A reversal of a decision by the Susan G. Komen foundation to cut funding to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings
may not fully erase the anger the policy had generated. Rutgers instructor Ann
Marie Hill, who serves on the board of the Central and South Jersey affiliate of the Susan G. Komen foundation, was
saddened by the decision and says the organization will have to work to regain
the public trust. Hill is the former executive director of the New Jersey Commission
on Cancer Research, teaches at the Edward J. Bloustein School of
Planning and Public Policy and has volunteered with the local Susan G. Komen
chapter for 15 years. The nation’s largest breast cancer charity came under
fire after it adopted a policy that barred it from contributing to
organizations that were under investigation. An inquiry launched by a
Congressman seeking to determine whether Planned Parenthood improperly spent
public money on abortions would have disqualified it from receiving funding. Following
a backlash, Komen amended the criteria to clarify that “disqualifying
investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political."
decisions and the dilemma it created for volunteers like herself, who believe
the organization has done great work at the local level to combat breast
Hill: I am glad
that they reversed their decision and hope that they learned some valuable
lessons about the inappropriateness of mixing politics with women’s health. As
a 15- year devoted volunteer, I am glad they changed their position and I feel
better about it, but I am a little worried that it happened in the first place.
Rutgers Today: Why
do you think there was such a backlash against the Susan G. Komen foundation?
Hill: There is a
difference between the reaction to Congress when it attacks Planned Parenthood,
as it often has, and when Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a women’s health
organization, takes these steps. It moved the whole debate that is going on in
the country from the ‘world of
politics’ that we know exists in
Washington D.C., to a very personal level. The fight against breast cancer is
motherhood and apple pie. Now, I am not naïve: all health issues have a
tremendous amount of political influences and gamesmanship. But, Komen national went over a clear line in
the sand that many people don’t want to step beyond: playing political games
with women’s health.
Rutgers Today: Do
you think anything positive came out of the controversy?
Hill: I think
there is now a strong force in this country that is mobilized to protect women’s
health rights. But, it’s a tough way
to have that happen. I don’t want to
make it sound like Komen should be excused for what they did, but I think there
are some good things that happened: additional fund raising for Planned
Parenthood and I think more people understand the political vulnerability
Planned Parenthood has, and that is helpful.
Rutgers Today: Do
you think that Susan G. Komen’s reversal will put an end to the controversy?
Hill: Trust is a
fragile thing. Komen has to build trust again and that is something they should
take very seriously. I have seen first-hand the really good work that Komen
does at the local level and I would hate to see that lost. I am happy they did the right thing in the
end. I am sorry they did what they did in the beginning, but the conclusion is
where it should be.
To read the statement by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Founder and CEO Nancy G.
Brinker explaining their policy revision click here.
Media Contact: Andrea Alexander
732-932-7084, ext. 615