Komen backs down on cutting off Planned Parenthood
By PAM BELLUCK
The New York Times | February 04,2012
AP FILE PHOTO
In a Monday, Nov. 23, 2009 file photo, Nancy Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, speaks at the National Press Club in Washington. Susan G. Komen for the Cure faced an escalating backlash Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 over its decision to cut breast-screening grants to Planned Parenthood. Komen's top leaders, inclluding Brinker, in their first news conference since the controversy erupted, denied Planned Parenthood's assertion that the decision was driven by pressure from anti-abortion groups. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)
The nation’s pre-eminent breast cancer advocacy group, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, apologized Friday for its decision to cut most of its financing to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening and said it would again make Planned Parenthood eligible for those grants.
“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,” Nancy G. Brinker, Komen’s chief executive, said in a statement posted on the organization’s website. The statement added, “We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants.”
The reversal comes in the face of an enormous furor over the decision and widespread complaints that the Komen foundation was tying breast cancer to the abortion issue. Comments on social networks like Twitter raged about the move, and donations, including a $250,000 matching grant from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City, poured into Planned Parenthood, allowing it to compensate for the $700,000 in Komen money that would have been cut.
Some Komen officials had said that the decision to halt financing, which became public knowledge Tuesday, was made because of an inquiry by a Republican congressman, Cliff Stearns of Florida, who is looking into whether Planned Parenthood has spent public money for abortions.
A new rule was created by the foundation to bar grants to organizations under federal, state or local investigation, but a Komen board member said the only current grantee the rule would apply to was Planned Parenthood. Critics also objected to the fact that the foundation seemed to be giving an inquiry by a Republican congressman, which appeared to be prompted in part by opponents of abortion rights, as much credibility as a criminal or civil investigation by a government agency.
Brinker’s statement sought to change the impression that abortion politics prompted the decision.
“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,” the statement said. “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.”
Cecile Richards, the head of Planned Parenthood, who had led a high-profile response to the Komen decision this week, responded immediately to the reversal.
“In recent weeks, the treasured relationship between the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation and Planned Parenthood has been challenged, and we are now heartened that we can continue to work in partnership toward our shared commitment to breast health for the most underserved women,” Richards said in a statement. “We are enormously grateful that the Komen foundation has clarified its grant-making criteria, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Komen partners, leaders and volunteers.”