A Plea for Planned Parenthood

My father and I at my brother's Bar Mitzvah. My grandmother is there in spirit.

Scents of Self is first and foremost a perfume blog. I have always felt that this is not the right space for political debate, and so I have never once used it to air political opinions. But today I must speak.

Breast cancer has great significance for my family. My father, president of Weinberg Medical Physics LLC, is a pioneer in the field of breast cancer detection. He invented PEM, positron emission mammography. With a 92% rate of cancer detection, PEM scans detect breast cancer more accurately than standard mammographies (which have a 78% rate of cancer detection). My father’s mother, Helen Weinberg, died of breast cancer at age 70 in 2003. She was the godliest woman I have ever known. It was my grandmother who taught me that we must be kind and decent to others, particularly those who are less fortunate than us. It is with her lessons in my heart that I write this today.

Susan G. Komen is the world’s largest non profit breast cancer charity. Yesterday, Susan G. Komen announced that it would no longer be funding breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood Clinics. Planned Parenthood is a reproductive health care organization. They have 800 clinics in the United States. Because the fees of Planned Parenthood services are determined on a sliding scale (meaning that women with lower income pay lower prices), Planned Parenthood is essentially the only affordable source of reproductive health for many women.

Yes, we all know that Planned Parenthood provides abortions. However, over 90% of the services performed by Planned Parenthood are actually preventative. These include birth control, STD tests and treatment, and, of course, cancer screenings. Planned Parenthood clinics have performed over 4 million breast cancer screenings over the past 5 years. 170,000 of those were made possible by funding from Susan G. Komen.

I don’t care what you think about abortion, and neither does breast cancer. It affects the pro-choice and the pro-life alike. When the day comes that you need a breast cancer screening, I hope to God that you can afford a private clinic. Because thanks to Susan G. Komen, Planned Parenthood just became a little less likely to be able to provide you with one.

I would also like to share with you some interesting information about Susan G. Komen’s spending. These numbers come straight from Susan G. Komen’s 2010 financial statements.  In 2010, Susan G. Komen raised $389,309,686. $76,769,686 of that was spent on fundraising and administrative costs. Of the remaining $283,179, 167, $75,407,069 was spent on research, $140,773,507 on “public health education”, $46,860,822 on health screening services, and $20,137,769 on treatment services. In other words, Susan G. Komen allocated more money to “public health education” than the amounts they spent on research, health screening services, and treatment services added together.

Look, y’all, we know what breast cancer is. It was identified in 1600 B.C. The public is already educated. We don’t need any more pink ribbons, “save the boobies” t-shirts, special beauty products, or cutesy Facebook statuses. Raising awareness of breast cancer is no longer the top priority; research, early detection, and treatment are. And if you donate to Susan G. Komen, that is not where your money will be going.

I have never stepped foot in a Planned Parenthood. God willing, I will never need to get an abortion. I was privileged to attend a private high school with adequate sexual education. But considering my family history of breast cancer, it is very likely that I will eventually need breast cancer screenings. No matter what she is there for, a woman who receives treatment at Planned Parenthood clinics is no less of a person than I am. She is no less deserving of breast cancer screening than I am. I will be donating to Planned Parenthood today in honor of my brave grandmother. She believed in always doing the right thing, even when it is difficult or unpopular.

33 thoughts on “A Plea for Planned Parenthood

  1. Ari,
    a hug to you. I have donated for Planned Parenthood earlier this week, but thanks for getting this post, it felt good to read it. Very articulate and smart!

  2. I am a huge supporter of Planned Parenthood. In fact, my apartment windows face it’s building in NY! When I was in my early 20’s, PP was my go to clinic for all screenings, PAP smears, etc. It was affordable when I needed affordability. Thank you for this heartfelt piece on the importance of screenings and treatment.
    I am curious what your father’s opinion is on Thermography…if you happen to ask him for me, I’d appreciate it. 🙂

    1. Sujaan, this is exactly why I feel it is so wrong to cut Planned Parenthood’s funding- they are exactly who the women who most need inexpensive breast cancer screenings will be going to.
      I will certainly ask my father about thermography! I had never heard about it before. Such pretty colors! 🙂

  3. When I first moved to DC I went to Planned Parenthood for birth control. I was new to the area, didn’t have a local OBGYN yet & had just moved in with my fiance’. Their office was a few blocks from where I work. I only went twice, once to get the initial prescription and a second time to get the prescription transferred to the Rite Aid I wanted it filled at. Both times they were extremely helpful and I noticed that the people waiting in the office came from all walks of life, different backgrounds, and were all there with different needs. I also recall the second time I went there was a young man openly praying over a rosary in the direction of the front entrance and his judgmental stare as I walked past him because clearly I was a slutty little skank bag who couldn’t keep her legs shut and wanted to kill all of the unborn babies. In fact, I probably just was planning on ripping the fetus out with my own teeth.

    I’ll admit that for a moment I felt guilty and I have no idea why. I was essentially being slut-shamed by some zealot for simply walking in to PP. By the time I got back to my office I was seething with rage. I was going there to get my prescription faxed and I felt like I had somehow done something dirty and wrong because of one person’s judgment. The idea of this happening to someone who was faced with the difficult decision of having an abortion, the person going in for a cancer screening, left me livid.

    Women’s rights and the right to women’s health is something that I’m very passionate about and it’s extremely disheartening to see the constant battle being fought against it. I also loathe slacktivism. Posting the colour of your bra, buying kitschy pink products where a tiny percentage of the profits go to Susan G. Komen to raise ‘awareness’ isn’t really helping.

    My oldest friend was raised by her grandmother and I spent a great deal of my life around this woman. What was diagnosed as breast cancer eventually spread to her brain and killed her. I witnessed her turn from a lovely vibrant person into a bedridden shell because of this disease.

    I’m sorry for the loss of your grandmother and fully support you posting about this, Ari. Also, your dad is awesome.

    1. I am so sorry to hear about your awful experience. I will never understand the motivation of the people who choose to spend their time harassing and attacking the women at Planned Parenthood. I hope that I can make you feel a little better by offering you this relevant comic: http://www.somethingpositive.net/sp09232002.shtml

      I have become increasingly aggravated with the “proceeds goes to charity!” beauty products in the past few years. The amount of money that actually goes to charity is often as little as 5%. To me, it seems almost worse than buying a regular product.

      I am very sorry for you and your friend’s loss. Women with breast cancer need TREATMENT. They do not need you to post a Facebook status about your bra color.

  4. Ari,

    This had my husband in a funk and has had me in a funk for the better part of today. I posted an article on my fb with a pie-chart of where what percentage of PP’s services performed actually are abortions. I was met with a response (from a man) telling me I had to look at it from a Pro-Life perspective and citing allegations of infanticide. Here was my response:

    “If the infanticide allegations were the issue, then why didn’t Komen pull their funding in 2008 when they FIRST surfaced. ‘[T]he cutoff results from the charity’s newly adopted criteria barring grants to organizations that are under investigation by local, state or federal authorities.’ I just wonder which came first the chicken or the egg in that situation? I actually don’t have to look at thing from a pro-life perspective, given that I’m pro-choice. There are shades of grey to life, and I like to think that I am looking at the big picture. I don’t like the fact that hospitals must treat someone on who just shot someone in the street, yet I will still GO to a hospital needed, and still expect for hospitals to be funded.”

    I get very upset when someone that can never bear children or would ever be considering having an abortion performed on them telling me how I should view reproductive rights.

    You know my husband lost his Mom to breast cancer not that long ago, and he switched his company match donation from Komen to the V Foundation this morning.

    I just don’t understand the entire short-sightedness of the entire situation. Shouldn’t we care just as much about the underprivileged and those without as many resources as the unborn!?! If you really claim to care THAT MUCH about the souls of the unborn, why don’t you care that much about the souls of the living? (I grew up in the Bible belt and have ALL SORTS of issues with organized religion due to issues such as this!)

    When I moved from TX to NC, I used the Planned Parenthood in Chapel Hill for my birth control; like someone commented earlier – I saw people from all stations in life there. Luckily there were no praying-protesters out-front. I was in a VERY rebellious and tumultuous time in my life and I would have given the person a piece of my mind. (I actually think this may have been the clinic referenced in the Ben Folds song “Brick”, but idk).

    My commute to work now takes me Past a Planned Parenthood clinic near Boston University, I wonder if anything interesting will be going on out front today. I shall report back.

    Ari – please send my thanks to your Dad for all of his work to help with detection of this horrible disease.

    Annnnnd I’m done w/ my rant!

    – Kathleen

    1. Giiiirl, you told him! Last year, pro-life protesters came to Hopkins. They stood right outside of campus with awful pictures of bloody babies (which were illegally acquired and most likely actually the results of miscarriages, not abortions). They harassed the students and made many girls very uncomfortable. So I bought $50 worth of condoms and handed them out with a few other girls. I am proud of what we did that day. There are no “casual” abortions. It is a very difficult decision, and the least we can do is respect it.

      Thank you for your rant and your kind words about my father, I will be sure to pass them on!

  5. Susan G. Komen is a crap nonprofit, I’ve thought so for a while.

    I would prefer to spend my money on actual treatment services, not “awareness.”

    One thing that made me mad during my time in retail was the number of fragrance/beauty brands that are profiting off of “awareness.” I remember they were selling Versace Bright Crystal in a breast cancer awareness package and some ridiculously small percentage of the money was going to breast cancer, but people bought that stuff anyway. #RAGE

    This is a pretty good article on the problems: http://bit.ly/wIkSnI

    1. Ugh, the pink-washing. Nothing aggravates me more than seeing a body wash or something with “FIGHT BREAST CANCER!” all over it, and then finding out that only FIVE PERCENT goes to charity. To me, that’s even worse than nothing at all. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

  6. Your story makes me all the more grateful for our National Health…everyone has access to the same care, including the many economic migrants who come here from elsewhere in the EU.

    1. Allow me to speak for my fellow Americans when I say that we are SUPER jealous of the NHS. It hardly matters whether abortion stays legal in this country if insurances don’t cover it, states pass laws restricting access to it, and everyone else keeps stigmatizing it.

  7. I proudly support Planned Parenthood! The more educated the population is on reproductive health, the better. It boggles my mind that our country has the highest teen pregnancy rate (by A LOT) of all developed nations.

    I feel particularly torn when it comes to breast cancer foundations, like Susan G. Komen. Breast cancer awareness is somewhat redundant, as almost everyone knows a victim of the disease. On the other hand, this is why breast cancer is the most well-funded of all cancers, through private foundations. Who wouldn’t want to raise money to save our grandmothers, mothers, sisters and friends from a horrible disease? I have several friends who will go out of their way to buy pink-things, just because it supports breast cancer foundations.

    As many of you have pointed out, only a small percentage of the money raised by foundations goes to research. The vast majority of cancer research is funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH). If anyone wants more money allocated to research, write your congressman/woman or senator saying that you want our tax dollars supporting cancer research. (This money also supports the Ph.D. students who do the bulk of the work and who read this blog while their experiments are running).

    As a representative of my field, let me say that ALL cancer deserves funding, research and awareness. The best thing that we can do for cancer patients is to develop early detection methods for other cancer types. PEM has really made a difference in patient prognosis, as any tumor detected early has a better chance of being treated. There are no successful early detection methods for some of the most deadly cancers, including pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, and the subject of my own work, lung cancer. Until early detection methods can improve for other types, the progress we make in treating these diseases is quite slow. My own work focuses on early molecular events in tumorigenesis, but until we can develop good drugs for every protein, this work just increases our understanding of the disease, not how we treat it.

    I’m very sorry for the loss of your grandmother, she’ll always be a part of you. I’m close to both of mine, and I know how lucky I am that my maternal grandmother is a breast cancer survivor.

    1. Jenn, thank you for your excellent point that greater awareness is needed of many other types of cancers. I really think that Susan G. Komen needs to consider reallocating a greater portion of their funds away from awareness and into research and treatment. You are doing wonderful and important work- now get back to your experiments, Ph.D students!!!!

  8. Thanks for this article. I reposted it on FB because it’s so articulate and well-done. Sorry for the loss of your grandmother.

  9. This is a wonderful post for the simplicity of your argument and all your ducks (facts) in a row. I too have posted it on FB and seeing it reposted. I teach fashion marketing so running across your blog about perfumes is a find. My favorite is Chanel No. 19 and love your take on things. I will share your blog with my students!

    1. Rita, I can’t think of a higher compliment. It is a pleasure to welcome you as a new reader. Chanel No. 19 is a great classic and is beloved among perfumistas!

  10. Thanks Ari to share this.

    Sadly, abortion is not only based on a woman’s caprice, unreasoning decisions or sex uneducation, my dear…

    And I applaud Planned Parenthood’s stance, because I find it consequent… for instance, and connecting the Two issues, what happens when a pregnant woman are diagnosed with breast cancer? Because the risk of breast cancer increases as women get older, doctors expect there will be more cases of breast cancer during pregnancy in the future (women who have had no children or who had their first pregnancy after age 30 have a slightly higher breast cancer risk later in life).

    Well.. so if a pregnant woman needs chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or radiation to treat breast cancer, she may be asked to think about ending the pregnancy. This is because these treatments may harm the fetus.
    So that’s why I find Planned Parenthood’s stance consequent.

    1. And well, I know you clearly stated you don’t care what we think about abortion, butsorry I can’t stand silenced,
      I’m a Real ‘Pro-Life’, sure…! everytime a ‘Life’ may be considered ‘being and staying Alive, preserving health and providing dignity to a human PERSON’, whether this will apply to the future baby or the mother (I’m pro-euthanasia too).

      I’m laughing on some wrong called ‘Pro-Life’ people…who are so pro-life and so pro-child… Why most of them don’t adopt one, instead of judging what is not any of their business?
      In my opinion, if someone doesn’t believe in abortions, then they shouldn’t get one. But that’s a crude reality, and it happens, it’s not a joke. And frankly, I don’t want their beliefs interrupting my life/the life of my beloved people/the life of any human person on such a major scale — motherhood is not something to take lightly!

      Sorry but I’m extremely radical on this, I don’t enjoy offending anyone -their way of thinking, their culture, their religion…-, but I do sometimes push things to the limit, and this is something that particularly tugs at my heartstrings because I’ve experienced very very close. In addition I have not very good day…. excuse my most radical words, please, and give your father all the support he deserves as a person who fights for a Life cause!!!

      1. Gemma, thank you for sharing your very important and well-considered views on the subject. I agree completely that motherhood is not something to take lightly, and I honestly do not understand the people who think that a girl or woman who is not ready to be a mother should be forced to become one anyway. Do they really think that the resulting child is going to have a good life? It is in everyone’s best interest if women who do not want to be mothers yet do not become mothers!

        I am really sorry to hear about your bad day, and I hope that today is better for you!

        1. 100% agree with you.

          Please don’t worry, I’m okay. I’ve just got bad news from a very good friend’s parent… I only hope things go well…

  11. Proud to be Ari’s mom, and proud to be a standing donor to Planned Parenthood. I have many friends who have used PP’s services for contraception and general women’s health services, and I believe in PP’s mission.

  12. Hi Ari I am commenting from the UK where abortion is less politicised and available to all though our national health service, although we have the same debates about the rights of the woman, rights of the child, rights of the father as everywhere else.

    You are a cool girl and I agree with your sentiments wholeheartedly. It is a woman’s right to choose, and no-one has the right to judge.

    And it is great that there is an organisation in the US which makes birth control and sexual health advice and treatment available to people on low incomes. They deserve everyone’s support

  13. Ari, you did it!!! We did it! 🙂

    I’m so proud of everybody who’ve chosen not to be silent and to take some action. And I’m glad that it got resolved with a positive spin for such important organization as Planned Parenthood.

    1. Undina, I am cautiously optimistic. SGK has only said that they will honor their grants to Planned Parenthood for the rest of this year and that PP will then be eligible to re-apply for funding for the following year. No guarantee that their application will be accepted. But in the end, this whole mess has allowed Planned Parenthood to raise something like 5 times the money that SGK was funding them in the first place!

  14. This post is one more reason why I’m glad to have found your blog. Your mother is right to be proud of you. Please continue to speak out on whatever you feel passionate about.

    Meanwhile, feeling lucky to be a Canadian — Abortion (after many years of struggle by many activists and by Dr Henry Morgentaler) is deemed a medical service in Canada and so is federal government-funded. Unfortunately, many women may still have to travel to a larger city to find a practitioner, or even outside the province in the case of a few small provinces who refuse to use the federal funds within their province. And there is still the likelihood of having to run the gantlet of protesters to get into the clinic or Dr’s office (less so at a hospital). In British Columbia we have legislation which provides for “bubble zones” around any facility providing abortions or the doctors’ homes for the safety of clients and practitioners without outlawing (endless) protests.

    1. Thank you so much for the encouragement and the kind words, Linda. I completely approve of that B.C. legislation. After so many clinics have been bombed and doctors killed, you would think that someone on this side of the border would start enacting laws to protect people performing a LEGAL service.

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