The nation’s leading breast cancer charity is under intense scrutiny for its decision to cut off funding for breast cancer screening programs run by Planned Parenthood. Susan G. Komen for the Cure has confirmed it is withdrawing support for 19 of Planned Parenthood’s 83 affiliates, citing a new policy barring funding for any groups under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. Planned Parenthood’s finances are currently the subject of a probe led by anti-abortion Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida. "If you look at all the government reports which have already been done on Planned Parenthood, they’re completely cleared of any of the charges that Cliff Stearns claims he’s looking for. So this is a witch hunt," says Jodi Jacobson, the editor-in-chief of RH Reality Check, who recently wrote the article, "The Cancerous Politics and Ideology of the Susan G. Komen Foundation." We also speak with Patrick Hurd, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia and a recipient of a 2010 grant from Komen, and his wife, Betsi Hurd, who has participated in several Komen fundraising events and is currently battling breast cancer. "This isn’t about fundraising," says Patrick Hurd. "This is about making sure that we provide access to women, that we continue to provide education to women, that we continue to serve the women in the communities where Planned Parenthoods are located." [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZALEZ: The nation’s leading breast cancer charity is under intense scrutiny for its decision to cut off funding for breast cancer screening programs run by Planned Parenthood, which is the nation’s leading provider of reproductive healthcare services. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has confirmed it is withdrawing support for 19 of Planned Parenthood’s 83 affiliates, citing a new policy barring funding for any groups under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. Planned Parenthood’s finances are currently the subject of a probe led by an anti-abortion Republican congressman, Cliff Stearns of Florida.
Komen’s move will stop hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to Planned Parenthood, used to provide breast cancer screenings and other related services. It’s evoked heavy criticism from prominent women’s groups, politicians and public health advocates. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said, quote, "It’s hard to understand how [an] organization with whom we share a mission of saving women’s lives could have bowed to this kind of bullying." Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California said on the House floor that she could no longer support the foundation.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER: I have been a big booster of the Susan G. Komen organization. But not anymore. Their announcement yesterday that they are no longer going to fund any organization that is being investigated by a federal, state or local body means that Planned Parenthood is no longer going to receive $600,000 a year. Now, ironically, yesterday, the Komen organization also announced, and with great concern, in a statement, that the dismal rate of breast cancer screening with women who do not have insurance is something like 38.2 percent. Last year, the Planned Parenthood organization was responsible for over 700,000—700,000—breast cancer screenings for women who are poor, for women who don’t have insurance, for women who seek to get the healthcare they get through Planned Parenthood.
JUAN GONZALEZ: News of the funding cut galvanized many of Planned Parenthood’s supporters. The organization collected $400,000 in donations by mid-afternoon on Wednesday.
The Komen Foundation did not respond to Democracy Now!’s request for an interview. But in a video statement posted to YouTube on Wednesday, the founder and CEO of the Komen Foundation, Nancy Brinker, defended its decision.
NANCY BRINKER: Contrary to what some are saying, we are not pulling any existing grants. Current grants are not affected. As we move forward, we will implement these new strategies, which will allow us to serve even more women. We will never bow to political pressure. We will always stand firm in our goal to end breast cancer forever. We will never turn our backs on the women who need us the most. We do this because this is our promise. We don’t just talk about this promise; we live it every day, every single day. And the scurrilous accusations being hurled at this organization are profoundly hurtful to so many of us who have put our heart, soul and lives into this organization. But more importantly, they are a dangerous distraction from the work that still remains to be done in ridding the world of breast cancer.
AMY GOODMAN: Komen Foundation CEO, Nancy Brinker.
For more, we’re joined from Norfolk, Virginia, by two people who will be deeply impacted by this controversy. Patrick Hurd, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia and recipient of a 2010 grant from Komen, and his wife, Betsi Hurd, has participated in several Komen fundraising races, is currently battling breast cancer.
In D.C., we’re joined by Jodi Jacobson, editor-in-chief of RH Reality Check. Her recent article is "The Cancerous Politics and Ideology of the Susan G. Komen Foundation."
I want to start with Patrick Hurd. You’re the CEO of Planned Parenthood. Talk about the grant that you got from them and what you use it for in Southeastern Virginia.
PATRICK HURD: [inaudible] dollars to educate primarily Latino and young women of color in the Hampton Roads area about breast health, to teach them breast examinations, and to do early breast cancer screening. We actually doubled the goal that we had in that grant, and we also reached probably 10,000 young women with additional follow-up programming, video and outreach programs that we did.
It’s interesting, we’ve just filed our application for 2012, where we doubled that amount to $36,000, and it included mobile mammography to be held at our health centers here in the Hampton Road area. The Tidewater Affiliate of Komen and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia work closely together. They are our friends. They are our sisters in this battle to eradicate the country of breast cancer, and encouraged us to go ahead and file our application for 2012. It’s unlikely, though, that we’re going to receive or see that funding. And that’s sad.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you surprised?
PATRICK HURD: Very. And we’re still reeling a bit about this, as you can see with my wife sitting next to me. We’re dealing with this on two levels: one, my role as CEO, and another one, as the spouse of someone who’s going through, fighting this horrible, insidious disease.
JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to play a clip of a Bryan Fischer, who hosts the Focal Point show for the American Family Association, talking about the—praising this decision by the Komen Foundation.
BRYAN FISCHER: This is some great news on the winnable war front. Komen, the Komen breast cancer foundation, has been giving money to Planned Parenthood. They’ve been hammered by pro-life groups. And I’ve got an email here that says they’ve stopped doing that. Should you encounter any question about the Komen Foundation in relation to Planned Parenthood, here’s a response. We are pleased to let you know that Susan G. Komen for the Cure issued new criteria, effective January 1, 2012, that will eliminate any Planned Parenthood organization from being awarded a Komen grant. That is our winnable war moment for the day, something that the pro-life community has been working on for years with the Susan B. Komen—or Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Betsi Hurd, your reaction to this celebration of this decision?
BETSI HURD: I think it’s very sad that they’re basing breast cancer awareness and screening that Planned Parenthood does on the fact that they also do a very small portion of abortions in their services. The two have nothing to do with each other. And for women who do not have insurance, Planned Parenthood is doing this screening so that they can find the breast cancer early enough to cure it. I’m lucky I have insurance and, you know, am being treated for my breast cancer. But for other women, it’s—having gone through this, I just can’t imagine what other women who don’t have health insurance, and if Planned Parenthood can’t provide these services, what these women are going to do.
AMY GOODMAN: Last April, Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona took to the Senate floor and incorrectly claimed Planned Parenthood is predominately an abortion provider.
SEN. JON KYL: Everybody goes to clinics, to hospitals, to doctors and so on. Some people go to Planned Parenthood. But you don’t have to go to Planned Parenthood to get your cholesterol or your blood pressure checked. If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood. And that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. As it turns out, only 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is abortion. Senator Kyl’s office later said, quote, "his remark was not intended to be a factual statement." Betsi Hurd, talk about your own involvement with Komen. You’ve run in Races for the Cure?
BETSI HURD: I have not actually run in the races, but I’ve been there supporting, over the years, other people who have run in those races. We have a friend of ours whose mother passed away while she was a young woman, friends of our children. And so, we had been involved with this for many years and have actually felt that Komen was doing an excellent job at what they did in the awareness arena. But now they’re taking that awareness away from the people who need it the most, who don’t get, you know, yearly screening exams, maybe because they can’t afford to go to a doctor. But Planned Parenthood provides all of that for them. And it really is sad to me that Komen would take any group—take money away from any group that would benefit from having their breast exams.
JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to bring in Jodi Jacobson with RH Reality Check. You have been delving into this story, and could you talk about the—who are some of the people on the board of the or staff of the Komen Foundation who might have been pushing this new direction?
JODI JACOBSON: Sure. We know that last year, in 2011, Komen hired Karen Handel, who was a gubernatorial candidate in South Carolina and who, during the course of her campaign, made clear that she wanted to defund Planned Parenthood, as well as other services for low-income women and families, such as the Healthy Babies initiative. She had that in a press release of hers. She has an agenda that includes defunding Planned Parenthood as part of her political life. She also yesterday tweeted some, you know, remarks that she then later deleted about how—you know, about the controversy that was created by Planned Parenthood, which actually was created by Komen. However, they also have on their board someone, Jane Abraham, who is the chair, the general chairman, of the Susan B. Anthony List, which is a well-known anti-choice organization.
And the thing that’s key about both of these people is that they’re both involved, in the past and in the present, in lying about breast cancer. Both of them have been engaged in lying both about Planned Parenthood’s services as well as about causes of breast cancer, and completely disputed and unscientific claims about links between breast cancer and abortion. So I’m curious why Susan G. Komen, which ostensibly is the leading organization funding research on breast cancer, has not only on its staff, but also on its board, people who actually lie about breast cancer.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Jodi Jacobson, this congressional investigation, it’s delving into similar type of video exposés, supposedly, about what Planned Parenthood is doing. Could you talk about that?
JODI JACOBSON: You know, let’s put this in perspective. Planned Parenthood is under attack everywhere by the far right in this country. There isn’t a state legislature that’s not run by the Tea Party or the far right, the GOP, that isn’t attacking Planned Parenthood. Cliff Stearns has power, and he’s abusing it. He’s wasting taxpayer money to ask Planned Parenthood for 12 years of documents that are already available through the inspector general and have already been audited. So, there is no actual—this is kind of like, you know, voter fraud where there is no voter fraud. There is no evidence whatsoever of misuse of funds by Planned Parenthood. But Cliff Stearns, who is also a known anti-choice congressperson, is on a witch hunt. So, to call this a, quote-unquote, "investigation" gives it something of a semblance of legitimacy that it really doesn’t have, because if you look at all the government reports which have already been done on Planned Parenthood, they’re completely cleared of any of the charges that Cliff Stearns claims he’s looking for. So this is a witch hunt.
And for Komen to use the Cliff Stearns investigation, which, again, is a witch hunt, as a basis for denying funding to Planned Parenthood for breast screening is really beyond the pale. What they’re doing here, it’s not just about Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood actually serves low-income women in the Latina and African-American community who have higher rates of death from breast cancer because of lack of screening. That’s proven by the National Cancer Institute. So to take money away from the single—the provider with the single greatest reach into communities of color and low-income women, who are already most vulnerable to dying from breast cancer, is somewhat inexplicable to me.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to Patrick Hurd to talk about the image and reality of what happens at Planned Parenthood clinics—with the vast majority, what, 97 percent of the services, of course, are not around abortion—and who gets served, especially in this time with this increasing disparity of wealth and with, what, 15 percent of the U.S. population in poverty—what it means for women to have difficulty getting breast cancer screenings at your clinic.
PATRICK HURD: Our health centers are places of healing. They are nonjudgmental. They are welcoming. We embrace all manner of ethnicity, religion, age, men and women. We are, in many cases, the sole source of healthcare for men and women here in Hampton Roads, whether it be STI testing, general wellness visits, other types of exams. With respect to breast health, here in Hampton Roads, the incidence of breast cancer is one in six. In the nation, it’s one in eight. So we have a very deep problem. And we’re trying to make a dent in that incident rate and improve outcomes for women by having this early detection and this early breast screening. We have a wonderful staff, very knowledgeable, licensed professionals, Ob-Gyns on staff that are skilled, nurse practitioners, midwives that are also skilled in doing these screenings. And we have a wonderful referral network of physicians and hospitals in the area that we can refer patients to to make sure that they get the very, very needed care.
AMY GOODMAN: I just wanted to ask Betsi Hurd—and to thank you for coming in, Betsi; I know it’s not easy; you’re in the midst of chemotherapy—what it means to deal with this debate. And some are calling it "pink versus pink," you know, the pink ribbons of Planned Parenthood, the pink ribbons of the Komen Foundation. Is this dividing your community?
BETSI HURD: I think that it is beginning to divide the community. I don’t have—I don’t know what they want to do with the abortion issue. Why is that even coming up with breast cancer? The two have nothing to do with each other. And I do think that people are going to start to take sides. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I probably will not support Komen. I probably will not be part of their races.
Just this last year, my husband just started with Planned Parenthood in June, and that was when I was diagnosed. And his Planned Parenthood honored me in the race as their person. And I can tell you, standing at their booth and watching all the people come by, many of them told us how we saved their lives by being able to do this screening for them, either them or a family member. And, you know, it was just wonderful to hear that Planned Parenthood, in their preventive phase of their work, was able to really help people. It’s also interesting to know that Planned Parenthood does prenatal work on women. So we’re not all about abortion. And that issue just has to go away. The two have nothing to do with each other.
I don’t know—you know, it will be an individual decision for people, whether they continue to support Komen, but there’s also the American Cancer Society that you can support instead, to send your funds there, and other cancer research companies that you can send your funds there to get the same sort of result. It’s sad that Komen was the group that brought breast cancer to the forefront and made it, you know, something everybody recognizes now. But what they’re doing now is just really against, I think, their principles, in that they’re taking away this resource for all those women who otherwise won’t have it.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Patrick Hurd, the enormous outpouring of support from members and supporters of Planned Parenthood in the last few days, are you encouraged by that?
PATRICK HURD: I am. I really am. It’s been touching. I’ve had people calling from around the country. I had a gentleman that called last night and said that he was shifting a significant portion of the monies that he has been paying to Komen to Planned Parenthood, and let me know that, "Oh, by the way, I’m not pro-choice, but I don’t understand why my politics has anything to do with my ability to continue to support breast cancer screening, breast cancer detection, and I’m going to change my funds to Planned Parenthood." And he wrote letters and emails to Komen to let them know of his decision.
But this isn’t about fundraising. This is about making sure that we provide access to women, that we continue to provide education to women, that we continue to serve the women in the communities where Planned Parenthoods are located. There’s been some allegations that this is just a ploy by Planned Parenthood to try and increase our coffers. And that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you all for being with us, Betsi and Patrick Hurd—Betsi battling breast cancer herself, Patrick Hurd, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeast Virginia—as well as Jodi Jacobson with RH Reality Check, editor-in-chief, in Washington, D.C., author of the article "The Cancerous Politics and Ideology of the Susan G. Komen Foundation." Hearing Cecile Richards last night saying she hopes that this decision can be turned around, it’s clearly, at this point, a work in progress, and we will continue to follow what happens.