WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Planned Parenthood, a target of U.S. conservatives opposed to its abortion and birth control services, said on Monday it will use $3 million in donations to launch an initiative to fight breast cancer with expanded screenings and education.
The donations poured into Planned Parenthood earlier this year in response to a short-lived decision by breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure to cut off grant money to the women's health network.
The initiative will add to basic screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics by funding ultrasounds, biopsies and other follow-up services. One-third of the money is to help pay for more diagnostic tests.
It also will provide new educational resources for women under age 40, an outreach program for Hispanic women, and a new screening tool for the network's doctors and nurses.
About 230,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, with death rates higher among younger women and Hispanics. Planned Parenthood said it provided about 750,000 breast exams in 2011.
Planned Parenthood received the $3 million influx of donations in four days earlier this year as 77,000 supporters rushed to protect the group after the Komen foundation said it would cut off nearly all of its $700,000 in annual grant money used to fund breast cancer screenings.
Komen's decision triggered an uproar among its own supporters that forced the breast cancer charity to reverse the change.
Komen insiders said later that the foundation had acted under pressure from anti-abortion activists opposed to Planned Parenthood.
"We were overwhelmed with support from people all across the country who wanted to be sure that women could still get breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood," the organization's president, Cecile Richards, said in a statement.
"We've spent the last few months developing an expanded program that plays to our strengths while addressing the biggest barriers to care."
Since the controversy, Richards said Planned Parenthood has maintained close ties with most of the local Komen affiliates with which it initially had strong relations.
"In some communities, we've actually established relationships where we really didn't have them before," she said.
The group said it has also forged new relationships with organizations including LIVESTRONG, a nonprofit group founded by champion cyclist Lance Armstrong that helps people diagnosed with cancer navigate complexities of the U.S. healthcare system.
(Editing by Vicki Allen)
Planned Parenthood launches U.S. breast health initiative
Cecile Richards speaks at a "Stand Up for Women's Health" rally in Washington on April 7, 2011. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)