Komen, Planned Parenthood and Breast Health

Yesterday, we wrote about the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s new grant criteria which made Planned Parenthood ineligible for future funding. In their decision announced earlier this week, Komen cited stricter eligibility criteria, focusing on providing direct services to women and refraining from providing grants to organizations under federal, state or local investigation.

Komen had provided $680,000 to Planned Parenthood affiliates last year. These affiliates do not provide mammograms, so the monies appear to be designated for breast exams.

Planned Parenthood itself broke the story that it would be impacted by Komen’s new policy and launched an all out assault on Komen, accusing them in donor emails of yielding to “anti-choice” pressure. In an email to its supporters today, Planned Parenthood claims to have raised $3 million in two days off of the Komen story.

Meanwhile, Komen’s Facebook page exploded with more than 26,000 comments supporting and opposing their decision to make Planned Parenthood ineligible for future grants. A community page on Facebook thanking Komen for the decision gained 2,600 followers within three days. The issue was all over Twitter as well. Hundreds of thousands of signatures were collected in online petitions, including one by moveon.org, which urged Komen to reverse its decision and continue funding Planned Parenthood. Komen reported a 100% increase in donations following the decision.

Apparently overwhelmed by the political backlash from Planned Parenthood, the Komen board met Thursday night and clarified their new policy. In a statement posted to their Facebook, Komen said:

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.

Komen also noted that their clarified grant eligibility criteria would allow Planned Parenthood to remain eligible for future grants.

Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood declared victory over pro-lifers who had supported Komen’s earlier decision: “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 …,” she said.

Some pro-life groups had equally strong reactions, while others were more guarded.

The American Center for Law and Justice accused Komen of hypocrisy and said it is “very disappointing that this valuable cancer charity appears to be caving to the abortion industry.”

Virginia based Care Net, a national organization supporting over 1150 pregnancy care centers noted that “Millions of life-affirming Americans want to end breast cancer but do not want their donations going to support the nation’s largest abortion provider.” Care Net President Melinda Delahoyde urged Komen “to act in the best interest of all women by giving future grants to organizations whose sole mission is to save lives, not take them.”

Jeanne Monahan, Family Research Council‘s Director for the Center for Human Dignity, had the following to say: “It would be heartbreaking for women who suffer from breast cancer if Planned Parenthood has bullied Komen into loosening their higher standards.”

And, Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life, indicated that Planned Parenthood’s association with Komen has given political cover to the abortion provider: “Komen’s long-standing partnership with the nation’s largest abortion provider has allowed Planned Parenthood to whitewash the central fact that their core mission involves providing abortion.” She also commented: “As a breast cancer survivor, I am troubled that the Komen Foundation has come under such heavy fire for their recent decision to tighten and focus their funding guidelines. This week we have all been witness to highly partisan attacks from pro-abortion advocates and an ugly and disgraceful shakedown that highlights Planned Parenthood’s willingness to pursue a scorched-earth strategy to force compliance with their pro-abortion agenda.”

Komen board member John Raffaelli told the Washington Post that the newest Komen criteria allow Planned Parenthood to apply for funding in the future, but does not guarantee that they will receive it. Komen wants to focus on breast cancer, but recognizes it will lose some support regardless of its funding decisions. Raffaelli is quoted in the NYT:

“Is it possible for a women’s health organization to stay out of the abortion issue and help all women?” he asked. “I don’t know the answer to that yet. What we were doing before was angering the right-to-life crowd. Then, with our decision in December, we upset the pro-choice crowd. And now we’re going to make the right-to-life crowd mad all over again. How do we stop doing that?”

Will Komen affiliates fund Planned Parenthood in the future or will they focus on funding breast cancer research and community health organizations that provide direct breast health services, such as mammograms, to women? It looks like both sides will just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, the controversy over Komen funding has drawn attention to two important points:
Planned Parenthood does not provide mammograms, which are the single most effective way to detect breast cancer, and the Komen Foundation, through some of its local affiliates, has historically funded breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood affiliates anyway. Of course, Planned Parenthood did perform 329,445 abortions last year, making it the largest abortion provider in the U.S.

Disclosure statement: The author of this post is employed at Care Net.

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