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Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Planned Parenthood

by Brian Dunning

February 3, 2012

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Donate There's been quite a lot of noise in the news lately. Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the United States' largest and most active philanthropic foundation for breast cancer, halted its $600K+ annual funding of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest and most active provider of women's reproductive health services. Under intense public criticism, Komen reversed its decision and reinstated its funding.

I'm a fan of both organizations. My wife and I did a large charitable photography project for Komen for the Cure a few years ago, and we used Planned Parenthood services early in our relationship. Having said that, I guess I'm a pretty lonely voice: I was not bothered by Komen's decision to pull their funding.

Why? Because I'm also a big fan of focus among charitable organizations. If I want to support biotechnology in Africa, I don't donate to Operation Smile. And if I want to support women's reproductive health, I don't donate to Komen. I send my dollars where I most want them to go.

I recognize that it would be convenient to have a one-stop-shop charity: Donate once and have your dollars go to all the things you want to support. But there is no such charity. There is probably no charity on Earth that supports only the things you care most about and nothing that wouldn't make your priority list. Thus, I focus my charitable giving.

My (evidently minority) opinion is that if people want to support Planned Parenthood with their dollars, then that's where they should be sending them. Enough people seemed to have gotten that message: In a single day after Komen pulled its funding, Planned Parenthood received almost as much money as Komen's entire annual gift, from givers who were upset with Komen's decision.

Many of those givers and critics had a very legitimate beef with Komen. It seems that their board was pressured by the pro-life, anti-choice lobby; and when they needed to make some cuts, that's where they made them. Certainly I agree that it's very unfortunate that a highly regarded charity like Komen for the Cure would make any kind of heath-related giving decisions based on political and/or religious pressure, and that's a part of their house that they need to clean up if they wish to recover their reputation. But it's also a separate question from whether they do (or should) focus their funds on breast cancer or on a wider spectrum. Frankly, I had been unaware that they had been supporting Planned Parenthood until this news broke; and was surprised to learn it. Are they about breast cancer, or other stuff? How many other causes are they supporting with money I thought was going to help women with breast cancer? [Addendum - Komen's funding to PP was primarily for breast cancer screenings and education, but has never been PP's only source for this. - BD]

I'll continue being a supporter of both organizations. I don't hold any charity up to unreasonable standards of perfection, and I think they're both pretty darn amazing groups. We're lucky to have them.

by Brian Dunning

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