Q: Ms. Brinker, can you explain why you’re ending your longstanding relationship with Planned Parenthood?
Brinker: I don’t think that’s an entirely accurate depiction of what has happened. The Komen Foundation has provided funding to Planned Parenthood for the purpose of providing breast screenings. Planned Parenthood performs palpations of the breast, manually feeling for lumps. While these palpations discover lumps and result in mammogram referrals, they do not detect tumors in their most nascent stages. While we’re confident that Planned Parenthood will continue to perform manual exams as a part of their overall physical examination of women, the Komen Foundation is moving in the direction of funding actual mammograms.
Q: But what of the assertion by Planned Parenthood’s supporters that this move on your part will hurt women who will not be seen by Planned Parenthood?
Brinker: We’re talking about $600,000 of Komen money used to help offset some of Planned Parenthood’s costs. Our money represents six-tenths of one-onethousanth of Planned Parenthood’s one billion dollar per year operations. You’re not suggesting that Planned Parenthood is so mercenary that they wouldn’t pick up those exams on a pro-bono basis, are you? Besides, since our announcement, Planned Parenthood has raised more than the $600,000 that we have redirected to mammograms. If an organization can raise close to one million dollars in less than a week, then they no longer need our assistance. That represents a win for women.
Q: Yes, but aren’t you capitulating to anti-choice staff members for whom this is a proxy war over abortion?
Brinker: Don’t be absurd. I began this foundation in order to fulfill a deathbed promise to my sister, Susan, who was taken from us by breast cancer. As the head of a foundation that has raised nearly two billion dollars, I have a moral and ethical obligation to see to it that every dollar goes to advancing the highest caliber science, detection, and therapeutics for breast cancer.
Brinker: Please let me finish. Mammography requires the very best equipment and the very best radiologists to accurately interpret the images. This is simply beyond Planned Parenthood’s expertise and mission. We made a prudential decision to fund mammograms for women. Given Planned Parenthood’s demonstrated capacity this week to raise more money in three days than we give them in one year, I fully expect that as we expand our funding of mammography, Planned Parenthood will expand their manual breast screening and referral program. I just don’t see where women lose in this scenario.
Q: Are you concerned that corporations are threatening to cease funding Komen over this decision?
Brinker: Of course I am. I’m also mystified. We’re trying to fund an increase in the number of women who have the earliest detection of their breast cancer with the best possible outcome and for this we face withdrawal of support? I think you need to ask those corporate sponsors why they prefer we fund pre-mammography science as opposed to state of the art radiography.
Q: Perhaps these corporations see a value in Planned Parenthood’s services that you don’t?
Well, I see that you have a wedding band on your left hand, sir. So let me ask you this… If you had a choice of only one option, would you prefer that your wife receive annual manual exams at Planned Parenthood until a lump large enough to be palpated is detected, or would you rather she receive mammograms at state of the art centers, interpreted by experienced radiologists who could detect tumors too small to be palpated; tumors in their earliest stages where the disease is contained and the prognosis most positive? Our mission at Komen is to fund the very latest in science and technology, and this is way beyond Planned Parenthood’s current capacity, or even anything they could do in the near future.
Q: Getting back to the assertion by the anti-choice activists who have led the charge on efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, there are some who note Komen’s timing and the fact that you have anti-choice staff members. How do you respond?
Brinker: Our decision was not political, but prudential. We’re funding mammograms. However, let me say this. Whether or not a person is pro-choice or anti-choice, there have been a disturbing series of undercover videos of Planned Parenthood staffers acting with less than professional decorum. There are also investigations underway where Planned Parenthood has been advised that their answers may lead to self-incrimination. Now, perhaps these investigations are indeed politically motivated. That doesn’t mean that there may not be merit to the allegations being made. Time, and the process, will tell. We have decided not to fund organizations under investigation. In the case of Planned Parenthood, as I have said, their demonstrated capacity to raise in three days more money than we funded in an entire year really makes this a moot issue. Last Question…
Q: Going forward, assuming that Planned Parenthood is cleared of all allegations, will you resume funding them?
Brinker: This is beginning to resemble the movie, “Groundhog Day.” No, we will not. Given the economy, and given the fact that only about 10% of NIH research grant applications are being funded, there is no shortage of researchers who are desperate for research money. We live in the greatest country in the world, with the best medicine and best researchers. We are Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and that’s where our focus will remain moving forward. We excel at sponsoring the best current technology, and developing the next generation of technology. That’s where we need to be. With their newfound money, we’re delighted that Planned Parenthood will have the means to continue their breast screening program, even expanding it, and look forward to their referring women to the local mammography centers whom we’ll be funding. This is a win-win for women, folks. Let’s keep them as the focus, the women. Together, we’ll one day end this scourge. Thank You.