Day 21: Body Politics

Earlier this week, Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced that it would stop providing Planned Parenthood with funding for breast cancer screening and related services. According to NPR, Planned Parenthood has performed 4 million breast exams in the past five years — 170,000 of them funded by Komen. This funding also provided outreach programs for women who need to be educated about the dangers of breast cancer, and the importance of screening and early treatment. A large portion of the persons served through Planned Parenthood clinics are low-income women, and African-American and Latina women.

For more on the story:

Aside from the funding decision, this story made me think today about the troubling ways in which our public discussions around health — particularly women’s health — too often and too quickly turn political. And this political turn, this game of body politics, is played at the expense of intentional and progressive thought and action to ensure the health and safety of all women.

We live in a country where corporations are legally considered persons. Yet in this same country, women and their bodies are corporatized.

As Audre Lorde so eloquently asserts in her memoir, The Cancer Journals, “We must learn to count the living with that same particular attention with which we number the dead.”

Here are some ideas about what you can do, not only in response to the Komen Foundation’s decision, but also intentionally to reaffirm your commitment to supporting breast cancer research and education in particular, and access to quality health care for all women more generally:

Support your local women’s clinic. There are other local women’s health clinics besides Planned Parenthood that provide breast exams, and they may be in even more need. Research clinics in your area.

Support Planned Parenthood. You can earmark your dollars towards breast cancer screening and education. The organization serves rural women, poor women, Native American women, women of color, and the un- and under-insured.

Support another breast cancer organization — perhaps one that operates with less overhead. Consider Breast Cancer Action, the National Breast Cancer Coalition, and the Women’s Community Cancer Project. Also consider donating to places like the African American Breast Cancer Alliance or Black Women’s Health Imperative.

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