Komen does about-face on cuts to Planned Parenthood
Susan G. Komen for the Cure has abandoned its plan to cut money to Planned Parenthood that's used for breast-cancer screenings.
NEW YORK — Breast-cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure on Friday abandoned plans to eliminate money for Planned Parenthood's breast-cancer screening program. The retreat followed a three-day furor that resounded across the Internet, in Congress and among Komen affiliates that openly rebelled, suggesting the leadership had bowed to anti-abortion pressure.
"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 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."
Some Komen officials had said the decision to halt financing, which was made in December and became public knowledge Tuesday, was made because of an inquiry by U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., who is looking into whether Planned Parenthood has spent public money on abortions.
Komen created a rule 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 of the new rule also objected to the fact that the foundation seemed to be giving an inquiry, 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."
Komen officials were unavailable for further comment on how they came to change their plans. There was no indication the group had come under pressure from its corporate partners.
But many of Komen's affiliates nationwide, including the one in Seattle, had objected to cutting off the grants, which totaled $680,000 in 2011. In addition, Komen was inundated with negative comments via emails, on Twitter and on its Facebook page. Many 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 donations that totaled $3 million between Tuesday evening and Friday afternoon. Planned Parenthood said the funds would be used to expand its breast-health services, which provide nearly 750,000 breast exams each year.
At a news conference in Seattle on Friday, Chris Charbonneau, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, said the group had taken in $50,000 in the past few days. That compared with a total of $75,000 that the Komen foundation gave the local Planned Parenthood last year.
"We're really thrilled to be back in it with Komen," Charbonneau added. She said she had no doubt Komen's original policy was a result of "political bullying."
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Komen's reversal shows the "power of standing your ground" in the face of what she described as a broader effort by "right-wing conservatives" to take away money from Planned Parenthood. About 31,000 women in Washington depend on Planned Parenthood for breast exams, she said.
Planned Parenthood's national president, Cecile Richards, said in a telephone news conference that she was astonished by the donations and the often emotional support expressed for her organization on the Internet. "This was simply a story, when it broke, it just caught fire," she said. "This kind of political bullying; folks are just saying, 'Enough.' "
Meanwhile, groups that oppose abortion rights and had swarmed to support Komen in recent days reacted angrily to the about-face.
"It's mystifying how an organization can fully articulate sound reasons for eliminating a funding relationship, then turn around and capitulate on that reasoning within days," said Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of issue analysis for government and public policy at Focus on the Family. "This is an example of how difficult it has become for organizations to take a morally principled stand. It's also evidence of the strong-arm tactics employed by pro-abortion allies of Planned Parenthood."
In Washington, D.C., Stearns said he would press ahead with his investigation of Planned Parenthood, including into his assertions it has improperly used public funds for abortions.
In the Seattle Planned Parenthood office, meanwhile, a woman dashing out the door Friday said she'd just dropped by to give a donation, after hearing Komen had changed its policy.
Asked if she'd given money in the past to Komen, she said she had, but wouldn't any longer. "I still don't trust them."
Seattle Times staff reporter
Carol M. Ostrom contributed
to this report.