As you may have heard, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation just announced that it was reversing its decision to ban Planned Parenthood from applying for grants to cover breast cancer screenings — after a massive outcry that spread from women’s groups to social media to Capitol Hill.
The question now is what its announcement actually means.
I just got off the phone with a Komen board member, and he confirmed that the announcement does not mean that Planned Parenthood is guaranteed future grants — a demand he said would be “unfair” to impose on Komen. He also said the job of the group’s controversial director, Nancy Brinker, is safe, as far as the board is concerned.
As some were quick to point out, the statement put out by Komen doesn’t really clarify whether Planned Parenthood will actually continue to get money from the group. The original rationale for barring Planned Parenthood was that it was under investigation (a witch-hunt probe undertaken by GOP Rep Cliff Stearns). Komen said today that the group would “amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political.”
Does that mean Planned Parenthood will get Komen grants in the future?
I asked Komen board member John Raffaelli to respond to those who are now saying that the announcement doesn’t necessarily constitute a reversal until Planned Parenthood actually sees more funding. He insisted it would be unfair to expect the group to commit to future grants.
“It would be highly unfair to ask us to commit to any organization that doesn’t go through a grant process that shows that the money we raise is used to carry out our mission,” Raffaelli told me. “We’re a humanitarian organization. We have a mission. Tell me you can help carry out our mission and we will sit down at the table.”
Pushed on whether this means the new announcement wasn’t really a reversal, Raffaelli pushed back, arguing that Komen, in response to all the criticism, had removed politics from the grant-making process. “Is it really unclear that we’re changing the policy to address criticism?” he said.
Others have pointed out that Komen’s handling of this issue should lead to skepticism of its announcement. Brinker had repeatedly said Komen’s funding decision was rooted in a larger policy change and wasn’t directed at Planned Parenthood in particular, suggesting the decision wasn’t related to the fact that Planned Parenthood was under assault by the GOP. This was contradicted by at least one account. More broadly, the group’s rationale for the decision shifted over the last week.
Pressed on whether Brinker had been forthcoming, Raffaelli insisted: “Nancy was not trying to mislead anyone.” Asked if there would be an internal look at how Brinker handled the episode, Raffaelli only said there would be some kind of general look at how to prevent the politicization of grant-making in the future. Raffaelli blamed himself for the failure to handle the politics of this mess adequately, and stressed that Brinker’s career had been devoted to breast cancer prevention, and not politics.
Asked if Brinker’s job was safe, Raffaelli said: “Yes.” He added that the board “unequivocally” stood behind her.
Though Komen had hoped today’s announcement would defuse the politics of this fight, it seems plausible that pressure from both sides will only continue.