Nearly two dozen U.S. senators have signed a letter to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, urging it to reinstate funding to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening exams for low-income women, The Washington Post is reporting.
The senators -- all Democrats, except for Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is an independent -- expressed concern in their letter that Komen's decision to cut funding could put women's lives at risk if they lost access to these potentially life-saving screenings because of a politically motivated attack.
The Komen Foundation insists that its decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood was not the result of pressure from anti-abortion groups, but rather part of a new effort to tighten eligibility requirements for funding.
Under the new requirements, Komen officials said, the foundation will not provide funding to any organization that is under federal investigation -- and Planned Parenthood is facing an investigation headed by U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., who has accused it of violating the 1976 Hyde Amendment by using federal dollars to provide abortions. Planned Parenthood has vehemently denied the allegations, citing years of audits that show federal funding is kept separate from other funding and is never used for abortions.
Opponents of Komen's decision still believe it was politically motivated. They are upset not only about the loss of funding, but about the credence the decision lends to Stearns' investigation.
The signatories included both stalwart liberals (e.g., Barbara Boxer of California and Sherrod Brown of Ohio) and conservative Democrats (e.g., Mark Begich of Alaska and Jon Tester of Montana), underscoring the scope of the opposition to the Komen Foundation's decision. Republicans, however, were largely pleased with the decision, and at least one senator, David Vitter of Louisiana, has openly praised it.
Here is the full text of the letter, which was sent to Komen CEO Nancy Brinker:
Dear Ambassador Brinker,
We write to express our disappointment with Susan G. Komen for the Cure's decision to cut funding for breast cancer prevention, screening, and education at Planned Parenthood health centers. This troubling decision threatens to reduce access to necessary, life-saving services. We urge Komen to reconsider its decision.
Planned Parenthood is a trusted provider of health care for women and men. More than 90 percent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood are primary and preventative including wellness exams and cancers screenings that save lives. Each year, Planned Parenthood health clinics provide 750,000 breast exams, 770,000 pap tests and nearly 4 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases. Twenty percent of all women in the U.S. have visited a Planned Parenthood health center.
For the past five years, grants to local affiliates of Planned Parenthood have been an important part of Planned Parenthood's work to protect women from breast cancer. Komen funding for Planned Parenthood has provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and resulted in 6,400 referrals for mammograms. In 2011 alone, grants from Komen provided Planned Parenthood with roughly $650,000 in funding for breast cancer prevention, screening, and education. According to a recent statement by Komen, 'In some areas of the U.S., our affiliates have determined a Planned Parenthood clinic to be the best or only local place where women can receive breast health care.'
It would be tragic if any woman -- let alone thousands of women -- lost access to these potentially life-saving screenings because of a politically motivated attack.
We earnestly hope that you will put women's health before partisan politics and reconsider this decision for the sake of the women who depend on both your organizations for access to the health care they need.
The 22 senators who signed the letter are:
Mark Begich (D-Alaska)Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii)Ben Cardin (D-Md.)Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)John Kerry (D-Mass.)Al Franken (D-Minn.)Max Baucus (D-Mt.)Jon Tester (D-Mt.)Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)Patty Murray (D-Wash.)