The nation's leading breast-cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which has spent nearly $2 billion over the past 30 years for breast cancer education, health services, research, and advocacy, has announced that it will end its longtime partnership with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The announcement has sparked bitter debate among representatives from all concerned parties, highlighting the ongoing debate over abortion.Read more here.
Planned Parenthood, currently the largest provider of reproductive health services in the United States, is widely known for helping women to obtain abortions and contraceptives. But those services, despite their high profile, account for only 38 percent (PDF) of the organization's work. And though Republicans often portray Planned Parenthood as strictly an abortion provider, using the phrase to incite anger among pro-life constituents and gain support for cuts to federal funding -- it comes largely through the Title X and Medicaid programs -- the fact is that the organization devotes most of its money and manpower to screening for breast, cervical, and testicular cancers; treating menopause; testing for sexually transmitted diseases; and more.
The money provided by Susan G. Komen for the Cure went to just a fraction -- about 19 according to one report -- of Planned Parenthood's more than 85 affiliates. And it was all -- roughly $680,000 last year and $580,000 the year before that -- used for breast-cancer screening and other breast-health services for low-income, uninsured, and under-insured women.
Koman has been criticized in the past for donating to Planned Parenthood and the official response has always been that, despite the controversy surrounding some of its programs, the organization was the only one working to provide breast-health services to women in need in dozens of communities around the United States.
So why the sudden change?
Cutting funds to Planned Parenthood is the result of a newly adopted policy to block grants to organizations currently under investigation by any local, state, or federal authorities, Koman spokeswoman Leslie Aun told the Associated Press. A statement released Tuesday evening added: "While it is regrettable when changes in priorities and policies affect any of our grantees, such as a long-standing partner like Planned Parenthood, we must continue to evolve to best meet the needs of the women we serve and most fully advance our mission."
The key factor behind Komen's decision, Aun told the Associated Press, is not ongoing protests of Planned Parenthood -- the Alliance Defense Fund was quick to praise Komen "for seeing the contradiction between its lifesaving work and its relationship with an abortionist that has ended millions of lives" -- but an audit launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns, chairman of the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, to determine whether public money had been spent on abortions over the last decade.
When launched way back in late September, Stearns' review was described as the first-ever oversight on taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. But his motivations have been questioned repeatedly. Rep. Henry Waxman called out (PDF) Stearns: "Your fervent ideological opposition to Planned Parenthood does not justify launching this intrusive investigation." And Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), has said that investigation was politically motivated; Stearns must bow to the demands of Florida's 6th congressional district, a largely Republican area of North Central Florida that includes parts of Ocala and Gainesville.
Perhaps best known for his position overseeing the investigation into the Solyndra loan guarantee, Stearns has spent more than 20 years in Congress. Over such a long period, his political opponents inevitably called him a number of negative things. Among them, "bully" might be the easiest to print.
"It's hard to understand how an organization with whom we share a mission of saving women's lives could have bowed to this kind of bullying. It's really hurtful," Richards told the Associated Press. More than confused, Richard was shocked to learn about decision in a phone call this past December. She called it "incredibly surprising" that Komen's president, Elizabeth Thompson, was unwilling to have a discussion about the quick shift.
And sign a petition: Tell the board of Susan G. Komen for a Cure: Don't throw Planned Parenthood under the bus!