Udall applauds Denver Komen affiliate for standing by Planned Parenthood

At the end of a day that saw the mediasphere light up with reactions to news that juggernaut breast cancer foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure aimed to end its financial support of Planned Parenthood, Senator Mark Udall praised Komen’s Denver affiliate for standing by Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

“Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) does important work to educate women about breast cancer and provide screening exams that are critical to early detection,” he wrote in a release. “I applaud Komen’s Denver affiliate for pushing back on their national organization and insisting that they be allowed to continue providing grants to PPRM, which help ensure access to affordable, life-saving services for Colorado women on the Front Range.

“Women’s health should never be used as a political football, and I hope the national organization of Susan G. Komen reverses its decision to end its partnership with Planned Parenthood elsewhere in our state and across the country.”

Staffers earlier said Udall was crafting a response to the Komen news with Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. It’s unclear if Udall and Bennet at this point still plan to pen a letter to Komen together. Colorado’s senators’ staffers told the Colorado Independent the two wanted to directly address news coming out of Colorado, where the two major women’s health organizations, Komen and Planned Parenthood, seemed to be coming to their own agreement.

A group of roughly two dozen U.S. Senators signed onto a letter to the national Komen foundation decrying the decision to pull back crucial support in the battle against breast cancer for what seemed to be clearly partisan political reasons.

Komen’s rationale for the move has shifted in the hours since it made its decision public.

Known for its marketing savvy– this is the group that hosts enormously popular “races for the cure” around the country and that launched the omnipresent pink-ribbon campaign– Komen first said the decision was not tied to this year’s turbo-charged anti-Planned Parenthood abortion politics but was simply the results of new rules governing grantee eligibility, specifically new rules that precluded organizations under investigation from receiving Komen cash.

The congressional investigation that moved Planned Parenthood off Komen funding lists, however, was very much a product of the anti-Planned Parenthood politics that shaped this year’s House Republican agenda. It was launched by anti-abortion Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns and based on a specious and mostly debunked report by anti-abortion group Americans United for Life.

The Komen policy changes seemed transparently motivated by the House investigation, especially in light of the fact that leadership at Komen has recently included strong anti-abortion, anti-Planned Parenthood figures such as Senior Vice President Karen Handel and Komen Advocacy Alliance board member Jane Abraham.

As the Washington Post reported, however, Komen CEO Nancy Brinker just hours ago walked back reference to the Stearns investigation, saying the new funding rules “had very little to do with the ongoing congressional probe” and were based on the fact that not all Planned Parenthood clinics provide mammograms.

“We have decided not to fund, wherever possible, pass-through grants. We were giving them money, they were sending women out for mammograms. What we would like to have are clinics where we can directly fund mammograms.”

Northern Colorado Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains clinics will continue to draw funds, as will clinics in Texas and Southern California, she said, because “they are the only provider” of breast health services in the areas they serve.

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 here, but Komen got big bang for those bucks. Planned Parenthood detected nearly 20 percent of all of the cases of breast cancer discovered through Denver Komen spending.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains serves patients whose health-care options are severely limited. According to The Denver Post, roughly 84 percent of PPRM patients have no health insurance and 62 percent live at or below the federal poverty line.

*Edit note: This story has been updated to include citation to statistics first reported by The Denver Post on the insurance coverage status and income levels of patients served by Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. A previous Colorado Independent article credited the Post for the statistics but similar credit was inadvertently omitted from this story.