Komen Brand Tainted in Women’s Health Fight
The pink ribbon carries a lot of associations—women’s health, breast cancer, 10K runs. But in a prominent fight this week between breast cancer charity the Susan G. Komen Foundation and women’s health organization Planned Parenthood, the ribbon is suddenly associated with controversy—unfamiliar territory for the anti-cancer cause.
As anyone not living in a bunker for the past week knows, the behemoth breast cancer charity decided to pull hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to Planned Parenthood, citing a congressional investigation over whether Planned Parenthood uses federal funds for abortions. Planned Parenthood in turn accused the Komen Foundation of having “succumbed to political pressure.” Then today, in a surprising about-face, Komen decided to “continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood.” Yet from a marketing standpoint, the damage may be done to the ubiquitous Komen brand, which from here on out could carry heavy political baggage.
The Komen Foundation has not historically tended to deal in politics or even controversy. Many of the foundation’s detractors had generally stuck to criticizing the organization’s methods, such as what some call “pinkwashing” campaigns: emblazoning pink ribbons on yogurt, kitchen mixers, fried chicken, even baseball bats, ostensibly in an effort to raise money but also helping some companies to better move product. But those arguments seemed to be mainly about Komen’s fundraising process, not its ideology—“cancer is bad” being a generally inarguable concept.
[Opinion: Komen Foundation Plays Politics with Women’s Lives.]
Planned Parenthood, in contrast, has long had its elbows out, holding its own in the political realm for decades. Last year, Planned Parenthood weathered a heated congressional fight over a budget amendment that aimed to eliminate federal funding to the organization.
In other words, the lines had long been drawn between Planned Parenthood supporters and opponents. Now, Komen has drawn its own line, adding a new political layer to the formerly apolitical organization, potentially cutting down its vast base of support.