In a move seen as politically motivated by many, Susan G. Komen for the Cure has announced that it will discontinue support of breast health services at Planned Parenthood affiliates around the country, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Best known for its breast cancer walks and pink ribbon campaign, Komen has long funded Planned Parenthood affiliates for breast cancer screenings and other breast health services. Late last year, national Planned Parenthood officials learned that Komen was considering severing ties with Planned Parenthood affiliates amid an inquiry launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) to determine whether Planned Parenthood used public funds to pay for abortion services. Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the United States, receives approximately one-third of its funding from the federal government but is prohibited from using those funds for abortions.
Although Planned Parenthood officials sought a meeting with Komen to discuss the breast cancer charity's decision, that meeting never occurred, according to Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards. On Tuesday, Komen issued a statement saying it had adopted criteria forbidding it from providing funding to groups under investigation by local, state, or federal authorities.
Komen spokesperson Leslie Aun told the Associated Press that the decision was based on the Stearns investigation and dismissed the idea that pressure from pro-life groups had played a role in the organization's decision. According to many pro-choice groups, however, Planned Parenthood has been a lightning rod for pro-life Republicans and their allies over the past year, with many calling for the elimination of federal funding for the organization. Komen's newly hired vice president for policy, Karen Handel, supported the call to defund Planned Parenthood in her 2010 run for the Georgia governorship, the Washington Post reports.
Richards told the Times that over the past five years, Planned Parenthood affiliates have provided some four million breast exams and referrals for 70,000 mammograms, with about 170,000 of the exams and 6,400 of the referrals funded by Komen.
"We are alarmed and saddened that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation appears to have succumbed to political pressure," said Richards in a statement. "Our greatest desire is for Komen to reconsider this policy and recommit to the partnership on which so many women count."