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.
Komen’s decision has thrust the foundation, seen for years as a largely apolitical fundraising phenomenon whose pink ribbons and events “for the cure” are among the best-known symbols in public health, into the center of the national debate over abortion.
Brinker said that the decision was not influenced by pressure from anti-abortion groups, as Planned Parenthood has contended, and that others had “mischaracterized” Komen’s new policies. “This has been a contentious issue and one where the essence of our organization’s position has been lost,” she said.
Twenty-six senators — 25 Democrats and one independent — wrote a letter to Brinker on Thursday, urging the foundation to reconsider its decision. One of the signers, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), said the latest justification for defunding Planned Parenthood was tantamount to “revisionist history.”
“This new reason is so obviously fake that you’d have to be born today to believe it,” she said. “They know they have hit a raw nerve with the American people here. They have thrust themselves in the middle of a political witch hunt, aligning themselves with the most right-wing forces . . . and they are hurting because of it. So now they are changing their tune.”
There were also signs of support for the move. Americans United for Life, the anti-abortion group that pushed for the congressional investigation of Planned Parenthood, hailed the Komen decision.
“As a breast cancer survivor, I was always troubled with this whole idea that the nation’s largest abortion provider was enmeshed in the breast cancer fight when they weren’t actually doing mammograms,” said the group’s president, Charmaine Yoest. “I look at this as smart stewardship.”
Meanwhile, Komen executives said donations were up “100 percent,” but executives declined to provide specifics.
Planned Parenthood also reported an outpouring of support, with $650,000 in contributions in 24 hours after the announcement. Of those, $400,000 came from more than 6,000 online donors and $250,000 from the foundation of a Dallas couple. New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) said Thursday that he would donate $1 for every new dollar Planned Parenthood raises, up to $250,000.