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Q&A: The Rift Between Komen, Planned Parenthood

So why did the nation's largest breast cancer charity cut off funding to Planned Parenthood? The answer depends on whom you ask. Here's a quick Q&A about Tuesday's decision.

Who are the players?

On one side is the charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which says it has raised $1.9 billion worldwide for breast cancer since it was created 30 years ago. Nancy Brinker started the foundation after Susan Komen, her sister, died of breast cancer.

On the other is Planned Parenthood, the 90-year-old organization that operates nearly 800 health centers nationwide. It bills itself as "America's most trusted provider of reproductive health care." Among its many services are breast cancer screening, contraceptives and abortions.

What happened Tuesday?

Komen announced that it was ending its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates. Nineteen groups received Komen grants worth a total of $680,000 last year and $580,000 the year before, Planned Parenthood says, for breast cancer screening and other breast health services.

So why the cutoff?

This is where the two sides differ. Komen says it was forced to make the move by a new policy that prevents it from giving grant money to groups that are under investigation. In this case, the focus is a congressional inquiry launched last fall by Florida Republican Cliff Stearns, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Investigative Subcommittee. He is looking into whether Planned Parenthood is using federal money to fund abortions.

Planned Parenthood and its allies say that Komen is simply bowing to the demands of anti-abortion-rights activists.

Why would a breast cancer charity give money to Planned Parenthood in the first place?

Planned Parenthood says it performed 750,000 breast exams and breast care procedures in 2010, the latest year for which information is available. The organization says it has done 4 million breast exams in the past five years — 170,000 of them funded by Komen.

How significant is this cut for Planned Parenthood, and what does it mean for clinics?

Planned Parenthood spends $1 billion annually, so the $680,000 it says it got from Komen last year is just a tiny fraction of the budget. The organization says 19 affiliates are affected and it is moving quickly to recoup the lost revenue. Already in hand: a $250,000 donation from the family foundation of Dallas oilman/philanthropist Lee Fikes and his wife, Amy.

How is this affecting the Komen organization?

Before this action, Komen had lost out on donations from groups and individuals who opposed its ties to Planned Parenthood. Several Catholic dioceses around the country stopped supporting Komen because of the issue. So ending its funding for Planned Parenthood could restore some of those funding sources.

The Southern Baptist Convention's publishing division was also recently forced to pull its line of pink-bound Bibles because of complaints that some of the proceeds donated to Komen might be finding their way to Planned Parenthood.

On the other hand, numerous calls for boycotting Susan G. Komen and for supporting Planned Parenthood have sprung up on social media since Tuesday's decision.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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