Rep. DeGette ‘still concerned about how Komen is making its funding decisions’

Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette today lauded the announcement made by breast cancer foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure that it planned to rework new policies that prevented it from funding Planned Parenthood. DeGette told the Colorado Independent that the dramatic turnaround, while good news, served mostly to raise wider questions about whether or not the blockbuster charity organization was basing its health-care funding decisions on solid scientific findings.

“I was stunned to find out that Komen announced it had decided to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, which is the largest provider of women’s health care in the country,” DeGette said. “I was pleased when they reversed that decision. But I am concerned about how Komen is making its decisions.”

DeGette explained that she has had concerns about Komen decision-making for a while and that its perilous up-and-down journey through some of the murkier reaches of the abortion-politics swamp this week demonstrated confusion at the heart of the organization.

“As the attacks on Planned Parenthood [in Congress] revved up last year, Komen was touting the fact that it didn’t support stem cell research, even though they know stem cell research shows great potential to treat breast cancer.”

DeGette elaborated that thought in a release sent out minutes ago.

I have grave concerns that last fall, seemingly during the same time they decided to change [the funding policy to cut off Planned Parenthood], Komen also enacted a new policy of refusing to fund the pursuit of lifesaving ethical embryonic stem cell research (ESC), despite a history of recognizing its great potential. Given the massive resources of their organization and the great potential of ESC [to bolster] breast cancer treatment and [the search for] cures, it is deeply disturbing that Komen has turned its back on this research because of the same political pressures that led them to the original Planned Parenthood decision.

A politically-motivated grant process has no place in the pursuit of life-saving screenings, treatments, and research.

DeGette has long been an advocate for stem cell research and re-introduced her Stem Cell Research Advancement Act last year. The act passed the House and Senate years ago but fell victim to a George W. Bush veto. The legislation would establish a more permanent legal framework in which scientists could conduct stem cell research without being subject to the start-and-stop political pressures that shape life on Capitol Hill.

DeGette said she was “very glad” that Colorado’s Komen affiliates “stood up for science-based care” when they asked to be excluded from — and when Aspen Komen rejected altogether– the ban on funding Planned Parenthood and did so based on the statistically proven vital work Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains has done over the years to detect and head-off breast cancer among thousands of Coloradans with severely limited health care options.

DeGette said the Komen story this week was a wake-up call.

“I can’t tell you, we had such an outcry. My website and Facebook accounts were just full of messages,” she said.

“My daughter is 22 and she said this was the first time in her life she donated to Planned Parenthood. People need to be assured this major organization [Komen] is making science-based decisions.

DeGette said it was clear this week’s funding flap was part of a larger messaging battle.

“You know I sit on the Stearns committee doing the investigation into Planned Parenthood,” DeGette said, referring to the Planned Parenthood audit called by Florida anti-abortion Rep. Cliff Stearns and based on a mostly debunked Americans United for Life report on alleged Planned Parenthood misdeeds and corruption. The Stearns investigation was the reason Komen initially gave for throwing Planned Parenthood off its funding rolls.

“Listen, some Republicans in Congress have had a vendetta against Planned Parenthood for years, but 97 percent of what that organization does is well-women visits. For many of those women all over the country these are the only type of annual checkups they receive. There is no public tax money being spent on abortion and abortion is a small part of Planned Parenthood’s mission.

“I have been saying for years that these lawmakers don’t just oppose abortion. They oppose birth control and disease prevention for women. It’s the 21st century and we’re arguing about birth control?

“A lot of Americans woke up this week and said, ‘wow, the GOP agenda really is extreme. It’s about opposing contraception and mammography.’

“We want Komen to get back to science-based funding decisions”

DeGette is the head of the congressional Pro-Choice Caucus and has been a lead critic of the attacks on Planned Parenthood launched on Capitol Hill this year. Together with California Rep. Henry Waxman, she denounced the Stearns investigation as “unwarranted” and as a legalistic cover to “harass and shut down an organization simply because Republicans disagree with the work that it does.”