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Susan G. Komen Foundation: Racing backwards

A year after its disastrous foray into abortion politics, the Susan G. Komen foundation is still reeling. Founded to combat breast cancer, the foundation was once known primarily for creating the iconic pink ribbon, and for raising millions of dollars for breast cancer research and awareness via 3-day walks in many cities, including an event in Boston.

Now, though, its future seems cloudy. Attendance slipped at the Komen event in Washington last year, and tumbled again this year; last week the foundation announced that it is canceling its Boston walk in 2014, along with fund-raisers in six other cities. The foundation cited a weak economy to explain the drop-off in participation. But other breast cancer charities have not reported similar declines.

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Komen’s plight is a cautionary tale for charities that stray from the core mission that attracted supporters in the first place. Komen’s woes started when a conservative executive at the organization prevailed on the group to withdraw funding for breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood. It made matters worse by offering a risible explanation: The foundation claimed that it was taking away the money because Planned Parenthood was then under congressional investigation. Yet that investigation was clearly a politically motivated exercise by an antiabortion congressman; for Komen to use a bad-faith investigation as a justification reeked of bad faith itself.

Under fire, the foundation reversed its decision. But the damage has been long-lasting. The foundation’s actions undermined its worthy cause. Hopefully, over time, it can regain the trust of its donors.

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