After announcing that it was going to cut funding for Planned Parenthood's breast screenings, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast cancer foundation, today announced that it is changing its funding criteria, meaning it will probably resume funding to Planned Parenthood, a sexual health organization. The public outcry regarding alleged reasons for Planned Parenthood being dropped as a grantee by Komen appears to have taken the breast cancer charity by surprise.
Most people believe Komen stopped granting funds because of political pressure from donors and a new vice-president, who are pro-life (anti-abortion). Planned Parenthood is pro-choice, and offers abortion as part of its overall sexual health service. However, Komen's donations have never had anything to do with abortions - the grants go towards providing mainly lower-income women with potentially life-saving breast scans (mammographies) and breast checks.
When Planned Parenthood's funding was stopped, most health experts and advocacy groups said the move would have no impact on the number of abortions carried out, but would seriously impact on access to breast scans by females from poorer households.
Today, in a public statement, Komen said it wishes to apologize to the US public for its recent decision, which possibly tainted its reputation as an organization committed to saving women's lives.
Susan G. Komen Board of Directors and Founder and CEO Nancy G. Brinker wrote:
"The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.
Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. 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.
Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. 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.
It is our hope and we believe it is time for everyone involved to pause, slow down and reflect on how grants can most effectively and directly be administered without controversies that hurt the cause of women. We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue. We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics - anyone's politics.
Komen's Board of Directors says it is today liaising with its network and main supporters in a move to refocus the organization's attention on its main mission - saving women's lives - and getting back to doing the good work. The charity asks the general public for patience and understanding as it gathers its Komen affiliates nationwide to best determine how to move forward in a way that fully matches its mission.
The response to Planned Parenthood's drop in funding after Komen announced its severing of ties surprised many people around the country. An appeal by the sexual health organization has resulted in some famous names coming forward. Michael Bloomberg, N.Y. City Mayor, announced yesterday that he was donating $250,000 to make up for the shortfall.
Planned Parenthood said it raised over $400,000 in 24 hours.
Bloomberg, who appears to believe Komen's move was purely political, said:
"Politics have no place in health care. Breast cancer screening saves lives and hundreds of thousands of women rely on Planned Parenthood. We should be helping women access that care, not placing barriers in their way."
Komen's donations to Planned Parenthood used to amount to approximately $700,000 annually before funding stopped. Critics of the cut-off say this occurred mainly because of a new chief at Komen, Senior Vice President Haren Handel, a conservative.
Regarding Komen's change of direction announced today, Cecil Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation, said:
"The outpouring of support for women in need of lifesaving breast cancer screening this week has been astonishing and is a testament to our nation's compassion and sincerity.
During the last week, millions spontaneously joined a national conversation about lifesaving breast cancer prevention care and reinforced shared values about access to health care for all. This compassionate outcry in support of those most in need rose above political, ideological, and cultural divides, and will surely be recognized as one of our nation's better moments during a contentious political time. Planned Parenthood thanks each and every person who has contributed to elevating the importance of breast cancer prevention for so many women in need.
In recent weeks, the treasured relationship between the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and Planned Parenthood has been challenged, and we are now heartened that we can continue to work in partnership toward our shared commitment to breast health for the most underserved women. We are enormously grateful that the Komen Foundation has clarified its grantmaking criteria, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Komen partners, leaders and volunteers. What these past few days have demonstrated is the deep resolve all Americans share in the fight against cancer, and we honor those who are at the helm of this battle.
Planned Parenthood has been a trusted partner with the Komen Foundation in early cancer detection and prevention services. In particular, Planned Parenthood helps the Komen Foundation reach vulnerable populations - low-income women, African-American women, and Latinas - especially in rural areas and underserved communities where Planned Parenthood health centers are their only source of health care. With Komen Foundation grants, over the past five years, Planned Parenthood health centers provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and more than 6,400 mammogram referrals. With the outpouring of support over the past week, even more women in need will receive lifesaving breast cancer care."
Written by Christian Nordqvist