Planned Parenthood says Komen decision causes donation spike


Members of Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and more than 20 other organizations hold a "Stand Up for Women's Health" rally in support of preventive health care and family planning services April 7, 2011. (JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS)
February 1, 2012

Donors reacting to the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood contributed $650,000 in 24 hours, nearly enough to replace last year’s Komen funding, Planned Parenthood executives said Wednesday.

The organization had raised more than $400,000 from more than 6,000 online donors as of Wednesday afternoon, compared with the 100 to 200 donations it receives on an average day, said Tait Sye, a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. He said donations were still coming in.

The group also launched a Breast Health Emergency Fund to ensure funding to affiliates that will lose their Komen grants. That fund received a $250,000 gift from the family foundation of Dallas philanthropist Lee Fikes and his wife, Amy.

“People respond powerfully when they see politics interfering with women’s health,” Sye said. “That’s why we’ve seen a tremendous outpouring of support.”

Komen officials told the Associated Press on Tuesday that they had decided to stop funding Planned Parenthood, saying a new national policy barred support for organizations under government investigation. A House committee began a probe in September into Planned Parenthood’s compliance with federal restrictions on funding abortions.

Planned Parenthood said the fund cutoff is the result of Komen bowing to pressure from anti-abortion activists. Komen also hired a vice president last year, Karen Handel, who had previously advocated for the group’s defunding in her run for Georgia governor.

Komen officials did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. On the organization’s Facebook page, a statement said that its highest priority is serving women and that it would work to ensure no gaps in service for women who need breast health screening and services.

“Grant making decisions are not about politics — our priority is and always will be the women we serve,” the statement said.

Abortion rights opponents, who had pressured Komen to end its relationship with Planned Parenthood, praised the decision.

Planned Parenthood allies took to Komen’s Facebook page and online message boards to express their frustration. Some started Facebook groups with titles such as “Defund the Komen Foundation” and “Stop the Susan G Komen Fdn’s Race Against Planned Parenthood.”

The Denver Komen has been granted an exception from the funding cutoff, according to a statement on its Facebook page. The Connecticut chapter, for its part, expressed dismay over losing its ability to fund its local Planned Parenthood affiliate.

“We are funding [Planned Parenthood] and we are absolutely frustrated by this,” said Ann Hogan, board president for Susan G. Komen for the Cure Connecticut.

Her Komen chapter has also vented its frustration on its Facebook page.

Planned Parenthood said its Komen grants totaled about $680,000 last year and $580,000 in 2010; the funding went to at least 19 of its affiliates for breast-cancer screening and other breast-health services.

Overall, Komen invested $93 million in community health programs last year, which included 700,000 mammograms, according to its Facebook page.

Planned Parenthood has been at the center of many heated political battles in recent months. Most center on whether, as an abortion provider, it should receive federal funds for other services it provides, such as contraceptives and preventive screenings.

None of the Planned Parenthood affiliates in the Washington area receive any Komen funds, executives said.

But in the Hampton Roads area, which has a higher breast cancer rate than the country as a whole, the Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia had just applied for a $36,000 grant to educate young minority women about breast health and pay for mammograms, marketing director Erin Zabel said.

Zabel said the local affiliate will have to reduce education efforts and hope for replacement funds to cover the mammograms.

“Our other large funders haven’t been bullied by the political pressure,” she said. “Not yet.”

Tuesday’s decision has prompted a spike in individual donations. “We typically don’t get a ton,” she said. But Wednesday the group received about 20 to 30 donations totaling “a couple thousand dollars” online, she said. “This is probably the biggest reaction we’ve seen.”

Lena H. Sun is a national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on health.
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