The news this week that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, after years of pressure from political groups, will end its support of lifesaving breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood health centers comes as a blow to women across America. It is a tremendous disappointment to all of us of who believe that every woman deserves access to quality preventive health care.
Over the past five years, Komen funds have enabled Planned Parenthood health centers to provide nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams (out of the total four million breast exams Planned Parenthood health centers have provided in the last five years) and referrals for more than 6,400 mammograms. These cancer detection and prevention programs saved the lives of women who often had nowhere else to turn for care.
It's been 24 hours since news of the Komen Foundation's decision broke, and we have been flooded with inquiries from people who want to help. Some of them survived breast cancer, or have loved ones who have battled the disease. Many of them know Planned Parenthood well because our health centers provide their annual check-ups and routine care. All of them are appalled that politics and intimidation have come between women and the health care they need.
People want to know what they can do. Here are three things anyone can do today:
1. Speak out. A longtime activist started an open letter about standing up for women's health in the face of threats, intimidation and bullying. We liked it so much that we've taken it viral. Add your name today.
2. Help out. If you are in a position to make a contribution, consider donating to Planned Parenthood so that we can continue expanding the critical health care services women nationwide rely on every day. We won't let the loss of funding from the Komen Foundation stop one woman from getting screened for breast cancer.
3. Check yourself out. Make an appointment at a Planned Parenthood health center to get your annual breast exam, and get a pelvic exam while you're at it. Take a friend to get her exam, too. Plenty of our supporters are men. Encourage the women in your life to make an appointment for their annual exams today.
We hope the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation reconsiders this decision and recommits to its partnership with us and our shared mission. We know what's at stake for thousands of women - women like Abigail Sanocki in Denver, Colorado, who wrote to us with her story of how Komen funds helped her:
"In January of 2010 I found a lump in my left breast. At the time I was unemployed (like many others in the nation), and considering having to ignore it. However, at my annual exam, I did have one of Planned Parenthood's doctors look at it, and was encouraged to get an ultrasound, which then lead to me having to have the lump biopsied. The total estimated costs for the ultrasound and needle biopsy, which had to be done through an outside health institution would have been over $7,000. I was nearly penniless, without insurance, and terrified about the possibilities of where the results of this biopsy could have led.... Without Planned Parenthood, I would still be walking around years later unsure of what was going on inside my body and the immediate future of my health."
In our new publication - Close to the Heart - dozens of women like Abigail share their stories about how Planned Parenthood has provided them with much-needed breast health care and education.
These women and thousands like them are the real victims of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation's decision - and of right-wing bullying and harassment that led to the decision. And these women are why Planned Parenthood's breast health program will continue even stronger than before, all across the country.
Follow Cecile Richards on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cecilerichards