For now, Denver Komen leaves politics out of funding decision

The Denver affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s top charity battling breast cancer, announced this week it would not automatically stop funding Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. Komen made clear in its announcement that the decision is based on the fact that, in Colorado, Planned Parenthood is a leader in fighting breast cancer and is also likely the organization that provides the most bang for the buck to the Denver Komen foundation.

According to numbers made public by Komen this week, Denver Komen gave Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains $125,000 last year, or 4.3 percent of the nearly $3 million Denver Komen spent fighting breast cancer. Yet Planned Parenthood clinics here detected nearly 20 percent of all of the cases of breast cancer discovered through Denver Komen spending, which supports roughly 40 organizations operating clinics, shelters, hospices, research facilities and so on mostly across the northern Front Range but also in Summit, Park and Douglas Counties.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains uses its Komen money overwhelmingly to serve patients whose health-care options are severely limited. As the Denver Post reported yesterday, 84 percent of PPRM patients have no health insurance and 62 percent live at or below the federal poverty line.

In deciding not to preclude future funding of the local Planned Parenthood chapter, Denver Komen has offered a small counter narrative to the dramatic news yesterday that the national Komen organization has decided against any further Planned Parenthood funding pending the conclusion of a highly charged congressional audit that came as part of an historic assault on the women’s reproductive health and abortion provider. The audit was launched last year by social-conservatives in the Republican-controlled House who were spurred to act by anti-abortion organizations, mainly the Susan B Anthony List Americans United for Life.

National spokespeople for Komen dismissed arguments that the organization had succumbed to political pressure, citing only the fact that Planned Parenthood is under congressional investigation and that, according to new grantee criteria, organizations under investigation can not be considered for funding.

It’s unclear why Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains doesn’t fall within that criteria.

PPRM Spokesperson Monica McCafferty told the Colorado Independent that, whatever the reasoning, the fact is “Denver Komen has been a strong advocate” for her organization.

In considering the national news, Mother Jones reported perhaps another more direct site of pressure that may be shaping Komen decisions regarding Planned Parenthood.

The magazine points to Komen senior vice president Karen Handel, who was appointed last April after running as an outspoken anti-Planned Parenthood candidate for governor in Georgia’s Republican primary. Handel now runs Komen’s federal and state lobbying efforts.

“[S]ince I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood,” Handel wrote in a campaign blog post quoted by Mother Jones, which adds that Handel pledged at the time to eliminate all state funds for breast and cervical cancer screening to the group if she were elected governor.


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