How One Man's Witch Hunt Made Komen Decide to Cut Off Grants to Planned Parenthood

Perhaps you've heard by now: The Dallas-based Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation (don't bother clicking the link; the site's not loading) will no longer be giving grant money to Planned Parenthood, a move Planned Parenthood of North Texas says comes after "anti-women's health groups have repeatedly targeted and boycotted" the foundation. Since 2005, Komen has given funding to 19 of Planned Parenthood's 83 affiliates; last year, the grants totaled $700,000.

Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas, who have already gotten a lot of bad news lately, will be among those losing their Komen funding. According to Sarah Wheat, co-CEO at Planned Parenthood of the North Texas Capital Region, for the past three years Komen funds have helped North Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates refer 1,757 low-income women for mammograms, or 580 a year. The Austin Komen affiliate has helped provide 720 mammograms a year there for the past six years, while in Waco Komen and the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening (BCCS) program, a state effort, are the main sources for breast cancer screening funding. In 2010, Wheat says, that accounted for, among other things, 609 women who received mammograms and 329 who received cervical cancer screenings. (PP can't provide mammograms at their clinics; instead, they refer women to screening centers, pay for services for women who can't afford them, and provide follow-up counseling.)

So what's the deal, Komen? Leslie Aun, a spokesperson for the organization, told the Associated Press that the main reason they're yanking the funding is "a new rule adopted by Komen that prohibits grants to organizations being investigated by local, state or federal authorities." We'd love to ask Aun, or someone else at Komen, when this rule was adopted, but they don't seem to be picking up the phone or answering emails -- not for us and not for The New York Times.

In her original statement, Aun is referring to an investigation launched in October by Congressman Cliff Stearns, a Republican from Florida who heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. In a letter sent to Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards, Stearns asked for internal audits from Planned Parenthood dating back 20 years, as well as information on how it segregates "family planning and abortion services," how it deals with "suspected sex trafficking," "suspected sexual abuse" and how it "detects criminal conduct."

Stearns appears to be getting his talking points from Americans United For Life, which, as the American Independent has reported, has called for the federal government to stop giving money to Planned Parenthood and accused the organization of "partnering with pimps." PPFA released a point-by-point rebuttal of a report the AUL issued saying, "The publication manufactured by AUL rejects scientific evidence, promotes false health claims, and recycles misleading and discredited charges, as well as old issues that have already been addressed."

Democrats in the subcommittee have criticized Stearns's one-man investigation; Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Diana DeGette of Colorado wrote a letter to Stearns calling it "unwarranted" and "designed to harass and shut down an organization simply because Republicans disagree with the work that it does."

Stearns has released a statement on Komen's decision to halt their PP funding. It reads, in part:

I commend Susan G. Komen for the Cure for its leadership on breast cancer and I understand how vital breast exams and breast-cancer screening is to the health of millions of Americans. Although Planned Parenthood provides health services, it remains the nation's largest abortion provider. ... [M]y main concern is why the American taxpayers are providing over $1 million a day to Planned Parenthood when we have trillion dollar deficits and a national debt exceeding $15 trillion. Repeated cases of Planned Parenthood ignoring state and local reporting requirements, many involving minors, and allegations of financial abuse led to my investigation as Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee- the first ever oversight conducted on this group."

When we called Stearns's Washington office to inquire about the progress of the investigation -- like, say, if there is any -- spokesperson Paul Flusche sent us another statement from the congressman, which reads, in full:

"This investigation of Planned Parenthood's finances and use of taxpayer dollars is ongoing, and we are continuing to work with Planned Parenthood in getting the requested record and documents. I was not contacted by anyone at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and this decision was solely up to them."

The response to Komen's decision from Planned Parenthood and pro-choice advocates has been swift. There's already a petition at calling on Susan G. Komen "to restore your relationship with Planned Parenthood immediately." In the last day, it's gotten more than 9,000 signatures.

In a statement from Planned Parenthood North Texas, the full text of which is below, board chair Lisa Kraus, a breast cancer survivor herself, said, "I am heartsick to learn that Komen is eliminating its support for these vitally needed breast exams at Planned Parenthood." PPNT has also established a Breast Health Emergency Fund to ensure screenings can continue at facilities that have lost funding.

The Dallas-based Amy and Lee Fikes Foundation provided $250,000 to start the fund. In a statement, they said, in part: "As a family with a breast cancer survivor, we lament the decision of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation to abandon women who get their health care at Planned Parenthood clinics. ... We encourage others to join us in replacing the funds lost, so that no woman's health is imperiled by Komen's unfortunate decision." PPNT Responds To Komen Defunding

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