By Sam Baker - 02/02/12 01:16 AM EST
The country’s leading breast-cancer charity is facing massive blowback from the left over its decision to pull funding for cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics.
Planned Parenthood’s supporters rallied to its defense, pouring money into the controversial organization and threatening to walk away in droves from the Susan G. Komen foundation.
“I have been a big booster of the Susan G. Komen organization,” Speier said. “But not anymore.”
The liberal advocacy group MoveOn launched a petition Wednesday urging Komen to restore the funding for Planned Parenthood. Several congressional Democrats said the group should reverse course, including Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) and Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), the party’s campaign chiefs.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said Komen was cowering at the prospect of a GOP “witch hunt.”
“I was perplexed and troubled to see the decision by Susan G. Komen for the Cure to cut off funding for life-saving breast cancer screenings through Planned Parenthood because of a political witch hunt by House Republicans,” Boxer said in a statement. “I truly hope that they will reconsider this decision and put the needs of women first.”
Komen’s Facebook page was flooded Wednesday with angry denunciations from people vowing to no longer donate money or participate in the group’s events.
“They’ve really hurt their own cause,” said Judith Waxman, vice president of health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center.
She said Komen has alienated part of its fundraising and advocacy base while undermining its core mission — helping fight breast cancer. Planned Parenthood performed about 170,000 breast-cancer screenings over the past five years with Komen funding.
Waxman noted that Komen hasn’t said it plans to reallocate its Planned Parenthood money to other programs that serve the same base of primarily low-income women.
The Komen foundation has been tight-lipped about its decision, but said it ended its relationship with Planned Parenthood because of a new policy against partners that are under congressional investigation. House Republicans are investigating Planned Parenthood’s finances.
“Making this issue political or leveraging it for fundraising purposes would be a disservice to women,” Komen said in a statement.
But its decision to cut off Planned Parenthood has undeniable political implications — for both sides of the abortion debate. Abortion-rights opponents cheered Komen’s move, chalking up another victory in their push to de-fund Planned Parenthood.
“Breast health is not Planned Parenthood’s core competency,” said Charmaine Yoest, president and chief executive of Americans United for Life. “They specialize in abortions.”
Yoest said it’s too early to tell whether the Komen announcement will embolden conservatives to pressure other organizations to break with Planned Parenthood. But the move will definitely work to Komen’s benefit, she said.
“From a business perspective for them, it was wise to get out of that,” she said.
Komen provided about $700,000 per year to Planned Parenthood clinics.
The financial hit to Planned Parenthood could be offset by the wave of support. The organization recouped more than half of the lost funding in the 24 hours after Komen’s announcement, pulling in $400,000 in donations.
“People respond powerfully when they see politics interfering with women’s health,” Planned Parenthood said.
Even within the Komen organization, the rejection of Planned Parenthood wasn’t unanimous. The cancer group’s Connecticut chapter said it won’t terminate its existing contract with Planned Parenthood clinics in New England, which expires in June.
Ann Hogan, president of the Connecticut chapter’s board, said her organization has an excellent relationship with Planned Parenthood and sees no reason to walk away from its contract. She said Planned Parenthood did not apply for more money after June, and would not say whether she would have denied such a request in light of the decision from Komen’s national headquarters.