Susan G. Komen reverses Planned Parenthood decision: Too little, too late?

February 3, 2012

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation announced Friday that it was revising the policy that led to the defunding of Planned Parenthood and was changing its grant eligibility rules. As Sarah Kliff and Lena H. Sun reported:

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation announced Friday that it would revise a new policy that barred the organization from funding Planned Parenthood, a move that had thrust the breast cancer foundation into a national controversy.

Komen apologized “to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.”

The foundation said that Planned Parenthood would now be eligible to apply for grants. It did not, however, address other reasons Komen has cited for why it might choose not to approve such grants.

“Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation,” a Friday statement said. “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.”

“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,” the statement continues.

Questions remained on several other reasons given by Komen about why it decided to defund Planned Parenthood. As Lena H.Sun, Sarah Kliff and N.C. Aizenman explained:

Executives of the Susan G. Komen Foundation gave a new explanation Thursday of their decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, but their contradictory statements failed to quell a rising controversy that led several of the organization’s affiliates to openly rebel.

Komen had said the decision was the result of newly adopted criteria barring grants to organizations under investigation — affecting Planned Parenthood because of an inquiry by a Republican congressman.

On Thursday, Komen President Elizabeth Thompson told reporters that the funding decision was unrelated to the investigation into whether Planned Parenthood was illegally using federal funds to pay for abortions.

Komen founder Nancy Brinker said the organization wants to support groups that directly provide breast health services, such as mammograms. She noted that Planned Parenthood was providing only mammogram referrals.

The controversy raged across social media, with thousands of messages posted to Komen and Planned Parenthood Facebook pages and advocates on both sides rallying support on Twitter.

Some see the Komen debate as a warning sign to President Obama that he may face pressure from pro-choice advocates. As Rachel Weiner reported:

On Friday morning, the Susan B. Komen Foundation backed down from its decision to pull grants from Planned Parenthood.

More than 10,000 people donated to the family planning group in some way, according to President Cecile Richards. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged a $250,000 matching gift to the group.

While the foundation gave itself room to reject future grant applications from Planned Parenthood, the decision is a clear sign that outrage from pro-choice supporters left Komen spooked.

Should Obama be spooked too?

The president angered many pro-choice constituents with his decision to keep the emergency contraceptive Plan B off drugstore shelves.

More recently, Obama sided with women’s groups over Catholic bishops, refusing to exempt church-affiliated employers from covering birth control.

Of course, there are major differences here. Komen’s constituency is made up of people for whom women’s health issues are a primary concern. Obama’s constituency is much broader — in rejecting Catholic calls for a birth-control exemption, some argue he risks losing liberal Catholic support.

In 2008, 70.4 million women voted — 10 million more women than men. Obama won women by 13 points. In 2010 House race, women were evenly split.

While abortion is not a make-or-break issue for most female voters, access to contraception could prove more potent.

More from The Washington Post

Opinion: Komen caved, or did it?

Komen no longer owns pink

What Komen actually said

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