The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, a leading charity for breast cancer, announced Tuesday that it is ceasing its partnership with Planned Parenthood in prevention screenings and education at the health centers across the nation.
Komen spokeswoman Leslie Aun told The Associated Press that the cutoff results from the charity's newly adopted criteria barring grants to organizations that are under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. Aun said this applies to Planned Parenthood because it's the focus of an inquiry launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., seeking to determine whether public money was improperly spent on abortions.
According to a statement from Planned Parenthood, the Komen Foundation began informing local Planned Parenthoods in the past few weeks that their breast cancer initiatives would no longer be eligible for new grants beyond existing agreements.
Planned Parenthood said it had set up a Breast Health Emergency Fund to offset the support that 19 of its local programs are expected to lose from the Komen Foundation. But the organization on Tuesday did not disguise its disdain for anti-abortion groups that they blame for threatening the foundation for its partnership.
"We are alarmed and saddened that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation appears to have succumbed to political pressure. Our greatest desire is for Komen to reconsider this policy and recommit to the partnership on which so many women count," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement released by the federation.
Planned Parenthood has been a continuous target of protests, boycotts and funding cutoffs because it is the largest provider of abortions in the nation. With almost 800 health centers in the U.S., the federation provides other services such as birth control, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and cancer screening.
Pro-life groups praised the action.
"As a breast cancer survivor, I applaud the decision made by the Komen Foundation to discontinue their partnership with the billion-dollar, abortion mega-provider, Planned Parenthood," Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest said. "The work of the Komen Foundation has life-saving potential and should not be intertwined with an industry dealing in death."
According to Planned Parenthood, its centers performed over 4 million breast exams in the past five years, almost 170,000 of them paid for by Komen Foundation grants.
"We're kind of reeling," said Patrick Hurd, who is CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia -- recipient of a 2010 grant from Komen. Hurd's wife, Betsi, is currently battling breast cancer.
"It sounds almost trite, going through this with Betsi, but cancer doesn't care if you're pro-choice, anti-choice, progressive, conservative," Hurd said. "Victims of cancer could care less about people's politics."
A statement issued by the Komen Foundation cited criteria for new grant-making and ensured there would be no gaps in its assistance.
"While it is regrettable when changes in priorities and policies affect any of our grantees, such as a long-standing partner like Planned Parenthood, we must continue to evolve to best meet the needs of the women we serve and most fully advance our mission," the statement said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.