Susan G. Komen Top Officials Resign as Backlash Gains Steam

Dr. Kathy Plesser, a Manhattan radiologist on the medical advisory board of Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s New York chapter, said she plans to resign from her position unless Komen reverses its decision to pull grant money from Planned Parenthood.

Nancy Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Photo: kostia/Flickr

“I’m a physician and my interest is women’s health, and I am disturbed by Komen’s decision because I am a very strong advocate for serving under-served women,” Plesser told The Huffington Post.

“Eliminating this funding will mean there’s no place for these women to go. Where are these women to go to have a mammography? Do they not deserve to have mammography?”

Susan G. Komen, the nation’s largest breast cancer charity, announced on Tuesday that it had adopted a new rule against partnering with organizations that are under investigation, and that it would therefore sever ties with Planned Parenthood, which is currently under investigation in Congress.

The groups that prompted that investigation are anti-abortion advocacy organizations that have long criticized Planned Parenthood, primarily a women’s health and family planning organization, over the fact that some of its clinics offer abortions.

With her decision, Plesser joins Komen’s top public health official, Mollie Williams, and the executive director of Komen’s Los Angeles County chapter, Deb Anthony, both of whom also resigned in protest.

According to ABC News, two days after Planned Parenthood announced that its funding from the Susan G. Komen foundation had been cut, women’s health advocates are taking to the airwaves to make their dissatisfaction known, decrying the decision as a crass political calculation and urging Komen to reverse the decision.

Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, said she was “very shocked” that Komen, a leading breast cancer charity, was cutting ties, and said she hoped they would change their minds.

“I really hope that they will rethink this decision and that we can become partners again,” Cecile Richards said Thursday on MSNBC. “We share with the Komen foundation the same goal, which is to make sure that women get access to health care.”

“We were very shocked and very surprised that they decided to pull funding from our health centers, because we’re a very significant provider of breast exams to women.”

In a conference call with the media, Komen founder and Chief Executive Nancy G. Brinker said the decision was due to policy changes intended to improve how grantees are selected, Los Angeles Times reports. It had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood’s position as an abortion provider, she said.

“This has been a contentious issue,” she added of the rift between the two well-known women’s health organizations. “Our position has been lost…. Our only mission is to design treatments and cures for this disease and to take care of women in need of services.”

Planned Parenthood announced Wednesday that it had received $400,000 in donations in the 24 hours following Komen’s announcement. In addition, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg said on Thursday that he would give $250,000 to Planned Parenthood to help make up for the loss.

“Politics have no place in health care,” he said in a statement. “Breast cancer screening saves lives and hundreds of thousands of women rely on Planned Parenthood for access to care. We should be helping women access that care, not placing barriers in their way.”

As of Thursday afternoon, 26 Democratic senators had attached their names to a letter urging Komen to reverse the decision.

“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,” the senators wrote in the letter.

“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.”

Planned Parenthood has in the last several years become a frequent target of congressional Republicans because it provides abortion services in addition to other women’s health services while receiving government support. (The government support cannot be used to pay for abortions.)

The organization is currently being investigated by the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee over whether or not its funding may have gone to providing abortions, but no result of that investigation has been announced.

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