Who is responsible for the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s controversial decision to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood? When the Komen Foundation made the announcement Tuesday it pointed to Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL).
Stearns, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, launched an investigation last year into Planned Parenthood’s finances, after House Republicans voted to defund the organization that provides a wide range of womens health services, including abortion services.
Stearns’ investigation, which Planned Parenthood and its supporters consider an attempt to intimidate and harass the organization, was the basis for the Komen Foundation’s decision. In their announcement they said the move was based on a new policy that prevents it granting funds to organizations under investigation.
The Stearns inquiry aims to determine whether Planned Parenthood has improperly spent public funds on abortion services. Anti-abortionists argue that money is fungible and therefore funding earmarked for preventative care may flow down to other areas.
“I commend Susan G. Komen for the Cure for its leadership on breast cancer and I understand how vital breast exams and breast-cancer screening is to the health of millions of Americans,” Rep. Stearns said in a statement Wednesday. “Although Planned Parenthood provides health services, it remains the nation’s largest abortion provider.”
Planned Parenthood, of course, denies these claims. It also insists the Komen funds were solely used for breast cancer screening programs and are critical to their continuance. Felicia Goodman, director of community affairs at the Planned Parenthood in Waco, Texas, told TPM the ramifications could be huge for her clinic, which relies on an annual Komen grant to fund their breast cancer care. “When I heard about this, I thought, oh my gosh, what about the [cancer screening program] and those women?” she said in a phone interview, adding that the office is the only provider in the 12-country region that screens uninsured women.
As they absorb the shock, pressure groups are asking whether the congressional investigation explanation is a convenient smokescreen for Komen bowing to other pressures.
The Foundation has been feeling the heat since it made its alliance with PP in 2005. Pro-life groups and some religious institutions have been particularly vocal. In 2011, a Southern Baptist publisher ended sales of pink Bibles which raised money for Komen. Over the last several years, Catholic dioceses around the country have pulled support from the Komen Foundation and their “Race for the Cure” events.
Given the Republican, pro-life views of several higher-ups at the Komen Foundation, it seems the decision may have been a long-time coming. Many are pointing at Karen Handel, former Georgia Secretary of State and Sarah Palin-endorsed candidate for governor in 2010, who joined Komen in April 2011 as Senior VP for Public Policy. During her campaign for governor, Handel not only campaigned as an anti-abortion candidate but promised to eliminate state funding to Planned Parenthood.
Rep. Stearns, whose investigation is the immediate reason for the Komen Foundation’s decision, told the Dallas Morning News Wednesday: “This investigation of Planned Parenthood’s finances and use of taxpayer dollars is ongoing, and we are continuing to work with Planned Parenthood in getting the requested record and documents. I was not contacted by anyone at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and this decision was solely up to them.”
TPM has also not heard back on whether the Komen Foundation would consider resuming funding once the Congressional investigation is closed.
Correction: an earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Rep. Cliff Stearns as hailing from Texas, not Florida. TPM regrets the error.
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.