February 3 2012

Komen Reverses Decision on Planned Parenthood Funding

Hadley Heath

The Susan G. Komen Foundation announced Tuesday (as Carrie and Charlotte have written) that it would not grant future funding to Planned Parenthood because the organization was under investigation.

As Charlotte pointed out, the investigation was sparked by Republicans in Congress over public funding of Planned Parenthood.  This is a highly charged political issue, as the organization also happens to be the nation's biggest provider of abortions.  For years, Catholics and other pro-life individuals, congregations, and groups have opposed Komen's involvement (and Congress's involvement) with Planned Parenthood.

(Imagine how all of this could have been avoided if government were smaller and didn't fund Planned Parenthood in the first place.  Collective-decision making gets harder and harder as the government widens its scope...)

Tuesday, Komen announced that they would stop funding Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood provides free or low-cost health screenings to women, and in the case of mammograms, the organization does not offer the screening but will refer women to providers who can.  Komen's CEO, Nancy G. Brinker, acknowledged in a statement that the decision was motivated by a fiduciary obligation to donors, and that Komen wanted to - in any case possible - give grants directly to providers of mammography services for efficiency's sake.

But the decision backfired on the group, as an online uproar called the group anti-woman and other derogatory names.  The message about best allocating their donors' money was lost among the heated political backlash of pro-choice and pro-Planned Parenthood supporters.  

Among those lashing out were 26 Senators, who, as Carrie wrote, abused their power as legislators and got involved where they shouldn't have.  They sent a letter to Susan G. Komen Foundation, expressing their disappointment.

Tuesday, Planned Parenthood and their supporters claimed Komen "gave into political pressure" in discontinuing their funds.  

Ironically, today Komen has given into political pressure and reversed their decision.  Here is their statement:

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.

It is so sad, for people on both sides of the abortion debate, to see the Susan G. Komen Foundation caught up in the political and cultural wars.  This organization has done a lot in the fight against breast cancer, but because of their involvement with Planned Parenthood, they are forced to isolate some of their supporters.

Supporters of either side can speak with their dollars, and I'm sure they will.  

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