell in love) there was a PP across the street from my high school. I was able to use their services discreetly and was treated with respect. They gave me exams, explained all the risks involved with being sexually active and offered me all the options they had to prevent pregnancy and STD’s.
Because of PP, I was able to chart my own destiny, without the burden of motherhood before I was mature enough to be a good mother. At 22 I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree and met the man I married.
At 25 I was diagnosed with ovarian cysts and the treatment was simple: the birth control pill. Sadly, even though I had medical insurance this medically necessary treatment was not covered because it was considered “Birth Control.” I returned to PP to get the care I needed at a price I could afford. This treatment preserved my fertility for the day I wanted it.
At 30 I had my first child.
At 45 I have two healthy teenagers— both planned at a time when my husband and I were both ready to be good parents, financially and psychologically. Because of planned parenting we brought two very much wanted children into this world.
I am glad that Planned Parenthood will be there for my daughter when she needs them. She deserves the right to learn and explore her relationships and sexuality in her own time, and access to do that responsibly. She has the right to the freedom to pursue her education and life goals before she has children.
No one else has the right to tell her what to do with her body. I have taught her this since a young age.
When I was pregnant with my son, there was still a lot of paranoia around about AIDS. I wasn’t in a high-risk category, but I had dated several different guys in college, before meeting my husband, so I wanted to be tested.
I was afraid to go to my gynecologist for fear that would somehow alert my health insurance company. I didn’t know what they might do with that information. I simply didn’t want there to be a record of my asking for the test. But for the sake of my baby, I knew I should have it.
So, I went to the local Planned Parenthood. They were wonderfully sympathetic. I had the test. It was negative. And I now have a wonderful, healthy grownup boy.
Planned Parenthood is about health care for women and for babies.