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Aspen Komen defies its national foundation’s edict

Heather McGregor
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Although the Susan G. Komen Foundation has pulled its funding for breast cancer screening from Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide, the Komen Aspen affiliate says it will continue to fund the Glenwood Springs Planned Parenthood clinic.

“Halting funding to Planned Parenthood is contrary to our mission,” the Komen Aspen board of directors stated in an advertisement in Friday’s Aspen Times. “Unanimously, we have decided to continue our long-standing relationship with funding breast cancer services to Planned Parenthood.”

“This is our statement. We don’t want to say anything else,” said Barbara Newton, a member of the Komen Aspen board.

When asked how this position might affect Komen Aspen’s relationship with the national organization, Newton said, “We will see.”

The Komen Foundation’s Aspen affiliate typically grants the Glenwood Springs clinic $40,000 a year for breast-related health care, said Monica McCafferty, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains spokeswoman.

“Our relationship dates back to 1995,” McCafferty said of the Komen contributions. The Komen Foundation is a national organization that raises funds and works on various fronts in the fight against breast cancer.

In the past year, the Glenwood Springs Planned Parenthood clinic used the Komen funding to educate 850 women on breast self-examinations, to perform more than 300 breast exams, to refer about 40 women for mammograms and to help pay for those tests, McCafferty said.

For women whose mammograms yield cancer diagnoses, a clinic staffer assists them as they move on to other health care providers, she added.

“Navigating the health-care system can be intimidating and complex. We want to make sure they get to their appointments and understand the process,” McCafferty said.

Most women who use Planned Parenthood are in the 18-to-38 age group, and 86 percent pay directly for health-care services because they are uninsured, she said.

In late December, the Komen Foundation announced it would cut off the $700,000 a year it provides to Planned Parenthood, citing a new Komen policy that bars the foundation from donating to any agency that is under investigation by local, state or federal government.

U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., is conducting a congressional inquiry into how Planned Parenthood spends and reports its money.

Planned Parenthood frequently comes under attack by state and federal lawmakers because it provides abortions at many of its clinics, including the one in Glenwood Springs.

When the Komen Foundation said it would no longer fund Planned Parenthood, the Komen Aspen and Denver affiliates asked the organization’s national leaders for exemptions from the funding cutoff, McCafferty said.

The Komen Denver affiliate was granted an exemption and therefore can consider a pending Planned Parenthood grant request, she said. But the Aspen Komen affiliate was denied the request, she said.

If the Aspen affiliate had followed the national directive, its funding for the Glenwood Springs clinic would have ended in March. But the public statement by the Komen Aspen board sets the Aspen affiliate apart.

Meanwhile, there’s no guarantee that the Komen Denver affiliate will award its grant to Planned Parenthood, which operates 15 clinics along the Front Range, from Fort Collins to Pueblo.

“A lot of people are shocked and surprised that two organizations that share a mission to advance women’s health are at odds,” McCafferty said. “In the meantime, we are bracing ourselves to replace these funds.”

By Wednesday, the national Planned Parenthood organization reported receiving more than $400,000 in direct donations for breast-related health care.

McCafferty said Planned Parenthood officials are discussing internally how best to deal with any shortfall at clinics that lose funding. It will be a difficult service to extract, she said, because breast exams are an integral part of most women’s visits to Planned Parenthood.

Tara Rumery, of New Castle, mother of an 8-month-old, said she used Planned Parenthood services when she couldn’t afford regular doctor visits.

“They always had the breast self-exam info, and they were always asking if you were checking every month, and was there anything unusual,” Rumery said. “They always make sure you were aware of what could happen and the signs to look for.”

Planned Parenthood and health care providers everywhere urge women to examine their breasts every month for changes that can indicate a tumor or other problems.

“They treat the whole woman,” Dorothy Howard, of Glenwood Springs, wrote on Facebook Thursday against the funding cut-off.

“The name says it all. Planned Parenthood is educating people about how to take care of themselves, and how to be aware of breast cancer and other things,” Howard wrote.

hmcgregor@postindependent.com


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