TOPICS > Politics

What’s Behind Komen Charity’s Split From Planned Parenthood?

February 2, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the well-known breast cancer charity, faces an onslaught of criticism after news broke that it would stop giving grant money to Planned Parenthood clinics for breast screening. Judy Woodruff discusses the move and whether it may have been politically motivated with The Los Angeles Times' Shari Roan.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the fallout over a decision made by one of the country’s best known breast cancer charities.

On Tuesday, the Susan G. Komen Foundation revealed that it would stop providing grant money to Planned Parenthood clinics for breast screening. The foundation said it would no longer give money to any group under investigation by any branch of the government. Planned Parenthood is the subject of an investigation led by Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns.

The move sparked a political firestorm, and at least one official from within the Komen organization has resigned.

For more on all this, we turn to Shari Roan, who is covering the story for The Los Angeles Times.

Shari Roan, first of all, tell us, what was the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s initial explanation for cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood after this year?

SHARI ROAN, The Los Angeles Times: Well, the Komen Foundation late last year informed organizations that received grants that they had changed their rules, so that organizations under any type of investigation, whether that was a federal or law enforcement investigation, would be prohibited from receiving any further grants.

So this was really the first indication that any organization under investigation would stop receiving Komen grants. Of course, Planned Parenthood is under investigation by Rep. Cliff Stearns.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And why is he investigating them?

SHARI ROAN: Planned Parenthood affiliates are not — do receive federal funding, but they’re not allowed to receive funding to be spent on abortion-related services.

So, Rep. Stearns has said he intends to look into Planned Parenthood’s activities to make sure that their federal funds are spent appropriately on non-abortion-related health services.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, today, I know — you, I believe, were also on a press conference call that the Susan Komen Foundation had, in which they said there were other reasons that they made this decision. They talked about services not being offered by Planned Parenthood clinics.

Can you expand on that?

SHARI ROAN: Yes.

The Komen officials today seemed to suggest that Planned Parenthood affiliates may not be the best place to fund. And what they explained to members of the media is that Planned Parenthood provides breast health services. However, women who need mammograms, biopsies, even breast cancer treatment are referred out to other medical facilities for that care.

This is referred to as pass-through care, meaning these women come into Planned Parenthood, they are screened, they receive breast health education, but then, if they need further services, they are passed on to another facility.

Komen officials said that they would like to get away from funding these kinds of pass-through grants. So, that might mean that Planned Parenthood isn’t the best fit anymore for Komen’s grants.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, meanwhile, Shari Roan, what Planned Parenthood is saying and other analysts looking at this saying what may be behind this is an ideological, political motive on the part of the Susan Komen Foundation.

What is known about that allegation?

SHARI ROAN: Well, Planned Parenthood officials say that the Komen Foundation has been under pressure for several years for its affiliation with Planned Parenthood.

The Komen officials say it is not related to any political pressure. But pro-life groups also say that they have been actively lobbying Komen Foundation officials to end their partnership with Planned Parenthood and that this has been going on for a number of years.

So I think there’s widespread suspicion that Komen officials may be feeling pressure to stop affiliating with organizations that provide abortion.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Shari Roan, is this seen then as part of a larger effort that’s been under way across the country to put the squeeze, in effect, on Planned Parenthood?

SHARI ROAN: Well, one person I interviewed on Tuesday from pro-life organizations said that — very openly — that Planned Parenthood is their central focus these days.

Planned Parenthood is well-known for being a nationwide provider of abortion services, as well as other women’s health care. And pro-life forces see that as a very recognizable name to try to address their activities. And, certainly, this has gone on for many years.

We often see protesters out in front of Planned Parenthood clinics. So that’s nothing new. But the pressure on individual organizations, such as the Komen Foundation, that may have partnerships with Planned Parenthood, this is something that I think has come to a surprise — is a bit of a surprise to a lot of people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, how much money are we talking about Planned Parenthood losing? We know that there are reports today that Planned Parenthood’s donations have risen in the wake of this. But do we know how much money we’re talking about here?

SHARI ROAN: You know, that’s really not clear.

Apparently, grants will stop to 16 of 19 Planned Parenthood affiliates. And those grants can range from $50,000 to more than $100,000. So we are talking about certainly several hundred thousand dollars.

I have heard that an emergency fund that Planned Parenthood began has already picked up a lot of donations to try to cover any losses from the Komen funds.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And I know one report today was that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would contribute $250,000 to Planned Parenthood, to be matched by other organizations.

But, just finally, Shari Roan, in a broad sense, again, what does this represent, this battle now out in the open between these two significant organizations, both of which support women’s health?

SHARI ROAN: Right.

I think this is what’s astonishing to most people, is that these two iconic women’s health organizations are now — now appear to be on opposite sides of the fence. And many people who support one organization have often supported the other.

Certainly, on a local level, Planned Parenthood affiliates work very closely with their local Komen affiliates. They support each other’s fundraisers and events. And this is causing a lot of people to be very uncomfortable and to really feel like they have to choose sides.

So it’s a really unfortunate development. And I think it’s going to linger on for some time, as people try to decide where to put their support in the future.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Shari Roan with The Los Angeles Times, thank you very much.

SHARI ROAN: You’re welcome, Judy. Thanks.