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Planned Parenthood supporters denounce Komen's funding halt

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure's move to end funding for Planned Parenthood affiliates elicits criticism and a fundraising drive to replace the lost money. Komen officials defend the decision.

February 01, 2012|By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
  • Breast cancer survivor Elizabeth Lueke, who was 99 at the time, is honored at the 2009 Orange County Race for the Cure, an annual fundraising event for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. Some longtime Komen supporters said they would break with the foundation because of its Planned Parenthood decision.
Breast cancer survivor Elizabeth Lueke, who was 99 at the time, is honored… (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles…)

He won't be sporting that pink tie anymore.

California state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) has volunteered for years as one of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure "Pink Tie Guys," who wear the ties at public events to raise awareness about breast cancer.

On Wednesday, after learning that the foundation would stop funding Planned Parenthood for breast health services, Padilla announced that his pink tie days were done.

"Komen has placed its supporters in the untenable position of aligning themselves with acquiescence to the agenda of the religious right, or aligning themselves with healthcare and breast cancer organizations that will not bow to such pressures," Padilla said in a statement.

"The choice is clear to me. I choose the latter."

Komen's decision, made quietly late last year and made public Tuesday, has ignited fury in some and jubilation in others, depending upon their stance on abortion. Public message boards, Twitter and Facebook are flooding with posts supporting or decrying the move.

Online petitions have been established to pressure the Komen foundation to reverse its decision. Planned Parenthood Federation of America has launched a Breast Health Emergency Fund to ensure continued funding to the 19 Planned Parenthood affiliates that will soon lose their Komen grants, seeded with $250,000 from the Amy and Lee Fikes family foundation.

Komen has explained that the defunding decision was due to the foundation's recently enacted policy to not fund organizations that are under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. That would disqualify Planned Parenthood, which is the subject of a congressional inquiry begun in September by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) to determine whether it has used federal money to fund abortions, which is forbidden by law.

Komen posted a statement on its website Wednesday saying that it was "dismayed and extremely disappointed that actions we have taken to strengthen our granting process have been widely mischaracterized."

"We regret that these new policies have impacted some long-standing grantees, such as Planned Parenthood, but want to be absolutely clear that our grant-making decisions are not about politics," the statement said.

Komen also posted a YouTube video Wednesday in which founder and Chief Executive Nancy G. Brinker explained the foundation's position.

But critics said they believed the organization had capitulated to antiabortion pressure.

"The investigation they refer to is politically motivated and bogus," said Vicki Saporta, president and chief executive of the National Abortion Federation, a professional association of abortion practitioners. "To use that as an excuse to end a relationship that has saved thousands of women's lives is astounding."

Saporta and others said they suspected a link between Komen's decision and its appointment last year of a self-described "pro-life Christian" as senior vice president of public policy.

Karen Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, was hired in April following her unsuccessful 2010 run for governor during which she frequently called for an end to abortion. Neither Handel nor others at Komen could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Even some associated with Komen said they were frustrated by the decision. Ann Hogan, president of the board of directors for Susan G. Komen for the Cure Connecticut, an affiliate based in Farmington, said she learned of it earlier this winter and had been "very surprised."

"We didn't have input," she said.

Last year, Komen Connecticut gave out more than $1 million to state organizations battling breast cancer, including $38,000 to Planned Parenthood of Southern New England to support clinical breast exams, mammograms and outreach through June 30 of this year, Hogan said.

"We have a great relationship with Planned Parenthood," she said. "We value our grantees. We need them to do our work. Everything we're doing here should be about our mission."

Times staff writers Eryn Brown and Shari Roan contributed to this report.

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