Saturday, February 4, 2012

Controversial Shoes: The Susan G. Komen Off and On Funding of Planned Parenthood

Sneaker by New Balance that helps to fund raise for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation

Shoes can be used to support a cause or charity, but you want to make sure that the money is going to a worthy organization.

Recently Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, which is the nation's premier breast-cancer advocacy group, came under fire when it decided to stop sending funds to Planned Parenthood because it was under Congressional investigation, a violation of rules Komen recently enacted. The decision was overturned yesterday, but the legacy of outrage and controversy remains.

Planned Parenthood provides a broad range of health services, including abortion, to women who often would not be able to pay for the services. The funding was to be used for cancer screenings, according to the NY Times and The Washington Post.

Many shoe companies and stores have partnered with Komen to raise money for breast cancer. Sneaker brand, New Balance, has partnered with Komen since 1989. They have guaranteed a minimum donation of $500,000 a year through this year. Other previous partners include Payless Shoes, which in September and October of 2011 rose over $4 million through special earrings. Hunter Boots , The Brown Shoe Company, and have also partnered with Komen to raise funds.

Komen’s decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood became public on Tuesday, January 31, quickly starting outrage and a backlash. Many people felt that this organization should not be tied to politics.

According to the NY Times, there was discussion in Komen over whether to end support of Planned Parenthood because they were afraid the connection to abortion would hurt Komen’s fundraising. Furthermore, last year Karen Handel was hired as senior vice president for public policy at Komen. Handel unsuccessfully ran for governor in Georgia in 2010 on a conservative platform that, among other things, included defunding Planned Parenthood.

After internal discussion, Komen decided to keep the decision to stop the funding quiet. However, even internally it was controversial. Mollie Williams, a Komen official who supervised grants, resigned over the decision, according to the NY Times.

When the news reached the public, it quickly gained media and Internet attention. According to the NY Times, there were 1.3 million tweets mentioning Planned Parenthood, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation and other related terms and hashtags.

Komen struggled to handle the controversy, while Planned Parenthood rose over $3 million in funding for cancer screenings, four times what it normally receives from Komen.
Komen struggled to defend its position before finally reversing its decision. Now, Planned Parenthood and other groups under Congressional investigation are eligible for funding but there is no guarantee of future funding. Before the reversal, some Komen affiliates began losing sponsors, according to The Washington Post.

However, even the reversal is controversial. Pro-choice advocates are upset that Komen bowed to pressure and changed its decision.

The lasting effects of the controversy remain to be seen.

What do you think? Would you buy shoes that support Komen?

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