Breast cancer is a political issue. And women with breast cancer and all who care about the issue have become politically active. Why? Because we do not know how to prevent breast cancer, how to detect it truly early, or how to cure it. And the federal government has a huge role to play in getting those answers. Many people would be surprised that we know so little, given the proliferation of pink ribbons and "awareness." Yet, all women are at risk of getting breast cancer and their risk increases with age. Many believe there are environmental causes of the disease. But little funding is put toward that issue.
So we political activists turned to Congress and told them what they needed to do. And what is Senator Tom Coburn's (R-OK) message to us, to you, to America's women, to the 3 million women in the U.S. living with breast cancer, and the families of the 40,000 women who died this year from breast cancer?
Tough luck. As his staff put it, "We are already spending enough money on breast cancer."
Senator Coburn has singlehandedly decided that breast cancer and women's health just isn't a priority. His hold on The Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act (S. 757) means that Congress will leave town for October recess without passing this crucial legislation. The American people overwhelmingly support breast cancer research. With 66 Senate co-sponsors and 99 Senators agreeing to pass the bipartisan bill by unanimous consent, Senator Tom Coburn is the only reason this bill has not passed the Senate.
If the environment has anything to do with breast cancer, we need to know and we need to act. The Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act (BCERA) could help discover the causes of breast cancer and how to stop it before a woman gets it. We need the federal government to play an active role in this fight. We need Congress, and you, to do more than wear pink ribbons.
Senator Coburn's hold is a slap in the face to anyone who cares about women's health. It is a slap in the face to women's health advocates, breast cancer survivors, and any family who has ever lost a loved one to breast cancer. In fact, this is a slap in the face to women across the nation. As a 19-year breast cancer survivor, and the head of a coalition of hundreds of breast cancer organizations, I am incensed.
I did not resign my law firm partnership and dedicate myself to this war on breast cancer so Senator Coburn could play politics with my life.
We played by the rules. We did everything right. The National Breast Cancer Coalition and our members put enormous effort into determining the right approach to address this issue. Then we worked six long years to gain support for this bill, and we won that support from 66 senator sponsors. And 99 were willing to say yes. One lone senator has decided the course of breast cancer research for the entire nation. Senator Coburn won't release his hold and Senate leadership won't bring the bill to the floor for a vote. They will spend three days debating the FENCE, allow floor time on gay marriage and flag burning, but nothing meaningful for women's health.
Join us as we call on Majority Leader Bill Frist at 202-224-3135 and Majority Whip Mitch McConnell at 202-224-2708. Tell them they must not stand by and let Senator Coburn put millions of women's lives at risk. Tell them to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. And while you're on the phone, why don't you let Senator Coburn know what you think as well: 202-224-5754.
If you haven't already visited our new Becoming Fearless section, click here for more blog posts, news stories, and special features on relationships, work, parenting, health, sex . . . life.