Aspen Komen leads revolt against anti-Planned Parenthood national policy

The Aspen affiliate of juggernaut breast cancer foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure rejected the national foundation’s new policy to end funding cancer screening and education provided by women’s health care and abortion provider Planned Parenthood. The news from Aspen came hours before reports began to leak this morning that national Komen leadership may be reversing its new funding policy. The Aspen news drew praise from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which runs vital breast cancer screenings for low-income women in Glenwood Springs roughly 25 miles outside the tony cosmopolitan ski town.

“The [Aspen Komen] decision to break from its national office over a poorly thought-out policy sends a strong signal about the importance of doing what is best for our communities,” PPRM President and CEO Vicki Cowart said in a release sent out late Thursday night. “Planned Parenthood and Komen share a common goal and vision– and that is to advance women’s health. We know people depend on both our organizations to serve and support low income and underinsured or uninsured individuals across our state.”

“We hope [the Aspen decision] sends a strong signal that, when it comes to the issue of women’s health, there is no room for politics,” she said.

Komen’s Denver and Aspen affiliates asked for waivers from the new anti-Planned Parenthood policy, citing the major role played by Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) in battling breast cancer in the state. The national organization granted Denver Komen a waiver but turned down Aspen Komen’s request.

Planned Parenthood cares for roughly 1,000 patients a year in Colorado through Komen funding and has proven enormously effective at detecting breast cancer.

PPRM found nearly 20 percent of all of the cases of breast cancer discovered through Denver Komen spending last year and did so on a relative shoestring, pulling down only 4.3 percent or $125,000 of the $3 million Denver Komen donated to clinics and research centers in the northern Front Range.

Planned Parenthood spokesperson Monica McCafferty told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent last night that Aspen Komen gave PPRM’s Glenwood Springs clinic $40,000 last year for breast-cancer prevention and care and that the clinic used the money to perform 300 breast exams, teach 850 women to do self-examinations, refer about 40 women for mammograms and to help pay for those tests.

The Aspen Komen announcement came as a series of moves that have ignited the politics mediasphere in the wake of news that Komen would withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood nationally. It’s difficult not to see Aspen’s rejection of the new policy as a revolt. The decision, made unanimously by Aspen Komen’s board of directors and announced in ads placed in two local papers, suggests the level of dissent bubbling up within the larger Komen organization to what appears to be a politically motivated decision handed down from leadership who failed to sufficiently consult with local Komen decision-makers familiar with operations on the ground.

Indeed, despite varying rationales given by national Komen representatives for the controversial policy change and assurances that the decision to cut off Planned Parenthood was not tied to this year’s especially fraught anti-abortion anti-Planned Parenthood politics, sources inside Komen are beginning to confirm that the new policy was adopted specifically to cut off Planned Parenthood and was the work of recently hired anti-abortion personnel, including former Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel and Susan B Anthony List Chairman Jane Abraham.

In its advertisement, Aspen Komen said halting funding to Planned Parenthood would be “contrary to its mission.”

In its release on the Aspen announcement, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains said it applauded the “brave and courageous move by the Denver and Aspen affiliates of Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation to put women’s health above a politically-motivated decision that would have halted funding breast cancer prevention, screenings, and education at Planned Parenthood health centers in Colorado.”

Nearly two dozen members of the U.S. Senate sent a strongly worded letter to Komen Thursday asking the organization to rethink its decision to distance itself from Planned Parenthood.