Planned Parenthood Decision Puts Spotlight on Susan G. Komen’s Politics

The issue went from breast cancer to politics after Susan G. Komen For the Cure cut funding to Planned Parenthood. (AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Alan Petersime)
The issue went from breast cancer to politics after Susan G. Komen For the Cure cut funding to Planned Parenthood. (AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Alan Petersime)

When officials from the breast-cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure confirmed that they would no longer fund breast-cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, cutting off hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, the backlash was immediate.

The Komen website was briefly hacked and an ad for their Marathon for the Cure was changed from "Help us get 26.2 or 13.1 miles closer to a world without breast cancer" to "Help us run over poor women on our way to the bank." The discussion raged in on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. Pro-choice groups and individuals posted information about other ways to support women's health and breast cancer research. And donations to Planned Parenthood -- including ones through Yahoo! For good -- skyrocketed.

By Wednesday afternoon, Planned Parenthood had received more than $400,000 in donations from 6,000 people, plus an additional $250,000 gift to their newly launched Breast Health Emergency Fund from Dallas philanthropist Lee Fikes and his wife, Amy, The Washington Post reported. The women's health organization usually receives 100 to 200 donations per day.

"People respond powerfully when they see politics interfering with women's health," Planned Parenthood spokesman Tait Sye told the Washington Post. "That's why we've seen a tremendous outpouring of support."

Komen maintains that it's decision was not politically motivated -- a spokesperson says that the move was a result of the breast-cancer charity's new rule barring grants to organizations that are under investigation by the local, state, or federal government. But others note that, given Komen's recent statement lauding Planned Parenthood for it's work, politics may be the only reason to cut funding now.

"While Komen Affiliates provide funds to pay for screening, education and treatment programs in dozens of communities, in some areas, the only place that poor, uninsured or under-insured women can receive these services are through programs run by Planned Parenthood," the March 2011 statement read. "These facilities serve rural women, poor women, Native American women, women of color, and the un- and under-insured. As part of our financial arrangements, we monitor our grantees twice a year to be sure they are spending the money in line with our agreements, and we are assured that Planned Parenthood uses these funds only for breast health education, screening and treatment programs."

The Huffington Post noted that the decision came just months after Komen hired Karen Handel to be their senior vice president for policy in April 2011. Handel ran for governor of Georgia in 2010 on a pro-life platform and promised to eliminate state grants to Planned Parenthood, even as she acknowledged that the state money did not fund abortions or abortion-related services.

"First, let me be clear, since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood," Handel wrote on her campaign blog, which is still available on internet archives.

"During my time as Chairman of Fulton County, there were federal and state pass-through grants that were awarded to Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screening, as well as a 'Healthy Babies Initiative'," she continued in her July 15, 2010 blog post. "None of the services in any way involved abortions or abortion-related services. In fact, state and federal law prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for abortions or abortion related services and I strongly support those laws. Since grants like these are from the state I'll eliminate them as your next Governor."

Politics come into play in other ways as well. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Komen CEO and founder Nancy G. Brinker and her late husband, Brinker International Restaurants chairman Norman Brinker, together gave more than $615,000 to Republican candidates and the Republican National Committee since 1990. And RH Reality Check points out that Jane Abraham, the general chairman of Susan B. Anthony List -- an organization that has long supported defunding Planned Parenthood -- is on the Komen Foundation's Advocacy Alliance Board.

Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest, whose report led to the investigation of Planned Parenthood by Republican Representative Cliff Stearns, told the Washington Post's Sarah Kliff that the defunding "was some of the best news of my entire life."

"We're so used to seeing Planned Parenthood succeed at defining themselves as the trendy place to be, and for Komen to make such a smart decision in recognizing the reality behind Planned Parenthood spin," she adds. "As a breast cancer survivor, I was always troubled with this whole idea that the nation's largest abortion provider was enmeshed in the breast cancer fight when they weren't actually doing mammograms. I look at this as smart stewardship."

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