When the nation's most prominent breast-cancer organization abandons Planned Parenthood, it's a stunning development for women's health.
In a decision that is inflaming passions on both sides of the abortion debate, the world's largest breast cancer organization, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is cutting off its financing of breast cancer screening and education programs run by Planned Parenthood affiliates.
The move will halt financing to 19 of Planned Parenthood's 83 affiliates, which received nearly $700,000 from the Komen foundation last year and have been receiving similar grants since at least 2005.
A spokesperson for the Komen foundation claims the group recently adopted new funding standards, cutting off grants to organizations facing investigations by local, state, or federal authorities. To put it mildly, that's a terribly weak explanation -- by this standard, if one far-right official targets Planned Parenthood anywhere in the country, for any reason at all, Komen for the Cure will simply cut off all grants.
The decision shows no regard for whether allegations against Planned Parenthood have merit, and perhaps more importantly, it shows even less regard for how the move will affect women's health.
Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, said that the decision "came so abruptly in the face of a long, good, working relationship with Komen" and that the change in financing criteria "was written specifically to address the political pressure that they've been under."
Ms. Richards said all of Planned Parenthood's affiliates provided around 770,000 women with breast examinations and paid for mammograms and ultrasounds for those who needed and could not afford further diagnostic services. She said she received the news from the Komen foundation in late December and had requested a meeting with officials there to discuss the matter but was rebuffed.
"Until really recently, the Komen foundation had been praising our breast health programs as essential," Ms. Richards said. "This really abrupt about-face was very surprising. I think that the Komen foundation has been bullied by right-wing groups."
Under the circumstances, it's hard to draw other conclusions.
Komen effectively had to decide which was more important: combating cancer or caving to the right's political crusade against Planned Parenthood. The foundation, tragically, did not choose wisely.
The result is fewer exams, fewer mammograms, more treatment delays, and an unnecessary setback for the health care needs for thousands of women.
Patrick Hurd, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia, told the Associated Press, "It sounds almost trite ... but cancer doesn't care if you're pro-choice, anti-choice, progressive, conservative. Victims of cancer could care less about people's politics."
If only Komen for the Cure felt the same way.