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Another Reason to Love the Decemberists: Their Smart Move on Susan G. Komen

The band, which has been active about fundraising for breast cancer since keyboardist Jenny Conlee’s bout with the disease, has decided to pull its support from Susan G. Komen For the Cure after that group made a clearly politicized decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood’s breast health work. Now, they’ll send the money they make from selling their Team Jenny t-shirts directly to Planned Parenthood’s Breast Health Emergency Fund. They’re not the only indie band taking action. The Mountain Goats, who are particularly politically active, warned their Twitter followers that “Pro-choice musicians, know that Komen for the Cure is now on the side of the bad guys.”

What’s particularly nice about the Decemberists’ action is that they’re not withdrawing the fight — they’re just giving their money to a direct service provider instead. Susan G. Komen for the Cure has a long list of bipartisan celebrity supporters, some of whom — like Neil Patrick Harris and Cynthia Nixon — have bigger national platforms than an indie band. Let’s hope some of them make the same decision, and help make it so Planned Parenthood is better off after losing Susan G. Komen’s support than they were before.

I appreciate the work that Susan G. Komen has done to make breast cancer a publicly discussable disease. But I also think that charities should have viable competitors to keep them honest. And for those of us who want a comprehensive approach to women’s health, and who want to give to a program that’s more about direct service and less about cancer culture and products, a reexamination of Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a healthy debate to be having and a spur to thoughtful philanthropy. It’s just too bad that Susan G. Komen for a Cure had to cut off aid to the women who need it most to get the conversation started.

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