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Komen’s Planned Parenthood Decision a Victory, But a Small One: Challenging the Status Quo of Breast Cancer

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Karuna Jaggar

Executive Director Karuna Jaggar

By Karuna Jaggar, Breast Cancer Action Executive Director

This week hundreds of thousands of women’s health advocates joined together and took action. We insisted that women’s health come before politics or corporate interests. And a change happened because we demanded it.

For more than 20 years, Breast Cancer Action has been a watchdog in the breast cancer movement because when women’s lives are at stake, women’s health cannot be held hostage to political agendas. All women deserve access to information and resources to support breast health. There is no question that Komen’s decision to revisit their grants policy and reconsider their decision to defund Planned Parenthood’s is a victory—but in terms of the big picture, it is a small one.

We cannot allow ourselves to think our work is done just because Komen reversed course on their funding for Planned Parenthood. The status quo has not and will not end the breast cancer epidemic. As important as it is that underserved women can get their health needs met in their local clinic, the sad truth is that mammography remains an imperfect tool that cannot prevent breast cancer, misses far too many cancers, and results in over diagnosis and over treatment. Yes, all women must have access to the same resources and tools—however imperfect they may be. And still we know mammography alone is not the solution to this epidemic.

We have an opportunity as women’s health advocates to use the incredible power of our unified actions to really turn the tide on this epidemic. Enough awareness–we need action. This week, together, we demonstrated that “Action Speaks Louder Than Pink.”

Our actions over the last few days prove that we can make change happen. It’s time we join together again to ask Komen’s leadership to do more than just reconsider a funding policy.  It is time we urge Komen’s leadership to break through their status quo thinking and reevaluate all their policies and priorities in line with our commitment to put women’s health before political and corporate interests. Because we know that mammography and pink ribbon products cannot end the breast cancer epidemic.

We must bring the focus back to women living with and at risk of developing breast cancer. The last two days have been a stark reminder for all of us about what’s at stake: the breast cancer incidence in this country has risen from 1 in 20 in the 1960’s to 1 in 8 today. This year alone, 40,000 women—sisters, aunties, lovers, thinkers, do-ers, leaders—will die of breast cancer. We need to reevaluate the status quo of how breast cancer is addressed in this country because maintaining the status quo is not going to reverse those numbers. We need to ask and address the hardest questions:

  • Why, in the richest country on earth, do we have to fight tooth and nail to get women the basic healthcare they need?
  • Why are there such huge race and class inequities in breast cancer incidence and outcomes?
  • Why are breast cancer treatments still horribly toxic, impossibly expensive, and ultimately fail too many women?

The sad truth is that Komen’s willingness to restore funding to Planned Parenthood will not prevent women from developing the disease nor will it end the epidemic. Komen continues to deny the links between DES and breast cancer and BPA and breast cancer. Komen overemphasizes the value of mammography—mammography will never stop cancer before it starts. And by allowing companies to put pink ribbons on their carcinogenic products, Komen supports pinkwashers. Meanwhile, metastatic disease, which is what kills women, receives only 2% of research dollars in this country.

This is a powerful and important moment to look closely at how we, as a country, address the breast cancer epidemic. We must insist that as long as women continue to die from this disease, women’s health must always comes first.

Today we have an opportunity to say: the status quo of breast cancer doesn’t put women’s health first. What will change the course of the epidemic is the fierce, unapologetic, clear-eyed activism we saw this week from women’s health advocates around the country, demanding that we must put women’s health first. Now is the time to demand more from your breast cancer organizations. Change will happen because you take action. And your actions will always speak louder than pink.

Articles BCA News

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