Update. 2:20 p.m.: The Susan G. Komen foundation has issued a statement, saying it cut funding to Planned Parenthood after it “implemented more stringent eligibility and performance criteria.” It also said: “While it is regrettable when changes in priorities and policies affect any of our grantees, such as a longstanding partner like Planned Parenthood, we must continue to evolve to best meet the needs of the women we serve and most fully advance our mission.”
When Susan G. Komen announced Tuesday afternoon it was pulling its grants for breast-cancer screenings from Planned Parenthood, the reaction from critics was fast and furious.
The move was called, in some of the nicer assessments: “disgusting,” “anti-women,” and an “act of cowardice.” The president of Planned Parenthood said she couldn’t understand how the nation’s leading breast-cancer charity “could have bowed to this kind of bullying,” alleging that the funding was cut because of pressure from anti-abortion groups. Planned Parenthood offers wide-ranging reproductive health care services, but its work is centered on pro-choice decision-making and sexual education.
Petitions were also started that called for the partnership between Komen and Planned Parenthood to be restored. Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead tweeted, “I am crying in a cab at this Komen decision. Tomorrow we will rally. Who is in this fight with me! You can no longer sit idly by.”
Komen explained its decision by blaming new rules that prohibit it from giving money to groups under federal investigation. Planned Parenthood, which is the subject of congressional inquiry over whether it spent public money on abortions, falls into that category. Critics of the Komen decision say that inquiry is a “faux” one, and not likely to turn up anything.
A request for comment from Komen was not immediately returned.
Komen for the Cure has been under fire before, a number of times. As Amanda Marcotte points out in Slate, Komen was already “under serious scrutiny” by critics who believe “the organization cares more about shoring up their image than making real progress in the fight for women's health.”
Another controversy for the charity has been the growing argument that Komen indulges in “pinkwashing,” or using breast cancer and the ubiquitous pink ribbon to promote unhealthy corporate products (like KFC chicken), in exchange for donations. Komen argues that that donations are much needed, having received over $55 million a year from corporate partnerships, according to USA Today.
Komen has also been criticized for aggressively trying to protect the phrase “for the cure,” as well as the usage of the pink ribbon. The charity has taken legal action against other nonprofits or organizations for using either one, sparking the Wall Street Journal to write “nonprofits aren’t so generous when a name’s at stake.” Komen’s legal counsel argued that a mix-up in names could see a donation go to the wrong charity.
But some aren’t upset by Komen’s decision to stop funnding Planned Parenthood. The Post’s Melinda Henneberger, who once suffered from breast cancer, writes that she doesn’t feel betrayed by the decision because “Komen has for some time seemed to me to be run like any other big business.”
Many Pro-life advocates say Komen should never have been involved with a pro-choice agency. The Post’s health blogger Jennifer LaRue Huget reports that some had already been questioning the funding arrangement for political, moral and religious reasons. Other groups had claimed that abortion increases breast cancer (though this has not been proven), and that therefore Komen should not support an organization whose activities include providing abortions.
Still others have pointed out that Planned Parenthood has already recouped from supporters almost a third of the $680,000 in funding it will lose from Komen this year.
Will Komen bounce back from this most recent controversy? Henneberger isn’t so sure, saying the charity already flubbed its response to backlash by telling CBS News “grant-making decisions are not about politics.” Komen’s Twitter feed has stayed silent since Monday. And while a Komen spokeswoman told the L.A. Times “we want to maintain a positive relationship,” Planned Parenthood doesn’t seem to share the sentiment.
“We're kind of reeling,” Patrick Hurd, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia, told the Associated Press. Hurd’s wife, Betsi, is a Komen fundraiser and currently battling breast cancer.
“It’s hard to understand,” Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards told the AP. “It's really hurtful.”
She the People: Planned parenthood will recoup, but will Komen?
Ezra Klein: Why Komen defunded Planned Parenthood