Pink ribbons everywhere

They’ve been evident lately on most major league baseball and football teams. And their advertising. They’re so ubiquitous, those pink ribbons are seemingly on most products in the stores right now.

So I’m grocery shopping and every aisle features food products that have somehow worked the pink ribbon onto its packaging. In fact, nearly every aisle I turn the cart into has a special display of these products to catch shoppers’ attention. Caught mine, because I write about this every year at this time. And interview people on radio in between Octobers…

I stop at one display and really look at it. ‘Okay, I’ll pay the attention you ask for. What is it you’re promoting?’ I think…

The signs all say the same thing. ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’. I looked at that and wondered, what does that mean?

Okay, we’re aware. But being aware of this dreaded disease is just the beginning, as it is with any form of cancer or any other affliction.

What needs an awareness campaign is the link of breast cancer to abortion.

A microbiologist says there are so many published studies confirming the link between induced abortion and breast cancer that he plans to publish one every day on his blog until he’s mentioned them all. It will take Dr. Gerard Nadal so many weeks to cover them all, the blogging will continue until early next year.

Nadal, who has a has a PhD in Molecular Microbiology from St John’s University in New York, has spent 16 years teaching science, most recently at Manhattan College.

He will report on one abortion-breast cancer study daily until he has exhausted all of the abortion-breast cancer studies and he anticipates he may be reporting on these studies as late as January or February of 2011.

“Today begins the inexorable presentation of the scientific literature on the abortion/breast cancer link,” Nadal writes. “Women’s lives depend on us getting the truth out to them. In short order we’ll generate plenty of pros armed with the simple truth of science!”

Yes, let’s have awareness.

Pink October

The title for this post occurred to me before hearing or reading it anywhere. But seeing it written in an article linked below is what this is about in the first place….we’re seeing the same thing. They’re just about everywhere. And though mostly in the form of the emblematic pink ribbon, the campaign has also subsumed the color itself into the cause of promoting breast cancer awareness to the point where professional sports have turned out even more uniforms, hats, helmets, gloves, shoes, bats, and towels in (or accented by) the bright and vivid color pink. So is it working?

The answer depends on the intent in the first place, but it’s at least working on us in some way. I don’t know why but the image of neighborhood homes and properties TP’d and draped in white comes to mind, now that America as the extended neighborhood has been decked out and draped in pink. Many of the news sites I visit online have a pink ribbon on their banner logos, and the list goes on to food and drink manufacturers issuing special packaging for the month, merchandising featuring the ribbon and promising a percentage of the proceeds go for the ‘fight against breast cancer’, and so on…

More than one story is out there in print professing we have reached awareness fatigue.

Medical sociologist Gayle A. Sulik, author of the new book “Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health” (Oxford University Press), calls it “the rise of pink October.”

(see…it’s just too obvious)

“Pink ribbon paraphernalia saturate shopping malls, billboards, magazines, television and other entertainment venues,” she writes on her Web site. “The pervasiveness of the pink ribbon campaign leads many people to believe that the fight against breast cancer is progressing, when in truth it’s barely begun.”

Now this is something different. Critical analysis.

Pink activities are hardly restricted to October, but they are particularly prominent during the month: billboards promoting breast cancer awareness; media coverage of the latest advances in breast cancer detection and treatment; and races, walks, climbs and other events for breast cancer survivors that provide emotional uplift, a sense of community and an opportunity to raise money for the cause…

So how can the pink ribbon be objectionable? Among the first salvos against the pink ribbon was a 2001 article in Harper’s magazine entitled “Welcome to Cancerland,” written by the well-known feminist author Barbara Ehrenreich. Herself a breast cancer patient, Ms. Ehrenreich delivered a scathing attack on the kitsch and sentimentality that she believed pervaded breast cancer activism.

Others added to Ms. Ehrenreich’s arguments, notably the San Francisco-based group Breast Cancer Action, which in 2002 initiated a “Think Before You Pink” campaign. The organization’s main concern was that pharmaceutical companies that manufactured breast cancer treatments, plus other industries that promoted the pink ribbon for publicity purposes, produced toxic waste that poisoned the earth — and actually promoted breast cancer. Rather than being used to study the causes of breast cancer and how to prevent the disease, a large proportion of pink money, the group argued, has been used to pay for local screening and treatment programs and research into new, expensive biological agents that have had little impact on women’s survival from breast cancer.

It’s been used for more than that, and this part only begins to touch on it…

Ms. Sulik closely examines what she calls the “financial incentives that keep the war on breast cancer profitable.” She reports that the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which annually sponsors over 125 annual Races for the Cure and more than a dozen three-day, 60-mile walks, has close to 200 corporate partners, including many drug companies. These associations, she warns, are a potential conflict of interest…

As is the relationship between Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood, which I’ve written about before. It’s an odd and troubling relationship…

And one that contributors would want to know about…Pro-Life Wisconsin is out with some facts we should know.

“October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“Pro-life citizens who are interested in fighting this deadly disease should be aware that Susan G. Komen for the Cure has a policy of explicitly allowing its state affiliates to give monetary grants to abortion-providing facilities…

“Not all state affiliates give grants to Planned Parenthood using the 75 percent of the funds that they raise in a state. However, each state affiliate must forward at least 25 percent of funds raised in their state to the Komen National office. These funds are under the discretion of a board that refuses to disassociate itself from Planned Parenthood…”

In March 2009, the Komen Foundation issued a letter about their relationship with Planned Parenthood, explaining their position and addressing concerns. They sound reasonable and comprehensive in representing their mission and their coverage. They claim that in some of the poorer areas, women can only obtain screening services through Planned Parenthood clinics, and state that they’ve been “assured that Planned Parenthood uses these funds only for breast health education, screening and treatment programs.” Supporters are asked to accept that assurance by Planned Parenthood.

But the letter raises a red flag for me when it addresses criticism that Komen for the Cure’s grants to Planned Parenthood are inappropriate because of the abortion-breast cancer link, the claim that women who have had abortions have a higher incidence of breast cancer. Komen refutes the claim as unsupported and contends there’s “no conclusive link between breast cancer and induced abortion…”

Not true. They have selectively ignored this evidence for years. In spite of the great work some organizations are doing on behalf of women’s health and well-being, the politics of the abortion movement still invade it on a fundamental level, and they don’t belong there.

Support breast cancer prevention of the soundest foundation for the whole health and dignity of women.