Komen’s Planned Parenthood decision all about politics


Breast cancer survivors stand in the shape of a pink ribbon at Bergfeld Park in Tyler, Tex., for the start of the sixth annual Komen Tyler Race for the Cure. (Tom Worner/AP)

The Dallas-based organization, which is the country’s biggest breast cancer charity, insisted its controversial decision to defund Planned Parenthood affiliates was made only in light of Komen’s new policy against supporting agencies that are under investigation. (The congressional investigation itself was launched by a conservative Republican and spurred by antiabortion groups.)

The decision was “not about politics,” a Komen statement insisted.

But the truth is that Komen founder Nancy Brinker has strong Republican ties and Cecile Richards, who leads Planned Parenthood, is daughter of late Texas Gov. Ann Richards and has longtime Democratic Party ties. Also worth noting: This is an election year.

Brinker, a longtime GOP donor who was ambassador to Hungary under then-President George W. Bush, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2009. She has cast Komen as above politics, saying its focus is women’s health.

But the decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood comes shortly after Komen unveiled a new partnership that strengthens its ties to the George W. Bush Institute. The institute is the policy-making arm of Bush’s presidential library, which is scheduled to open in Dallas next year.

Founders say the new effort, called the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon campaign, is an “innovative partnership” aimed at improving breast and cervical screenings for women in developing nations in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

Other partners include the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.

The founding corporate sponsor is Merck, which is making a financial contribution of $3 million over three years and in-kind contributions to a cervical cancer vaccination program in Tanzania.

Merck, which manufactures the Gardasil vaccine, is a longtime campaign donor to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose ties to the company were briefly an issue during his failed presidential bid. Rival Michele Bachman accused Perry of pushing the Gardasil vaccine on young girls in Texas at Merck’s behest in 2007.

Richards, too, is a Texan with a Bush connection; it was to George W. that her mother lost her reelection bid. And it is Dallas Democratic donors Ann and Lee Fikes who made news with their a $250,000 donation to Planned Parenthood in response to the Komen decision.

The money will help launch a Breast Health Emergency Fund to offset Komen’s funding cut at 19 local Planned Parenthood programs.

Over the past five years, Komen funding has provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams out of more than 4 million nationwide at Planned Parenthood health centers. Komen has also provided more than 6,400 out of 70,000 mammogram referrals.

Those non-abortion-related services are often the collateral damage when Planned Parenthood takes a hit.

Lori Stahl is a Dallas-based journalist. Follow her on Twitter at @LoriStahl.

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