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Why Is Women's Health Fair Game for Political Football?

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Even though football season is officially over, women's health is still being kicked around like a political football.

A much discussed and debated item in the news last week was that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation would deny grants to hundreds of high-quality women's health programs. Komen had enacted a new policy that denied funding to any group under investigation by Congress, and Planned Parenthood is involved in a probe launched by a conservative Republican who, according to NPR, was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.

Last Friday Komen CEO Nancy Brinker apologized and announced the policy's reversal. I applaud Komen's decision to alter this policy. As the dust settles, we should take a moment to ask ourselves -- as feminists and as philanthropists -- what lessons we can learn from Komen's public relations disaster.

For me, the most important lesson learned is philosophical in nature. As a funder and peer to Komen, I think their policy used a hacksaw when it should have used a scalpel. And as a result, they put their funding decisions in the hands of special interests and pressure groups instead of donors and health-care specialists. In the past, Komen has turned away corporate donors that asked the foundation to put the culture war ahead of women's access to health care, and I am glad that they have once again reconfirmed their commitment to women's health.

At Chicago Foundation for Women, we are careful to review grant applications with an eye to financial health and management, as well as the quality of programs or services. As a funder of crucial human services and social justice causes, we know there's an overwhelming need for dollars. What we do is make smart connections between need, money and solutions. When political pressures touch us or our applicants, we place our faith in our core principles, including unfettered access to health care for all women.

I also know that women are served best when medical providers offer them information and care related to all their health needs -- including contraception. That is why, after two weeks of escalating attacks on contraception access for women, I was pleased to hear the recent news that all women will have soon have access to preventive care -- including birth control -- regardless of where they work.

It's time to come together to focus on the complex challenges to women's health -- such as racial disparities in breast cancer mortality as well as access to the full range of reproductive health care choices (including contraception and abortion) for low-income women.

It's time for all progressive women's organizations to find common ground so we can continue to offer women high quality, comprehensive health options -- especially in underserved communities. As advocates for women and girls, we can reach more communities -- and stop cancer faster -- when we team up.