Planned Parenthood says the move results from Komen bowing to pressure from anti-abortion activists. Komen says the key reason is a congressman's investigation into the nonprofit urged by anti-abortion groups.

Share story

NEW YORK — The nation’s leading breast-cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates — creating a bitter rift, linked to the abortion debate, between two iconic organizations that have assisted millions of women.

The change will mean a cutoff 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. Komen says the key reason is that Congress is investigating Planned Parenthood — an inquiry launched by a conservative Republican who was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.

Planned Parenthood said the Komen grants totaled roughly $680,000 last year and $580,000 the year before, going to at least 19 of its affiliates for breast-cancer screening and other breast-health services.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest receives two Komen grants for breast-cancer outreach and screening for two groups of vulnerable women, said spokeswoman Kristen Glundberg-Prossor.

In Clallam County, she said, a $52,492 Komen grant funded outreach to Native-American, Latina, underinsured and isolated women, including a mobile unit that screened and administered mammograms for more than 400 women last year. That grant runs through midyear.

“We won’t be applying for that money next year,” Glundberg-Prossor added.

In Idaho, a $23,544 grant helped bring screening to about 400 refugee women in the Boise-Twin Falls area last year. Glundberg-Prossor said the Idaho Komen affiliate told Planned Parenthood at the end of the year that the grant wouldn’t be renewed “because we were being investigated.”

With an annual budget of about $40 million, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest spends about $30 million on patient services.

On the local and national Facebook pages, supporters were already calling on others to make up the shortfall from the Komen grants.

Glundberg-Prossor said her organization has long enjoyed a “strong, good partnership” with the local Komen affiliate. “They’ve been nothing but wonderful to work with. … We’re two of the strongest women’s health organizations in the state, and they’ve really relied on us to do this kind of outreach,” she said. “This is a national policy decision.”

Komen spokeswoman Leslie Aun said the cutoff results from the charity’s newly adopted criteria barring grants to organizations under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. According to Komen, this applies to Planned Parenthood because it’s the focus of an inquiry launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., seeking to determine whether public money was improperly spent on abortions.

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has depicted Stearns’ inquiry as politically motivated and said she was dismayed it had contributed to Komen’s decision to halt the grants.

Reaction to the news was swift and passionate. On Twitter, it was one of the most discussed topics Tuesday evening, with some tweets praising Komen’s decision and others angrily vowing never to give money to Komen again.

Two Democrats in Congress — Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Rep. Michael Honda of California — issued statements denouncing Komen’s action.

Murray, in her statement, said, “I am extremely disappointed that politics is once again coming between women and their health-care needs. Breast-cancer screenings should not be a political issue, and I am very concerned that this decision by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation will cut women off from the health-care providers they rely on for critical preventive care.

“At the heart of this issue is the shameful ‘investigation’ of Planned Parenthood by House Republicans trying to score political points and appease their extreme right-wing base. Komen should not allow these sort of partisan games to put women across America at risk.”

Anti-abortion groups, in contrast, welcomed the news. The Alliance Defense Fund praised Komen “for seeing the contradiction between its lifesaving work and its relationship with an abortionist that has ended millions of lives.”

A statement issued Tuesday evening by Komen made no reference to the vehement reactions, instead citing its new grant-making criteria and pledging to ensure there were no gaps in service to women.

“While it is regrettable when changes in priorities and policies affect any of our grantees, such as a long-standing partner like Planned Parenthood, we must continue to evolve to best meet the needs of the women we serve and most fully advance our mission,” the statement said.

Planned Parenthood has been a perennial target of protests, boycotts and funding cutoffs because of its role as the largest provider of abortions in the United States. Its nearly 800 health centers 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 4 million breast exams over the past five years, including nearly 170,000 as a result of Komen grants.

Komen, founded in 1982, has invested more than $1.9 billion in breast-cancer research, health services and advocacy. Its Race for the Cure fundraising events are a global phenomenon.

Anti-abortion group Life Decisions International includes Komen on its “boycott list” of companies and organizations that support or collaborate with Planned Parenthood.

In December, Lifeway Christian Resources, the publishing division of the Southern Baptist Convention, announced a recall of pink Bibles it had sold because some of the money generated for Komen was being routed to Planned Parenthood.

Komen’s Aun said such pressure tactics were not the reason for the funding cutoff and cited Stearns’ House investigation as a key factor.

That investigation, which has no set timetable, was launched in September when Stearns asked Planned Parenthood for more than a decade’s worth of documents. He said Monday he is still working with Planned Parenthood on getting the requested documents.

He said he is looking into possible violations of state and local reporting requirements, as well as allegations of financial abuse, and would consider holding a hearing depending on what he learns.

Many of the allegations were outlined in a report presented to Stearns last year by Americans United for Life, a national anti-abortion group, which urged him to investigate.

Richards said Planned Parenthood is intent on raising funds quickly to replace the cancer-screening grants and has launched a Breast Health Emergency Fund to offset those losses. Already, the family foundation of Dallas oilman/philanthropist Lee Fikes and his wife, Amy, has donated $250,000 for this purpose, Planned Parenthood said.

The Associated Press and Seattle Times staff reporter Carol Ostrom contributed to this report.