Apparently Planned Parenthood is more powerful than many people realized.
The organization caused a major policy shift this week as the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization’s attempts to hold funding came crumbing down like a deck of cards. On Friday the breast-cancer charity abandoned plans to deny funding to Planned Parenthood, according to the Associated Press. The AP story indicated that 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.
According to the AP, and 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 had announced Thursday that it would defy the new rules and continue grants to its local Planned Parenthood partner, said the AP.
The AP also reported that 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.
What surprised many (although some admitted later that it actually didn’t surprise) was that Planned Parenthood was reporting an outpouring of support 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.
The message that came through loud and clear was that the topic of abortion had no place in the matter of the Komen funding to Planned Parenthood. The AP said that 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.
“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, according to the AP.
“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.
Said the AP: “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.”
Whether you agree with the notion of a woman’s right to choose or not, the Komen decision seems like it came down to one woman’s opinion. And that’s wrong.
— Andy Hachadorian