Under pressure, Komen halts funds for Planned Parenthood
Editor's note: Two days after this story was posted, Komen apparently reversed its position on Planned Parenthood grants. Read that story at http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37111
WASHINGTON (BP) -- Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world's leading breast cancer organization, will no longer give money to affiliates of Planned Parenthood, America's No. 1 abortion practitioner.
The report of Komen's action came about six weeks after LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention pulled from Walmart and other stores copies of a special pink-covered Bible that partially benefited the cancer charity. After learning of Komen's decision, Thom Rainer, LifeWay's president, told Baptist Press Feb. 1 "that reconsidering our relationship with Komen is certainly on the table." LifeWay, however, has not communicated with Komen since hearing the news the day before, he said.
-- Charmaine Yoest
Komen affiliates gave about $680,000 to Planned Parenthood affiliates last year, according to PPFA, AP reported. An analysis last year by American Life League found 18 of about 120 Komen affiliates had made grants totaling nearly $630,000 in grants to Planned Parenthood centers in the 2009-10 fiscal year.
Its grants to Planned Parenthood affiliates were not for abortions but for breast screenings and breast health education, according to Komen. Planned Parenthood, however, does not offer mammograms, though Komen said grants to the organization may pay for mammograms at other sites.
As the country's leading abortion provider, Planned Parenthood reported its clinics performed 329,445 abortions in 2010. That was more than one-fourth of the lethal procedures in the United States for the year.
Planned Parenthood's abortion business makes it an unworthy recipient for funds to prevent breast cancer, pro-lifers have told Komen for years. Increasingly, pro-lifers withheld support from the foundation and refused to participate in its popular five-kilometer, fund-raising runs/walks that draw more than 1.6 million participants yearly.
When Komen's reversal of a long-held position was revealed, pro-lifers hailed it.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said he is "delighted [Komen] decided to sever its financial relationship with Planned Parenthood. As my mother used to say, 'Sometimes you're known as much by your friends as you are by your enemies.' And keeping company with Planned Parenthood is not good for one's reputation."
Charmaine Yoest, president of Chicago-based Americans United for Life and a breast cancer survivor, said, "The work of the Komen Foundation has life-saving potential and should not be intertwined with an industry dealing in death. When I learned that the foundation was using donated funds to support abortion providers, I stopped running in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. In the future, I'll be racing with them to support this courageous decision."
Though Komen had not announced its decision publicly, PPFA President Cecile Richards told AP her organization has known about it since December. She learned of it in a phone call that month from the charity's president, Elizabeth Thompson, AP reported.
Komen, which has informed its affiliates, took the action because of a new policy that bans grants to organization under government investigation, a Komen spokeswoman told AP. A House of Representatives subcommittee began an investigation of Planned Parenthood in September.
PPFA's Richards suggested Komen had caved in to pro-lifers, saying her organization is "alarmed and saddened that [Komen] appears to have succumbed to political pressure."
Komen denied the charge, saying in a statement released Feb. 1 its "grant-making decisions are not about politics." Komen has established stricter "performance criteria" and "eligibility standards" that "have impacted some longstanding grantees, such as Planned Parenthood," according to the statement.
LifeWay's decision to remove its Here's Hope Breast Cancer Awareness Bible came after it learned of the Komen connection with Planned Parenthood about two months after it went on sale. The Bible -- which was from its publishing arm, B&H, but was not stocked in LifeWay stores -- provided for a $1 donation to Komen for each sale.
In a Dec. 14 statement, LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer said it was a mistake, adding, "When our leadership discovered the overwhelming concern that some of Komen's affiliates were giving funds to Planned Parenthood, we began the arduous process of withdrawing this Bible from the market. Though we have assurances that Komen's funds are used only for breast cancer screening and awareness, it is not in keeping with LifeWay's core values to have even an indirect relationship with Planned Parenthood."
After Komen's defunding of Planned Parenthood was revealed, Rainer said LifeWay is "very grateful" for the charity's action.
Rainer told BP he did not know for certain if LifeWay's decision to stop sale of the Bibles had an impact on Komen's decision. In a "very cordial" phone conversation with Thompson, Komen's president, in December, Rainer said one of his final comments was: "We certainly hope that you will reconsider your relationship with Planned Parenthood, because we would not be able to support anything even indirectly related."
Thompson "did not make a commitment, but she heard me," Rainer told BP. "So I cannot say definitively. I hope we had some positive influence."
Copies of the breast cancer awareness Bible have been returned to LifeWay's distribution center, Rainer said. While a decision has not been made on what will be done with the Bibles, the pages containing information on Komen have not been removed, he told BP.
"So that leaves us with the option now," Rainer said. "I would say that reconsidering our relationship with Komen is certainly on the table. In the last 24 hours, we haven't even gotten to the point where we're making a decision on that. We certainly haven't spoken to Komen about it."
Observers have speculated how much influence Karen Handel, Komen's relatively new senior vice president for public policy, had on the decision to defund Planned Parenthood. A former Georgia secretary of State, Handel called for defunding Planned Parenthood while running to be the state's governor in 2010. She joined Komen's staff in April 2011.
Komen also has received criticism from some pro-life advocates for refusing to acknowledge studies that indicate a link between abortion and breast cancer. Some pro-lifers also have said Komen has contributed money to embryonic stem cell research, which results in the destruction of human embryos. In a Nov. 30 statement, Komen denied it had ever funded such experimentation, saying it supports research only on stem cells "derived without creating a human embryo or destroying a human embryo."
Rep. Cliff Stearns, R.-Fla., is leading an investigation of Planned Parenthood by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In a Sept. 15 letter to Richards, Stearns asked PPFA's president to provide audits, documentation, policies and procedures regarding such issues as improper billing, segregation of federal funds from abortion services and reporting of suspected sex abuse and human trafficking.
Planned Parenthood has been plagued by various scandals in recent years. Secret investigations by pro-life organizations have uncovered PPFA workers demonstrating a willingness to aid self-professed sex traffickers whose prostitutes supposedly are in their early teens, seeking to cover up alleged child sex abuse, and agreeing to receive donations designated for abortions of African-American babies.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. With reporting by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email.