National/World

Komen reverses decision on Planned Parenthood grants

Friday, February 03, 2012
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The Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity on Friday abandoned plans to eliminate grants to Planned Parenthood. The startling decision came after three days of virulent criticism that resounded across the Internet, jeopardizing Komen's iconic image.

"We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives," a Komen statement said.

As first reported by The Associated Press on Tuesday, Komen had adopted criteria excluding Planned Parenthood from future grants for breast-cancer screenings because it was under government investigation, citing a probe launched by a Florida congressman at the urging of anti-abortion groups.

Komen said it would change the criteria "to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political."

"We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants," the statement said.

Many of Komen's affiliates across the country had openly rebelled against the decision to cut the funding, which totaled $680,000 in 2011. One affiliate, in Aspen, Colo., had announced Thursday that it would defy the new rules and continue grants to its local Planned Parenthood partner.

In addition, Komen was inundated with negative comments via emails, on Twitter and on its Facebook page. Many of the messages conveyed a determination to halt gifts to Komen - organizer of the popular Race for the Cure events -because of the decision.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood was reporting an outpouring of support - donations large and small, triggered by the Komen decision, that it said surpassed $3 million since the story broke. It has pledged to use the funds to maintain and expand its breast health services.

Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, thanked those donors Friday and welcomed Komen's change of heart.

"We are enormously grateful that the Komen Foundation has clarified its grantmaking criteria," Richards said. "What these past few days have demonstrated is the deep resolve all Americans share in the fight against cancer."

Through the Komen grants, Planned Parenthood says its health centers provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and more than 6,400 mammogram referrals over the past five years.

Komen, in its statement, said it was immediately starting an outreach to its affiliates and supporters to get the charity back on track.

"We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue," Komen said. "We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics - anyone's politics."

On Tuesday, when Komen's plans to stop funding Planned Parenthood were revealed, there was an immediate and powerful reaction. Anti-abortion activists, long opponents of Planned Parenthood, applauded the decision, and said that they would now be able to support Komen's activities.

But others decried what they considered a political act by a charity that had become ubiquitous in the fight against breast cancer.

A family foundation in Dallas made a $250,000 donation to Planned Parenthood, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a $250,000 matching pledge against future donations. In Washington, 26 U.S. senators - all Democrats except for independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont - signed a letter calling on Komen to reconsider its decision.

"It would be tragic if any woman - let alone thousands of women - lost access to these potentially lifesaving screenings because of a politically motivated attack," they wrote.

On Thursday, Komen's top leaders held their first news conference since the controversy erupted and denied that its decision was driven by pressure from anti-abortion groups.

"We don't base our funding decisions ... on whether one side or the other will be pleased," said Komen's founder and CEO, Nancy Brinker.

While previously Komen had said it had merely decided to bar grants to organizations under investigation, Brinker insisted there were additional factors, notably changes in the types of breast-health service providers it wanted to support.

A source with direct knowledge of decision-making at Komen's headquarters in Dallas gave a different account, saying the new policies were adopted with the deliberate intention of targeting Planned Parenthood. According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, a driving force behind the move was Karen Handel, hired by Komen last year as vice president for public policy after losing a campaign for governor in Georgia in which she stressed her anti-abortion views and frequently denounced Planned Parenthood.

Brinker, in an interview with MSNBC, said Handel didn't have a significant role in the policy change.

The following is the entire statement released by Komen on Friday morning:

We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives.

The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.

Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.

Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.

It is our hope and we believe it is time for everyone involved to pause, slow down and reflect on how grants can most effectively and directly be administered without controversies that hurt the cause of women. We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue. We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics - anyone's politics.

Starting this afternoon, we will have calls with our network and key supporters to refocus our attention on our mission and get back to doing our work. We ask for the public's understanding and patience as we gather our Komen affiliates from around the country to determine how to move forward in the best interests of the women and people we serve.

We extend our deepest thanks for the outpouring of support we have received from so many in the past few days and we sincerely hope that these changes will be welcomed by those who have expressed their concern.

(Copyright ©2014 WPVI-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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