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Anti-Choice Bullying in Congress Threatens Planned Parenthood Cancer Programs

- Common Dreams staff

Relentless bullying by anti-choice members of a Congress have now helped sabotage the relationship between the nation's large beast cancer funder, Susan G Komen for the Cure, and one of the largest providers of women's health services, Planned Parenthood.

Cecile Richards, president Planned Parenthood Federation of America, had this to say in response to the news:

We are alarmed and saddened that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation appears to have succumbed to political pressure. Our greatest desire is for Komen to reconsider this policy and recommit to the partnership on which so many women count.

And, she added, though the news was "deeply disturbing":

We want to assure women who rely on Planned Parenthood for breast care that we’re still here for them, and we always will be. The new fund we’re launching to support these services will ensure that the Komen Foundation’s decision doesn’t jeopardize women’s health.

The Associated Press reports:

The change will mean a cut-off of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, mainly for breast exams.

Planned Parenthood says the move results from Komen bowing to pressure from anti-abortion activists in the US. Komen says the key reason is that Planned Parenthood is under investigation in Congress – an investigation launched by a conservative Republican who was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.

The rupture, which has not been publicly announced as it unfolded, is wrenching for some of those who've learned about it and admire both organizations.

"We're kind of reeling," said Patrick Hurd, who is CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia – recipient of a 2010 grant from Komen – and whose wife, Betsi, is a veteran of several Komen fundraising races and is currently battling breast cancer.

"It sounds almost trite, going through this with Betsi, but cancer doesn't care if you're pro-choice, anti-choice, progressive, conservative," Hurd said. "Victims of cancer could care less about people's politics."

And the Los Angeles Times adds:

In September, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) launched an inquiry to determine whether Planned Parenthood uses public money to fund abortions. Planned Parenthood receives federal money but cannot use it to provide abortions.

"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."
-- Cecile Richards
Komen has a long history of providing funding to various Planned Parenthood affiliates for such services as manual breast exams and referrals for mammograms and biopsies to check suspicious lumps for cancer. Although that money is not used for abortions, the Komen Foundation may have yielded to demands from antiabortion groups to sever its ties to Planned Parenthood.

"We had the sense this was coming and that they were under pressure," said Sue Dunlap, chief executive of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. "I find this really disappointing. I think when women's health is more of a political conversation than a conversation about healthcare and taking care of people, then we've gone too far."

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in an interview with AP, indicated Stearns' investigation was politically motivated and was dismayed that it had contributed to Komen's decision to halt the grants to PPFA affiliates.

"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," Richards told the Associated Press. "It's really hurtful."

Planned Parenthood has been a perennial target of protests, boycotts and funding cut-offs because of its role as the largest provider of abortions in the United States. Its nearly 800 health centers nationwide provide an array of other services, including birth control, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and cancer screening.

According to Planned Parenthood, its centers performed more than 4m breast exams over the past five years, including nearly 170,000 as a result of Komen grants.

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