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Komen Foundation Exploits Breast Cancer Mission to Make War on Planned Parenthood

The Komen Foundation has been infiltrated by right-wing ideologues who saw to the withdrawal of support for breast exams at Planned Parenthood clinics.

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Wasteful or not, any Congressperson can start such an inquiry, even for specious reasons. This is not equivalent to a legal "investigation" of an organization.

What does Stearns have to do with Komen? Anti-choice groups have long targeted Komen for its partnership with Planned Parenthood, in part by haranguing the organization and listing them as targets of various protests and boycotts, and in part by touting the medically-disproven and specious claims about abortion and breast cancer. A group known as Life Decisions International (LDI), the website of which is "fightpp.org," has long had Komen on its boycott list.

These efforts hardly appear to have affected Komen's bottom line since the foundation's total gross revenue in 2010 [PDF] was nearly $421 million, only several hundred thousand dollars of which were granted over the past five years by Komen's state affiliates to local Planned Parenthood partners for education, screening, and referrals. Moreover, as a large and well-known organization (albeit one criticized for its work on many levels) Komen appeared to stay above the ideological mud-pit of the anti-choice movement.

Last fall, however, things began to change. LDI began quiety telling other anti-choice groups that it had "won" the battle with Komen and await public announcement of a policy change.

And suddenly, Cliff Stearns inquiry became a reason for the Komen national office to change what state affiliates could do with their funds. Komen's board recently approved a new policy stating that affliates can only provide grant funds to other organizations if:

• The applicant is not currently debarred from the receipt of federal or state funding.

• No key personnel of applicant or any of its affiliates has been convicted of fraud or a crime involving any other financial or administrative impropriety within the last year.

• The applicant or any of its affiliates is not currently under a local, state or federal formal investigation for financial or administrative impropriety or fraud. ("Affiliate" means any entities that control, are controlled by, or are under the same control as applicant or independent entities operating under the same name or brand as applicant.)

While the policy ostensibly affects "any" organization to which Komen affiliates might grant money, the memo sent to state affiliates specifically targetsPlanned Parenthood.

"Currently, however, various authorities at both the state and federal levels are conducting investigations involving [Planned Parenthood] and some of its local chapters, and the organization is barred from receiving government funding in numerous states. Under these new criteria, Planned Parenthood will be ineligible to receive new funding from Komen until these investigations are complete and these issues are resolved."

But there are no "authorities" investigating Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood is not barred from receiving federal government funding in any state. No mature organization concerned about the health and well-being of women at risk of breast cancer would have created a policy targeting another respected organization with a record of saving untold lives.

So why the shift? First, Komen last year hired Karen Handel, a former Georgia anti-choice gubernatorial candidate and Sarah Palin acolyte who promised as part of her platform to defund Planned Parenthood and other vital health services. Handel, who lost her race but is said to have future political ambitions, is now senior vice president for policy at Komen. She was originally endorsed in her race by and received money from current GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, with whom some sources suggest she remains closely allied. Romney, in turn, has suddenly become more anti-choice than thou and has promised a federal personhood amendment as well as to defund Planned Parenthood.