Rep. Stearns at center of Planned Parenthood funding dispute
Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 5:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 5:43 p.m.
The major player in the fight against breast cancer has cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, reportedly because U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns is investigating Planned Parenthood for possibly using taxpayer money to pay for abortions.
The Susan G. Komen for the Cure charity announced on Tuesday that it would no longer provide money to Planned Parenthood's affiliates, saying in a statement that it had launched "more stringent eligibility and performance criteria" for groups that seek its help.
The Komen charity had sent resources to Planned Parenthood for the past five years, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. Last year, the Komen organization funded 19 Planned Parenthood affiliates around the country.
That money went for breast examinations, breast cancer educational programs and referrals for mammograms. The Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday that the money from the Komen Foundation covered about 170,000 breast exams and 6,400 mammogram referrals nationally.
Judith Selzer, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood's West Palm Beach affiliate, said it was the only one of the five operating throughout the state that was affected by the Komen Foundation's decision.
While the amount provided by the Komen group was not readily available, Selzer said it went for funding breast cancer education programs.
Her staff was tasked with supplying information and instruction about breast screenings to a minimum of 4,000 low-income women.
Stearns, an Ocala Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee's investigative subcommittee, opened an inquiry into Planned Parenthood's operations last September. Stearns' district also includes part of Alachua County.
That came two months after a pro-life group, Americans United for Life, released a report outlining alleged malfeasance and violations of state and local laws by Planned Parenthood — allegations Planned Parenthood adamantly denied.
Stearns sent Planned Parenthood a letter requesting that the parent agency and its affiliates nationwide supply his panel with internal audits conducted from 1998 to 2010; state-level audits going back 20 years; copies of policies certifying that federal dollars are not co-mingled in programs that fund abortions; and procedures for reporting crimes such as statutory rape, sexual abuse and suspected sex trafficking.
Planned Parenthood receives roughly $360 million a year from the federal government for women's health services — none of which is used for abortions, Planned Parenthood maintains.
Federal funding of abortions — except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is threatened — has been banned since 1976 under the Hyde Amendment.
According to a Fox News report on Tuesday, Komen Foundation spokeswoman Leslie Aun said the charity's move was based on new internal rules that ban grants to organizations being investigated by authorities at any level.
Stearns' probe fell into that category, the group said.
The New York Times noted in a report on Tuesday that the Komen Foundation, in a statement, called its break with Planned Parenthood "regrettable," but added that "we must continue to evolve to best meet the needs of the women we serve and most fully advance our mission."
Some news reports noted that the Komen Foundation insisted that its decision was not a political one. But advocates on both sides appeared to dispute that.
A pro-life group, lifenews.com, reporting on the rift between the two organizations, noted that the Komen Foundation acted "(a)fter years of protests and criticism from pro-life advocates" about Komen Foundation's financial support of Planned Parenthood.
The group also quoted Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, who called on pro-life advocates to thank the Komen Foundation.
"This is an amazing victory for pro-lifers who have asked Komen for years to stop funding the abortion giant," Ruse told lifenews.com
The Huffington Post, a liberal website, observed in a report Wednesday that in April 2011 the Komen Foundation had hired as its new vice president a former gubernatorial candidate from Georgia, Karen Handel, who in 2010 had campaigned on "an aggressively anti-abortion and anti-Planned Parenthood platform."
Handel's pro-life stance, and opposition to Planned Parenthood, had netted her an endorsement in the race from Sarah Palin, The Huffington Post pointed out.
On The Washington Post's website Wednesday, Lori Stahl, a journalist from Dallas, where the Komen Foundation is headquartered, wrote that the group's founder, Nancy Brinker, is a "longtime" donor to the Republican Party and had served as ambassador to Hungary under former President George W. Bush, who is staunchly pro-life.
Stahl noted that the decision regarding Planned Parenthood also came shortly after the Komen Foundation announced a new partnership with the George W. Bush Institute, the "policy-making arm" of Bush's presidential library.
Stearns, in a statement to the Star-Banner, said his investigation of Planned Parenthood's finances and spending of taxpayer dollars is ongoing, and that his committee continues to work with Planned Parenthood to obtain the documents sought.
Stearns added that he was not contacted by the Komen Foundation. "This decision was solely up to them," he said.
Stearns praised the Komen group for its leadership on breast cancer research and called breast exams and breast-cancer screening "vital" to the health of millions of American women.
"Although Planned Parenthood provides health services, it remains the nation's largest abortion provider. I understand this new policy by Susan G. Komen for the Cure, but my main concern is why the American taxpayers are providing over $1 million a day to Planned Parenthood when we have trillion dollar deficits and a national debt exceeding $15 trillion," Stearns said.
Contact Bill Thompson at 867-4117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.