“There is a thin line between raising money for a good cause and using a good cause to raise money.”
This is a blog post I wrote for Breast Cancer Action.
On February 1st, many of us lost our faith in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Komen had just pulled its funding for Planned Parenthood, one of the few places for women to receive low-cost breast cancer screenings. Women across the country spoke out in surprise and disbelief. One of my aunts wrote on her Facebook page, “If this is true I am shocked!”
Komen has raised billions of dollars for breast cancer research and rallied millions of women through their Race for The Cure. If I were to march, I would honor both of my grandmothers, an aunt, and my mom, all survivors of this brutal disease.
If I were to march…
Sometimes I wish I could walk out my fear about what doctors like to call my “high-risk profile.” I’d love to race away the pain of watching my mom grow thin, lose her hair and strength, struggle with a body-shocking drug regime to keep cancer away after she’d already lived through chemo and radiation.
When my mom was diagnosed six years ago, she didn’t have insurance. She had to leave the U.S. to afford treatment because no insurance company would cover her “pre-existing condition.”
I searched for answers and support for our family.
Komen’s website had some good tips for the recently diagnosed, but the emphasis on pink products made this disease I knew to be brutally difficult and real into something cutesy and sterile.
My suspicions aroused, I started wondering where the profits went and found that the closer I looked, the murkier the picture became. Some of Komen’s 195 corporate partners seemed dubious (more on that below) and Komen’s complete silence on the corrupt pharmaceutical industry and the broken healthcare system left me wondering whose side they were really on.
Then, I found Breast Cancer Action. BCAction is bold, smart, and does not accept any money from pharmaceutical companies. As they say in their corporate contributions policy:
“BCA cannot be bought, influenced, or discouraged from its mission to eradicate breast cancer.”
BCAction puts patients before profits. They talk about the pharmaceutical industry’s deliberate attempt to turn a buck on breast cancer patients. Theiradvocacy against Avastin for breast cancer is one of many examples of their advocacy to put patients first.
BAction also calls on other breast cancer organizations, including Komen, to keep hazardous chemicals out of the products they support.
There is a thin line between raising money for a good cause and using a good cause to raise money. Komen has increasingly endorsed “pink” products that contain known carcinogens, such as fried chicken and the toxic chemicals in their “Promise Me” perfume. They defend these decisions because of the dollars they bring in.
But at what cost?
In the past three weeks, Komen has shown its true colors. Their de-funding (and then re-funding) of Planned Parenthood was the tip of the iceberg. The exorbitant expenses paid out to the executive director, ties to partisan political agendas, and lack of transparency are red flags. However, as BCAction has shown, Komen has also repeatedly chosen to raise money from products that cause harm. This is unacceptable.
Now is the time to call on Komen to walk the talk.
It is up to us. We must continue to demand scientific facts, not political maneuvering. We must insist on compassion over cash flow. We must demand accountability and call on Komen to stop raising money with shady endorsement. They should sign the Pledge to Prevent Pinkwashing and make a clear statement of commitment to transparency.
Breast Cancer Action is the best vehicle I have found for demanding meaningful action on these issues.
We need more visibility and resources to stop the epidemic of breast cancer. But we don’t need more pinkwashing.
Kellea Miller joined the board of Breast Cancer Action in 2010