Updated after the jump with comments from Occupy Seattle organizer Lara Salomon Schuchat.
Encapsulating the continued public fallout between breast-cancer awareness giant Komen for the Cure and its supporters, tomorrow evening, women from Occupy Seattle are joining forces with other pro-lady organizations to protest a swanky downtown fundraiser to benefit the breast cancer organization's local Puget Sound affiliate.
"With all the various attacks on Women's Choices and debate over control of our bodies raging on (with renewed spirit, especially in the South) we feel it is important to let a foundation as big as Komen know we will not fall prey to their propaganda machine," writes women of Occupy Seattle spokeswoman Lara Salomon Schuchat. "There is no pretty pink spin you can put on unnecessary cancer deaths due to lack of free/low-cost screenings."
The $300-a-plate gala is scheduled to begin tomorrow night at 6:00 pm at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle. Women of Occupy Seattle are urging the public to join them.
Here's the problem: Protesting the event won't take money away from the GOP-humping slimeballs at Komen national; what it does is hurt low-income women in the Puget Sound area—the very women these protesters are hoping to support.
"There's this confusion between what we do and Komen national," says Jim Cline, a spokesman for Komen Puget Sound. "All of the money we raise stays in the community. We don't give a penny to Komen national and we were against their decision [to defund Planned Parenthood] from the start."
Cline explains that there are currently over 600 low-income women in the Puget Sound area who qualify for free mammograms—and need them ASAP—but who are relegated to a long waiting list because there aren’t enough public funds available to pay for them.
The gala is expected to take in $400,000 for local breast cancer screenings. Last year, Komen PS provided 13,000 free screenings and mammograms in the Puget Sound area with its funds. "Cutting our ability to raise these funds hurts poor, local women," he adds. "It doesn’t hurt [Komen CEO] Nancy Brinker."
"I think these protesters are well-intentioned, but they’re confused," Cline says.
I have calls and emails out to Occupy Seattle's protest organizers to find out what the group hopes to accomplish with a protest, why now, and what message they're hoping to send to Komen Puget Sound and the public. Seattle Clinic Defense, a group that counter-protests anti-choice groups who picket abortion-providing medical clinics, is also expected to protest. I'll update when I hear back from them. UPDATE: SCD writes, "SCD was initially planning an action surrounding this fundraiser before Komen reversed their decision regarding funding of Planned Parenthood Clinics. Following this reversal, we decided to focus our efforts on the national Forty Days for Life anti-choice campaign that began in mid-February."
I believe I understand their surface motivations. A month ago, when news broke that Komen national had cut ties with Planned Parenthood to provide low-income breast cancer screenings for women (and Komen for Puget Sound's entire staff refused to return my calls and emails asking them to clarify their position on the national decision) I suggested this protest might be appropriate. But since then, a lot has changed—Komen national reversed its decision thanks to strong public backlash, and Komen's Puget Sound organizers finally returned my calls and explained themselves. I understand why people would still be leery of donating to Komen (I've talked to dozens of women who are) but I'm curious to know what outcome protesters hope to achieve with a picket, and why.
UPDATE: Here's the full response that Occupy Seattle organizer Lara Salomon Schuchat just emailed to me (emphasis mine):
We are deeply concerned with the future of any additional funding for PP, since it has not been fully promised that this situation will not repeat again, and soon. With all the various attacks on Women's Choices and debate over control of our bodies raging on (with renewed spirit, especially in the South) we feel it is important to let a foundation as big as Komen know we will not fall prey to their propaganda machine. There is no pretty pink spin you can put on unnecessary cancer deaths due to lack of free/low-cost screenings. Especially if they have been cut-off from such a resource over personal politics centered on Abortion & a Woman Right to Choose, which has nothing to do with Breast Cancer.
While we know the portion of the Komen budget that is earmarked for PParenthood is not that tremendous, by their own fundraising standards, that also begs a deeper question that concerns us...where are all those donation dollars really going? Why isn't more going to Researching the CURE they talk so much about (especially when we find out they waste a lot of funds to wage legal battles with any one who dares to use the trademarked term "the Cure")? And why is so much more spent on "education" or "overhead" than on actual research that could save lives.
Frankly, we feel that the Komen Foundation has lost it's way and is toying with the lives of some of the most marginalized women in our society. The very ones who need them most. Low-income and the homeless. We should all have equal access to preventive care, especially during economic times like these.
Final note, we will have secure donation bins (including a live, on-line wifi hotspot set up at a table nearby) to give guests the chance to donate directly, safely, & securely to Planned Parenthood our another charity of their choice. We are also encouraging people (of all genders) who supported them in the past to return the Pink-washed Swag to their fundraising HQ, in a show of solidarity. A way to say "put that money where your mouth is" and put more back into research!
Ultimately, we want SGK Foundation to know "we are still watching" and expect equality for all women.